Clients who are current or former members of the Australian Defence Force
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The long-term welfare of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members is important as Defence members, like any other Australian, may experience homelessness for a number of reasons, including:
- Complex personal needs – mental health issues and other complex vulnerabilities can be reflective of the unique demands of service (McFarlane et al. 2011).
- Financial stress – employment can become an issue for ADF members when transitioning from service to civilian life (Searle et al. 2019).
At 30 June 2021, there were 60,330 permanent current serving ADF members (Defence 2021). In addition, there were estimated to be around 613,300 living veterans, including all living persons who have ever served in the ADF either full-time or as reservists (DVA 2021).
Some permanent serving ADF personnel have access to housing and rental assistance through Defence Housing Australia. Current or former ADF members can access a range of housing and homelessness services through government and non-government organisations, including access to subsidised housing loans, home support loans, insurances and other benefits and discounts (Defence 2022).
To provide a better understanding of the extent to which current or former ADF members may need support from specialist homelessness services (SHS), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) indicator was introduced into the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) in July 2017.
As is common with new data items, upon implementation there was a high number of ‘don’t know’ (14% in 2017–18) responses to the ADF question. A ‘don’t know’ response is selected if the information is not known or the client refuses to provide the information. The proportion of clients selecting ‘don’t know’ has decreased over time to 7.7% in 2021–22.
The Use of homelessness services by contemporary ex-serving Australian Defence Force members 2011–17 report linked SHSC and Defence personnel data to identify contemporary ex-serving ADF members (those who discharged after 1 January 2001) who had used services between 2011–12 and 2016–17. The report provides a longer-term view of clients, prior to the implementation of the ADF indicator in the SHSC.
In 2021–22 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.39):
- SHS agencies assisted almost 1,400 clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF.
- Clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF made up less than 1% of all SHS clients.
Reporting ADF clients in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
The SHS ADF indicator is applied when a client self-identifies as a current or former ADF member. The ADF indicator is not applicable to clients who may have served in non-Australian defence forces, reservists who have never served as a permanent ADF member or clients under the age of 18. Note that differences between the results of this and other publicly reported estimates may be due to differences in how an ADF member is defined. Further details about the ADF indicator in the SHSC are provided in Technical information.
Figure ADF.1: Key demographics, SHS clients who are current or former members of the ADF, 2021–22
This interactive image describes the characteristics of the approximately 1,400 clients who are former or current member of the ADF who received SHS support in 2021–22. The majority of clients were male, aged 35–54. Most were unemployed. Victoria had the most clients and Tasmania had the highest rate of clients per 10,000 population. The majority of clients had previously been assisted by a SHS agency since July 2017. More than half were experiencing homelessness at the start of support. Most were living alone.
Labour force status
In 2021–22, the majority of clients (52% or 650 clients) who identified as current or former members of the ADF with known labour force status were unemployed, while two-fifths of clients (38% or 485 clients) were not in the labour force. Fewer than 1 in 10 clients (8.5%) were employed when they first presented to a SHS agency (Supplementary table ADF.6).
SHS clients in general can face additional vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to experiencing homelessness, in particular family and domestic violence, a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
Figure ADF.2: Clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF, by selected vulnerability characteristics, 2021–22
The length of support for clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF received increased from a median of 53 days of support in 2017–18 to 63 days in 2021–22. These clients had an average of 2.8 support periods per client in 2021–22.
The proportion of clients receiving accommodation increased from 36% in 2017–18 to 39% in 2021–22 for a median of 29 nights per client in 2021–22 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.46).
Changes over time since 2017–18
The total number of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF who received support from SHS agencies increased by an average of 1.9% annually over the 5 years from 1,300 clients in 2017–18 to 1,400 in 2021–22 (Supplementary table HIST.ADF). The number of female veterans increased by an average of 4.4% per year over the period, compared with 0.5% for males. This compares to an average decrease of 1.4% per year between 2017–18 and 2021–22 for all SHS clients (Supplementary table HIST.CLIENTS).
New and returning clients
Around one-third of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF in 2021–22 were new (31% or 435 clients), less than the proportion of new clients within the total SHS population (37%) (Supplementary tables CLIENTS.2 and CLIENTS.40). One in 5 new clients were aged 35–44 years (22%), and an additional 1 in 5 (21%) were aged 45–54 years.
Around 960 (69%) clients returned to SHS agencies for assistance in 2021–22. Males were more likely to be aged 45–54 (29% or around 170 clients), while females were more likely to be aged 35–44 (27% around 105).
SHS agencies provide a range of support services. For clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF receiving SHS support in 2021–22 (Supplementary tables ADF.4 and ADF.5):
- The main reason for seeking assistance was housing crisis (23% or around 325 clients), followed by inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (14% or 200 clients). This is generally consistent with most other SHS clients in 2021–22.
- Clients currently experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness identified housing crisis as the main reason for seeking assistance (25% or around 175 clients and 21% or almost 140 clients respectively).
- Clients at risk of homelessness were more likely to report family and domestic violence as a main reason for seeking assistance (18%) than clients presenting as homeless (6.2%).
- For clients whose main reason for seeking assistance was not housing crisis, clients at risk of homelessness were more likely to report financial difficulties as a main reason for seeking assistance (16%) than clients presenting as homeless (9.1%).
Services needed and provided
In 2021–22, the provision of support services to clients varied based on their identified need on presentation (Figure ADF.3, Supplementary table ADF.2):
- Advice/information was most likely to be needed by clients (87% or around 1,200 clients) and was provided to 99% of those who needed it.
- Two-thirds (67%) clients needed accommodation and it was provided to 59% of those who needed it.
Compared with the general SHS population, clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF were more likely to need:
- advocacy liaison (67% compared with 53% in the general SHS population)
- material aid/brokerage (49% compared with 36%)
- assistance to sustain tenancy or prevent tenancy failure or eviction (44% compared with 32%).
Figure ADF.3: Clients who identified as current or former members of the Australian Defence Force: services needed and provided, 2021–22
The bar graph shows the number of SHS clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF also experiencing additional vulnerabilities, including experiencing family and domestic violence, having a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use. The graph shows both the number of clients experiencing a single vulnerability only, as well as combinations of vulnerabilities.
In 2021–22, of those clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF (Supplementary tables ADF.3 and CLIENTS.11):
- On presentation to services for assistance more than half of clients (52%) were experiencing homelessness (compared with 44% of the general SHS population):
- 20% (around 270 clients) were in short-term or emergency accommodation (compared with 17% of the general SHS population)
- 17% (230 clients) were rough sleeping (compared with 8.6% of the general SHS population).
- Just under half (48%) presented to services at risk of homelessness (compared with 56% of the general SHS population):
- 29% were in private or other housing (compared with 31% of the general SHS population)
- 9.2% were in public or community housing (compared with 12% of the general SHS population).
Department of Defence (2021) Defence Annual Report 2020–21, Department of Defence, Canberra.
Department of Veterans Affairs (2021) Department of Veterans’ Affairs Annual Report 2020–21, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra.
McFarlane A, Hodson S, Van Hooff M and Davies C (2011) Mental health in the Australian Defence Force: 2010 ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Study: Full report, Department of Defence, Canberra.
Searle, A, Van Hooff M, Lawrence-Wood E, Hilferty F, Katz I, Zmudzki F and McFarlane A (2019) Homelessness amongst Australian contemporary veterans: pathways from military and transition risk factors, report to the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited.