Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in the homeless population.

Whilst Indigenous Australians represent around two and a half per cent of the Australian population they accounted for around 9% (9,000) of the total homeless population on Census night in 2006. Also, considering clients of government funded specialist homelessness services we can see that, for the 2008–09 reporting period, Indigenous Australians represented 17% of all people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness and accessed these services.

This report presents information on both Indigenous and other Australians, with the aim of providing a broad profile of Indigenous Australians experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. Information is also presented on Indigenous Australians accessing specialist homelessness services, and what they require and receive from these services. Information on non-Indigenous Australians is also presented for comparison purposes.

Key findings

  • According to the 2006 Census, Indigenous Australians experienced higher rates of primary homelessness (sleeping rough, or in improvised dwellings and shelters) than non-Indigenous Australians (27% compared with 15% respectively).
  • In 2006, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, secondary homelessness (living in hostels, crisis accommodation or with friends and family temporarily), was the most common form of homelessness experienced.
  • Of the 125,800 clients of specialist homelessness services in 2008–09, 21,400 (17%) identified as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
  • While the highest proportion of support periods for Indigenous clients was seen in Major cities (35%), this rate was considerably lower than that of non-Indigenous clients (70%).
  • A higher proportion of Indigenous Australians are accessing services in Inner and Outer regional, Remote and Very remote areas than non-Indigenous Australians (63% compared to 30%).
  • From 2006–07 to 2008–09, the main reason Indigenous Australians sought assistance from a specialist homelessness service remained the same—with ‘interpersonal reasons’ being reported most frequently. Of these interpersonal reasons, ‘domestic or family violence’ was reported most frequently , and Indigenous females presenting alone or with children were most likely to report this reason—around 42% for both of these client groups in 2008–09. Similar patterns were also seen for non-Indigenous clients.