Smile all the while

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page - DAVID JEAN

THE life­style helps make the work worth­while for those in­volved in the car­a­van park in­dus­try.

The state’s 200 car­a­van parks em­ploy a range of work­ers, from man­agers to grounds staff, care­tak­ers and re­liev­ing staff.

Most of the parks are run by owner­op­er­a­tors, who find they have the free­dom to carry out a busi­ness while meet­ing new peo­ple and liv­ing in some of SA’s most pop­u­lar tourist re­gions.

CAR­A­VAN park owner Ge­orge Rus­sell has one im­por­tant piece of ad­vice for any­one think­ing about a foray into the in­dus­try: Be pre­pared to put in the hours.

The re­tired army op­er­at­ing the­atre tech­ni­cian has owned the BIG4 Coober Pedy Oa­sis Tourist Park for the past seven years.

In that time he has met thou­sands of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and shared many great ex­pe­ri­ences.

He loves the va­ri­ety his work of­fers but says run­ning a car­a­van park is any­thing but easy.

‘‘It was a chal­lenge when we first started and it still is a chal­lenge,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a re­ally good life­style but the dis­ad­van­tage is that it’s very long hours. ‘‘But the re­wards are there.’’ There are about 200 car­a­van parks in South Aus­tralia, ac­cord- ing to Car­a­van Parks As­so­ci­a­tion SA chair­man Richard Davis.

Most are owner-op­er­ated busi­nesses that em­ploy ca­sual clean­ers, main­te­nance work­ers, gar­den­ers and of­fice staff.

Mr Davis says peo­ple who start out as ca­su­als of­ten work their way up the peck­ing or­der.

‘‘You can work in a park and progress your ca­reer at the same time,’’ he says. ‘‘There are diploma cour­ses for car­a­van park op­er­a­tions – the in­dus­try is pro­gress­ing well in that field.’’

Mr Davis says work­ing in car­a­van parks of­ten ‘‘be­comes a life­style’’. ‘‘It’s a con­stant job,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s the va­ri­ety the park of­fers that keeps it in­ter­est­ing. ‘‘It does be­come their life.’’ That cer­tainly rings true for Mr Rus­sell, who took his first ca­sual job in a park af­ter he be­came ‘‘bored’’ while trav­el­ling around Aus­tralia.

The re­cip­i­ent of an Or­der of Aus­tralia for Ser­vices award for ser­vices to the Royal Aus­tralian Med­i­cal Corp and the Aus­tralian Army, Mr Rus­sell found him­self work­ing as a main­te­nance of­fi­cer at the BIG4 Mac­Don­nell Range Hol­i­day Park in Alice Springs for four years.

When he heard the Coober Pedy park was up for sale he jumped at the op­por­tu­nity and he hasn’t looked back since.

His sons An­thony and Mark now co-own the park and his daugh­ter Kelly is soon to come on board.

‘‘It was a pretty good life­style (work­ing in Alice Springs) and my wife en­joyed work­ing in the of­fice so we de­cided that rather than work­ing for some­body else we’d get our own park,’’ he says.

‘‘I have to say that I miss the ca­ma­raderie the force of­fers you but the friends and fam­ily I have here at the park are fan­tas­tic.

‘‘You re­ally feel like you are part of a fam­ily (and) you’re al­ways meet­ing new peo­ple.’’

Mr Rus­sell em­ploys six peo­ple to help with clean­ing, main­te­nance and of­fice work at the park.

BIG4 spokes­woman Kari Hunter says car­a­van park work is ideal for friendly peo­ple who en­joy va­ri­ety.

‘‘You need to be a very cus­tomer ser­vice-ori­ented,’’ Ms Hunter says.

‘‘Gen­er­ally peo­ple who work in parks are very friendly.’’

BIG4 Coober Pedy Oa­sis Tourist Park owner Ge­orge Rus­sell.

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