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A greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians access specialist homelessness services compared to non-Indigenous Australians, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Housing and homelessness services: Access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, provides an overview of housing and homelessness information related to Indigenous Australians.

In 2006, there were 166,700 Indigenous households in Australia, making up 2.3% of all Australian households.

‘About a third of these were home owners (with or without a mortgage), while almost two-thirds were renting,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr Brent Diverty.

‘Among non-Indigenous Australians, these figures are reversed, with over two-thirds owning or purchasing their own home and less than a third renting.’

According to the 2006 Census, Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in the homeless population; making up 9% of the nation’s homeless.

‘As well as being overrepresented in the homeless population, Indigenous Australians made up a disproportionate number of clients of specialist homelessness services,’ Mr Diverty said.

‘Specialist homelessness services provide support and services to people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, and in 2008-09, almost a fifth of specialist homelessness service clients were Indigenous.’

Indigenous clients of specialist homelessness services were typically younger than their non-Indigenous counterparts. While non-Indigenous homelessness occurred primarily in Major cities, homeless members of the Indigenous community were more evenly distributed between Major cities and elsewhere.

‘Domestic/family violence was the most frequently recorded reason for seeking assistance among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients of specialist homeless services,’ Mr Diverty said.

Among Indigenous Australians, Overcrowding was a much more commonly reported reason for seeking assistance than for non-Indigenous clients.

In 2006, overcrowded conditions were present in about 5% of all Indigenous households, compared to 0.5% of all non-Indigenous households.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 13 May 2011

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0438 471 352  

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: Housing and homelessness services: Access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people