According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a person is considered to be homeless if they are: living in an improvised dwelling, tent or sleeping out; in supported accommodation for the homeless; staying temporarily with another household; or staying in a boarding house or other temporary lodging. The ABS definition of homelessness also includes people living in a severely overcrowded situation (i.e. those living in a residence requiring 4 or more additional bedrooms according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard) because they do not have control of, or access to, space for social relations (ABS 2016).
In the ABS Census 2016, the national proportion of homelessness among children aged 0–14 years was 0.4%. There were negligible differences in the rates of homelessness between boys and girls (both 0.4%), children born in Australia and those born overseas (0.4% and 0.6% respectively), and between younger (0–4 years) and older children (5–14 years; 0.5% and 0.4% respectively). Indigenous children aged 0–14 years were 11 times as likely to be homeless (3.3%) than non-Indigenous children (0.3%).
The rates of homelessness of children aged 0–14 years varied across different types of households, remoteness and socioeconomic status (SES) areas. In 2016, 2.4% of children aged 0–14 years who lived in multiple family households were homeless, compared with 0.6% of children in one-parent family households and 0.1% of children in couple family households. The national proportion of homelessness for children aged 0–14 years was higher in Remote and very remote areas (5.2%) compared with Major cities (0.3%), Inner regional (0.3%) and Outer regional (0.4%) areas. Children aged 0–14 years living in the lowest SES areas were also more likely to be homeless (1.3%) than those in the highest SES areas (0.1%).
Has there been a change over time?
Between 2006 and 2016 there has been a very small decrease in the rate of homessness of children aged 0-14 years, from 0.5% to 0.4%.
The proportion of Indigenous children classified as homeless has decreased by 2.0 percentage points, from 5.3% in 2006 to 3.3% in 2016. Over the same period, the proportion of non-Indigenous children classified as homeless has remained stable at 0.3%. The proportion of homelessness for children living in multiple family households has also decreased, from 3.6% in 2006 to 2.4% in 2016, while the proportions in couple families and one-parent families have remained stable.
The proportion of homelessness for children in Remote and very remote areas has increased from 3.6% in 2006 to 5.2% in 2016, while the proportions in all other Remoteness categories have remained stable over time.
According to ABS, there was underestimation of youth homelessness (sometimes referred to as ages 12-18 years or 12-24 years) due to ‘usual address’ reporting. A usual address may be reported for 'couch surfers' either because the young person doesn't want to disclose to the people they are staying with that they are unable to go home, or the person who fills out the Census form on behalf of the young person staying with them assumes that the youth will return to their home (ABS 2012).
- ABS 2016. Explanatory notes. 2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016.