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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Caravan park residents

Housing Stock: Caravan park residents

At the 1991 Census, 102,000 permanent residents of caravan parks and marinas were counted. These people were generally older and more likely to have been unemployed than the total population.

At the 1991 Census there were 127,000 people living permanently in 71,000 caravans. Of these, 102,000 were caravan park residents, 4% fewer than in 1986.

While representing fewer than 1% of the total population, long-term residents of caravan parks have been identified by the National Housing Strategy as having particular problems and needs. For example, caravan park residents may experience discriminatory treatment when applying for credit, library membership, hiring goods, obtaining insurance, or even when seeking medical treatment without paying in advance1. Issues such as isolation, lack of privacy, inadequate amenities, and insecurity of tenure have also been highlighted in research into long-term caravan residency.

An overview of studies into caravan park residents shows that there is great variation between parks in the quality of accommodation and amenities, and social integration. In addition, there is great variation in the experience of individuals within parks in their perceptions of privacy, space, isolation or community, and in size and quality of accommodation, nature of tenure and reasons for choosing caravan living.

A study by the Centre for Urban Research and Action2 described three types of caravan park residents:

  • savers - comprising mainly young people saving to buy their own homes;
  • trapped - those aspiring to home ownership or who have previously owned homes but find themselves unable to afford conventional housing;
  • independents - those who have chosen to live in a caravan as a satisfactory and alternative means of accommodation.

This review of 1991 Census data provides a national perspective on caravan park residents and examines the extent to which they differ from the total population.

CARAVAN PARK RESIDENTS, 1991

Total residents
Resident/visitor ratio
Proportion of State population
State
no.
no.
%

New South Wales
34,046
2.5
0.6
Victoria
12,271
3.7
0.3
Queensland
36,567
1.5
1.2
South Australia
4,118
1.5
0.3
Western Australia
9,869
0.9
0.6
Tasmania
804
2.4
0.2
Northern Territory
3,541
0.6
2.1
Australian Capital Territory
546
2.2
0.2
Australia
101,762
1.6
0.6

Source: Census of Population and Housing


Census counts

Prior to the 1986 Census, caravan parks were treated as non-private dwellings. Each occupant of a caravan was given a separate personal form to complete and no information was collected about their family or household characteristics.

Since 1986, each occupied caravan, tent, cabin, campervan etc. in a caravan park, and each occupied boat in a marina, has been treated as a separate private dwelling and given a household form to complete. Household, family and person based data are thus available for all persons counted in caravan parks etc.

Unoccupied caravans etc. in caravan parks, and unoccupied boats in marinas are not counted in the census.

The term caravan park residents is used in this review to refer to all persons counted in caravans, tents, cabins, campervans etc. in caravan parks, and boats in marinas, who stated that the caravan etc. occupied on census night was their usual residence.


Geographic distribution
At the 1991 Census, there were 36,600 permanent residents counted in Queensland caravan parks and 34,000 in New South Wales parks. Together they comprised more than two-thirds of total caravan park residents. While New South Wales had the second highest number of caravan park residents, they accounted for only 0.6 % of the total State population, equal to the national average. In Queensland, however, 1.2% of the population lived in caravans while in the Northern Territory caravan park residents represented 2.1% of the total population.

The Northern Territory also had proportionally large numbers of holiday makers in caravan parks. At the 1991 Census, there were about half as many residents as visitors counted in Northern Territory caravan parks. In Western Australia, also, there were fewer residents than visitors. In contrast, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had twice as many residents as visitors and Victoria had almost four times as many. This probably reflects the preference for warmer northern areas as holiday destinations in August. Cold winters are also likely be a factor in the relatively small numbers (in relation to State populations) of caravan park residents in the southern States.

Only 27% of caravan park residents lived in major urban centres (population 100,000 or more) compared to 63% of the total population. 38% lived in other urban centres (population 1,000-99,999) and 35% in rural areas, compared to 23% and 15% of the total population. Roughly equal proportions of caravan park residents and visitors were counted in rural areas but there were proportionally more residents in the major urban centres and fewer in other urban centres.

Caravan park residents were most urbanised in Queensland and New South Wales with 30% living in major urban centres. In the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory the majority of caravan park residents lived in areas with populations of less
than 200.

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF CARAVAN PARK RESIDENTS, 1991

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Area
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Major urban
30.8
25.1
30.3
24.2
15.9
9.5
. .
17.3
27.0
Other urban
35.7
28.2
42.4
26.8
47.4
49.7
40.3
. .
38.0
Rural locality
8.7
5.0
5.5
4.5
5.3
20.3
3.4
. .
6.5
Other rural
24.9
41.7
21.8
44.4
31.4
20.6
56.4
82.7
28.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Census of Population and Housing


Characteristics of caravan park residents
Caravan park residents had an older age profile than the total population due to the relatively low proportions of children living in caravans. In 1991, 13% of caravan park residents were aged 0-14 years compared to 22% in the total population. Among caravan park residents there are relatively low proportions of families with dependent children and relatively high proportions of people living alone. In 1991, 28% of caravan park residents lived alone compared to 7% of the total population.

Males outnumbered females among caravan park residents mainly due to the high proportions of men living alone. Among caravan park residents living alone, men outnumbered women by almost 3 to 1 overall, and by almost 6 to 1 in the 25-44 years age group. For all ages over 15 years, the male to female ratio was substantially higher among caravan park residents than in the total population.

Caravan park residents had lower levels of educational attainment, were less likely to be employed and had lower incomes than the total population. These factors are closely linked to age and life-cyle and some, but not all, of the difference can be explained by the older age profile and different household composition of caravan park residents.

In all age groups caravan park residents were less likely than the total population to have post-school qualifications, particularly a degree or higher. Almost equal proportions had skilled vocational qualifications.

Labour force participation was lower for both men and women in all age groups, except 15-24 year old men. Unemployment was higher among caravan park residents than among the total population. The discrepancy was greater for men than for women and increased with age up to the 45-54 years age group.

Almost 50% of households living in caravan parks consisted of one person only, compared to 20% of all households. In contrast, 15% of caravan park resident households contained dependent children compared to 40% of all households.

On average, caravan park resident households were smaller than all households (1.7 persons compared to 2.7), had fewer income recipients and hence had lower incomes regardless of household type. The greatest differences in these characteristics occurred in two parent family households and in young, couple only households.

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF CARAVAN PARK RESIDENTS, 1991

Caravan park residents
Total population
Characteristic
%
%

Male
56.9
49.8
Female
43.1
50.2
Age group (years)
    0-14
13.2
21.9
    15-44
44.1
47.5
    45-64
28.1
19.3
    65 and over
14.6
11.3
Living arrangements
    With family
66.8
89.0
    Alone
28.0
7.3
    With others (not family)
5.2
3.7
Highest qualification(a)
    Degree or higher
1.3
8.6
    Skilled vocational
11.5
11.8
    No post-school qualifications
68.8
59.2
Labour force status(a)
    Participation rate
54.9
62.9
    Unemployment rate
32.5
11.6

(a) Persons aged 15 years and over.

Source: Census of Population and Housing

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF CARAVAN PARK HOUSEHOLDS, 1991

Caravan park households
Total households
Characteristic
%
%

Household type
    One parent family(a)
5.1
6.5
    Couple family(a)
10.4
33.5
    Couple only family
26.9
23.0
    Other family
4.3
12.3
    One person
48.9
20.0
    Group
4.4
4.5
Household income
    $0-$8,000
18.5
8.7
    $8,001-$16,000
33.7
17.0
    $16,001-$25,000
23.7
16.9
    $25,001-$40,000
15.7
22.3
    Over $40,000
8.9
35.1

(a) With dependent children.

Source: Census of Population and Housing


Families with children
In general, caravan park resident parents were younger, particularly the couples, and had younger and fewer children than all parents, reflecting in part the lesser suitability of caravan parks for meeting the needs of families, particularly in terms of space and play areas. In addition, they had lower labour force participation rates and higher unemployment rates. For lone parents with dependent children the unemployment rate of caravan park residents (39%) was double the rate for all lone parents with dependent children. In two parent families with dependent children the unemployment rates among caravan park residents (32% for fathers and 30% for mothers) were over three times higher than in all two parent families with dependent children.

The median annual household income of two parent families with dependent children living in caravan parks ($23,800) was about 60% as much as for all two parent families with dependent children. Among one parent families with dependent children the median household income of caravan park residents ($13,600) was about 75% as much as for all one parent families with dependent children.

SELECTED HOUSEHOLDS LIVING IN CARAVAN PARKS, 1991

Labour force
participation rate(a)
Unemployment rate(a)
Median annual income
Proportion renting
Proportion purchasing
Proportion owned outright
Total households(b)
Household type
%
%
$
%
%
%
no.

One parent with dependent children
39.2
39.0
13,600
59.4
8.8
26.1
2,860
Couple with dependent children
65.7
31.4
23,800
38.4
17.8
37.8
5,760
Couple only, reference person aged under 35 years
88.2
29.0
28,500
44.9
17.6
32.1
3,200
Lone person, aged under 35 years
88.4
41.0
13,700
57.5
7.7
22.4
7,210
Retired couple, reference person aged 65 years or over
. .
. .
15,400
15.6
1.1
75.4
3,010
Retired lone person, aged 65 years or over
. .
. .
9,300
13.1
0.7
63.4
6,080
All households
. .
. .
15,500
35.9
7.9
47.0
55,640

(a) Applies to the parent in a one parent family and to both partners in a couple family.
(b) Comprises only households which could be classified by type.

Source: Census of Population and Housing


Older people
Older people made up a relatively large proportion of caravan park residents in 1991, 15% were aged 65 years or over and 14% were aged 55-64 years compared to 11% and 8% respectively in the total population. In both age groups, labour force participation rates were lower among caravan park residents; 35% compared to 46% for 55-64 year olds and 3% compared to 6% for persons aged 65 years and over.

While the aged (65 years and over) represented a relatively large proportion of caravan park residents, the very old (80 years and over) were under-represented. 49% of aged caravan park residents lived in couple only households while 44% lived alone. In contrast to the general population, men outnumbered women in aged one person households living in caravan parks. Annual household incomes of aged people living in caravan parks were only slightly lower than in the general population.

Home ownership
In 1991, caravan park resident households were more likely than the rest of the population to have been renting their accommodation, 36% compared to 27%. Correspondingly they were less likely to be owners or purchasers regardless of household type. The difference was greatest among two parent family households, reflecting to some extent the large income differential and the relatively young age profile of caravan park residents in this group. Also, given the size of the average caravan, the low rates of owning/purchasing among two parent families with children may be a reflection of the relative unsuitability of a caravan for housing a family.

Caravan park resident households were more likely to own their homes outright and less likely to have a mortgage. The relatively low cost of a caravan would enable many caravan park residents to buy their home outright or to pay it off quickly while the mortgage on an average house or flat may take 20-30 years to pay off.

Among retired couples and individuals aged 65 years and over, the rate of outright home ownership was very high, most having paid off their mortgages at or before retirement. In these groups the rates of outright home ownership for the total population (80% and 68% respectively) exceeded those of caravan park residents (75% and 63% respectively).


Endnotes
1 Watson, R., Pierluigi, C., Taylor, D., Good, R. (1980) Jacked Up or Hooked On - a Survey of Long-term Caravan Park Residents in W.A. Thesis for Applied Science (Social Work) degree, W.A. Institute of Technology.

2 Centre for Urban Research and Action (CURA) (1978) Long-term Residents in Melbourne: a Case Study of Housing Marginality.



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