• Print

released: 13 May 2011 author: AIHW media release

The rate of homelessness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is four times that of non-Indigenous Australians. Homeless Indigenous Australians were almost twice as likely to sleep rough, or in improvised dwellings and shelters, than non-Indigenous Australians. The rate of home ownership for Indigenous households was about a third compared to two-thirds for non-Indigenous households. Indigenous households were ten times more likely to be living in overcrowded conditions compared to non-Indigenous households.

ISBN 978-1-74249-140-0; Cat. no. HOU 237; 124pp.; Internet only


This report provides an overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and homelessness information in Australia. It aims to provide an overview of the housing issues faced by Indigenous Australians, and the housing services that are provided for their assistance. It also presents a general profile of homelessness for Indigenous Australians, and the types of homelessness services they access.

Where available, comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups are presented.

Housing and housing assistance

In 2006, there were 166,700 Indigenous households in Australia, making up 2.3% of Australian households. A total of about 411,300 persons were reported to live in Indigenous households.

The 2006 Census data showed differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous households in relation to patterns in housing tenure type and overcrowding:

  • About a third of Indigenous households were home owners (with or without a mortgage), while almost two-thirds were renting. For non-Indigenous households, over two-thirds owned their own home (with or without a mortgage) and less than a third were renting.
  • About 5% of Indigenous households were living in overcrowded conditions compared with 0.5% of non-Indigenous households.

Also, based on 2006 data, it has been estimated that around 11,000 dwellings were required by Indigenous households to address the unmet need for social housing assistance.


In 2006, Indigenous Australians represented around 2.5% of the Australian population but accounted for around 9% of the homeless population (9,526 out of 104,676 homeless people). Indigenous Australians were also over-represented as clients of specialist homelessness agencies funded through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). In 2008–09, almost a fifth of specialist homelessness service clients were Indigenous.

While Domestic/family violence was the most frequently recorded main reason for seeking assistance for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients of SAAP agencies in 2008–09, the following differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients were noted:

  • Indigenous SAAP clients tended to be younger than non-Indigenous clients.
  • Non-Indigenous homelessness was more likely to occur in Major cities, whereas Indigenous homelessness occurred in Major cities and elsewhere.
  • Overcrowding issues were more frequently recorded as the main reason for seeking assistance from a SAAP agency for Indigenous clients than for non-Indigenous clients.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2011. Housing and homelessness services: access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Cat. no. HOU 237. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 24 August 2017 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737419006>.

Request an alternative format

Please contact us if you need information from the website presented in an alternative format for accessibility reasons.