Tiny Houses Part Two

The most common way of living outside of traditional housing is via cabins, or recreational vehicles such as tents, caravans or motor-homes.  With an increasing number of people living this way, options are still limited for permanent sites.

Cabins are a more acceptable form of permanent accommodation.  Granny flats can be built in many suburban back yards, subject to council permission.  Cabins can also be included as permanent housing in some caravan parks or residential villages.  The rules vary from park to park, but generally the cabin is owned by the resident, and the site is owned by the park.  The resident pays weekly site fees, that can be as expensive as renting a unit.

Adelaide has a few caravan parks for permanent or long stay residents;  Woodcroft Park, Sturt River Park, and Virginia Residential Park.  Others, if zoned as tourist parks, can’t take long term residents. It depends on the zoning for the park, so it’s worth asking.

This means if through necessity, or just a desire to downsize and simplify living, it may be difficult to find a permanent or long stay site.  Council and state laws regarding living in caravans, or tiny houses on a trailer base, vary widely, and that’s including in rural areas. Although it’s acceptable to park a caravan in the front yard, or on a property, living in it is another matter.

If anyone has information on permanent places to stay, in a car, RV or tiny home, please leave a message.  The reason people live in tiny homes is often financial, so expensive site fees cancel out the  benefits.

We haven’t thought outside the square of fixed, bricks and mortar on a block of land.  To accommodate people from a diverse range of circumstances, and to make homelessness history, we need to look at more affordable options for land use.  Portable tiny homes have a light footprint.

Options for off grid living will be examined next.



Tiny Houses Part One

Tiny houses and RV (recreational vehicle) living is a growing trend as an alternative to traditional housing. The USA has provided many ideas for portable living in small spaces.  As with Australia, housing has become unaffordable for many people.  Jobs are changing to gig economy, contract, and freelance, and often require movement to follow the work opportunities.

Increasingly, young people are recognising multi-skilling and travel is more important to them than training in one area and staying in one place. For young people unable to live in the family home (assuming there is one), house-sharing requires enough money for paying bills and eating, which is a stretch on Austudy or Youth Allowance. Especially with the recent cut in penalty rates for weekend workers.

Saving for a house with the expectation of being able to afford the repayments, is a shrinking dream.  For my own age group, women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia.

Home ownership is declining, with less having paid off their properties, and under financial stress from repayments.  Trying to enter the market on a contract job, or a low paying job with no full-time benefits is impossible.

Add to this, the growing awareness of climate change, consumption, pollution, and wanting to live with a smaller footprint, and living tiny makes perfect sense.

The options for tiny living in Australia are in two parts.  The living structure, and where to place it.  Our council and government regulations are not set up for tiny living, particularly in cities.  Few caravan parks offer permanent sites.  Residential parks are privately run and have strict regulations on the age of the occupants, and if they are able to work or must be retired.

Most spaces are for temporary sites, and have restrictions on the time spent in one place. The regulations are set up for permanent, unaffordable housing, or temporary sites for holidays or grey nomads.  While granny flats are allowed in many backyards, this doesn’t work for people who need permanent, or long term access to land to build or park a tiny house.

More will be discussed in Part Two.


Populate or Perish

Arthur Calwell, Labor Immigration Minister at the time, came up with the strategy of populate or perish at the end of World War II, as a path to economic growth and national security for Australia. Seventy years later, the same policy will cause our own extinction.

I’m going in two directions at once with this post, thinking out loud in the hope there will be a solution.  We are consuming 1.7 of the earth’s resources at the present rate, with western countries being the highest consumers.  We are living unsustainably, and populating at a rate that is already impacting on standards of living around the world.  This is exacerbated by poor political leadership, including planning, and a growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Scientific evidence has shown there is no doubt we are in the midst of human induced climate change.  Predictions by scientists show that massive changes will take place this century, even if we reduce carbon emissions radically immediately, due to the lag in cause and effect.

Climate change will make areas unlivable very quickly, as we have seen with the last hurricane season south of the USA, flooding in Bangladesh and famine in West Africa.  People lose shelter, food and safe water sources, get sick and die.  This will happen so often world-wide in different ways, that we won’t need to consider population growth as a problem anymore, rather how to protect the existing population.

The climate is already changing, and we need strategies to stop global warming.  In the interim, the challenge is to anticipate what it to come and plan for it.

There will be unlivable areas of the planet so people will have to move or die.  Some areas will become hazardous to live in due to flooding and other extreme weather events, but with support can stay in place.

What is Australia planning to do about this?  How will we assist people overseas?  How are we preparing to accept climate change refugees?  I strongly believe that we must plan now.  This is a global problem.  By working together we can save as many people and as much of the environment as possible.  Like the two world wars before us, this is the challenge for our generation.

Future posts will look at ideas for living in a post consumption and climate change world.

Melbourne Street Art 2/18

The street art scene in the last three years since I visited has undergone some changes.  It looks like many of the seasoned writers and mixed media artists have vacated the main CBD laneways.

AC/DC Lane

With the exception of two tribute murals to the late great Malcolm Young, I had trouble finding new works in the way of stencils, pasteups or any of the usual, quirky writers and artists.

Union Lane Feb 2018

There were reports in the media last year, of Mayor Doyle attempting to move on the homeless people from the laneways as they are a tourist attraction, and apparently we are offended by the presence of homeless people.  I think we tourists know full well there is no art without the participation of the artists, including those who are homeless.

Union Lane 2018

As for the state of the laneways, it’s easy enough to run a street sweeper/cleaner through every day, to get rid of the overwhelming stench of urine and worse.  Union Lane was particularly bad this year, but still looked beautiful.

Melbourne Street art

AC/DC Lane had more of the paste ups and stencils but the Swoon artwork has been painted over, and many of the works looked old.  Something is discouraging new and established artists from participating.  Is it a protest over the council policies or something else?

Duckboard Place

On the subject of homelessness, in the past we’ve seen some people sleeping rough in the daytime on the streets, but nowhere near the number of people we came across this year.  According to reports, charity services to people in need have been overwhelmed and fewer of the general public are donating either cash or goods.

Melbourne sticker art

I don’t carry cash anymore except for parking meters, and this is the difference between going hungry and a meal to many people.

Edit.  A footnote to this post, well known priest and humanitarian, Father Bob Maguire, runs a Foundation in Melbourne’s Albert Park.  If you would like to support his vision to end homelessness and disadvantage, please read more at FatherBobs.com

Truth and Reconciliation II

There’s a perception that Australia was created as a nation the moment Captain Cook landed.  In fact it was claimed originally as a colony and only on the east coast.  The rest that follows is an ad hoc, patched together chain of events based on a need for a place to dump prisoners, luck, disagreements, a private company,  and policy on the run, until federation.

Even after Federation, it took more years for the current flag to fly over a new capital city to house Federal Parliament.  Given the newness of the current look of Australia, it’s no surprise we haven’t come to terms with the true history of this nation.  In my grandfather’s life time, we fought under two flags, South Australia was a colony and the federal government sat in Melbourne.

Growing up in South Australia in the 60’s and 70’s, our colonial history was taught at primary school as a minor subject, with some reference to Aboriginal people holding spears and greeting Captain Cook as he ‘discovered’ the land.  I don’t remember ever being taught South Australian history at school.

The ignorance of the formation of our country in previous and successive generations to this day, has allowed for misinformation to take hold over public discourse.  We are unable to sort fact from fiction.  This was exacerbated with the outcry over history wars during the Howard years, which turned teaching our past in schools and universities into a political football.

Australia has to face the truth of our history and how it has impacted on our First Nations people, to mature as a country.  Continuing to deny the past or minimise the generational discrimination in racist policy and actions, has paralysed debate.

We have seen the healing achievable from memorials and apologies, and other countries have shown how war trials, documenting events and testimonies of witnesses can offer a way forward.

There are several important objectives in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The first is recognising what Cook himself understood to be true, that the land was occupied when he arrived, and the people were self sufficient and wanted for nothing.  This negates Bourke’s Proclamation of terra nullius.

The second is officially hearing and recording the impact taking land away from the First Nations people had on their lives, and their descendants since that time.  Historical documentation, oral tradition and personal accounts can provide evidence of this impact.

Thirdly, reparation for the loss of land.  This was dealt with in Zimbabwe by evicting colonisers from their farms.  Fiji refused to renew land leases to Indian Fijians. Through force and stealth, with the backing of the law, colonisers forced Aboriginal people off their land.  How would we feel about the same happening to us?

While we can acknowledge our part in the history of Australia from colonisation by invasion, and provide with collaboration, the framework for a detailed and just Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acceptable reparation and reconciliation can only be led by the First Nations people.  Amendments to the Constitution form part of that reparation, but we are working backwards with the order of things.

Without frank acknowledgement of the injustices of the past, and the facts of prior occupation and the foundation of Australia, we won’t be open to the amendments that need to be made.  That is, we will stop from being said what has to be said for true reconciliation.