Scale of homelessness varies widely

Rates of homelessness vary widely across Australia, not only between states and territories but within them, according to national research commissioned by all jurisdictions and published today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The eight new state and territory Counting the Homeless reports provide a state and territory breakdown and analysis of national data published by the ABS last September in the Counting the Homeless 2006 national report. They include discussion of characteristics of people experiencing homelessness and provide extensive analyses of their circumstances, drawn from experience of people working with the homeless.

Report co-author, Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain from RMIT University, said the differences in homelessness between the states and territories fell into four main groups:

  • Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria: 42 homeless people per 10,000 population (1364, 27,374 and 20,511 people respectively).
  • South Australia and Tasmania: 53 people per 10,000 (7,962 and 2,507 people respectively).
  • Queensland and Western Australia: 68 and 69 per 10,000 (26 782 and 13 391 people respectively).
  • Northern Territory: 248 homeless people per 10,000 (4785 people).

'Expressing homelessness as a rate per 10,000 means that differences between one area and another can be highlighted,' Professor Chamberlain said.

Report co-author, Associate Professor David MacKenzie of Swinburne University, said the reports showed higher rates of homelessness in inner city areas.

'This is not because inner city areas are necessarily socially disadvantaged areas, but because people there are more likely to be transient, having often come from other areas, and there are more homeless services closer to the inner city,' Professor MacKenzie said.

In Sydney, where there were almost 16,000 homeless people in 2006, the rate of homelessness in Inner Sydney was 133 per 10,000, while in the inner city ring of suburbs it was 53 per 10,000, and in the outer suburbs it was 22 per 10,000.

Almost 15,000 people were homeless in Melbourne. The rate of homelessness in the city centre was 129 per 10,000, dropping to 38 per 10,000 in the inner city ring and 28 per 10,000 in the outer suburbs. There were 246 people per 10,000 who were homeless in inner Brisbane, whereas the overall rate for Brisbane was 56 per 10,000, with 5,395 homeless people across all areas of the city.

In Perth there were 6,720 homeless people. In central Perth, the rate of homelessness was 109 per 10,000 compared with 47 per 10,000 overall. And in Adelaide where there were 5,213 homeless people, the rate of homelessness in the inner city was 457 per 10,000 compared with 47 per 10,000 for Adelaide overall

Outside cities, homelessness rates in northern Australia are very high. In the Kimberley region, for example, there were 1,870 homeless people but a rate of 638 people per 10,000. These rates partly reflect issues of Indigenous transience and inadequate housing, although non-Indigenous Australians also experience higher rates of homelessness in remote areas.


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