Overcrowding rates varied with remoteness. In 2018–19, the:
- proportion of Indigenous Australians living in overcrowded dwellings was higher in remote areas (26% in Remote areas and 51% in Very remote areas) than in non-remote areas (ranging from 8% to 22%)
- number of Indigenous Australians living in overcrowded dwellings was higher in Major cities, Inner regional and Outer regional areas (83,045 people) than in Remote and very remote areas (62,394) (AIHW & NIAA 2020).
Indigenous Australians are over-represented in both the national homeless population and as users of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS).
The ABS 2016 Census showed that Indigenous Australians accounted for over one-fifth (22% or an estimated 23,437 people) of the homeless population nationally (ABS 2018b).
According to the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), 29% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over had been homeless at some time in their life (ABS 2016).
2019–20 SHS data show that:
- around 71,600 Indigenous Australians received SHS support. Indigenous Australians made up 27% of all SHS clients (AIHW 2020) but only 3.3% of the Australian population (ABS 2018c)
- more than half (53%, or almost 38,000) of Indigenous SHS clients were aged under 25 compared with 41% (79,800) of non-Indigenous clients (AIHW 2020)
- more Indigenous clients (65%) than non-Indigenous clients (57%) were returning clients (that is, they had received SHS services at some point since the collection began in 2011–12).
Impact of COVID-19
There are little data available on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous housing specifically. Results from various studies of the Australian population more broadly found that this pandemic, and associated societal changes:
- negatively affected housing quality and affordability
- exacerbated social isolation (Horne et al. 2020)
- elevated levels of depression and anxiety (Dawel et al. 2020).
See ‘Chapter 5, COVID-19 effects on housing and homelessness: the story to mid-2021’ and ‘Chapter 3, The impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of Australians’ in Australia’s welfare 2021: data insights.
Furthermore, separation from family and reduced or cancelled visits by care workers proved challenging for many people (Horne et al. 2020). Existing vulnerabilities – such as poor housing quality and location; housing affordability; energy poverty; and a range of social, mental and physical health conditions – worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Brackertz 2020).
Fewer people across all jurisdictions left SOMIH in the last 6 months of 2019–20 (AIHW 2021), thus increasing waiting lists for SOMIH in some jurisdictions. Fewer new Indigenous households were assisted by SOMIH in 2019–20 than in 2018–19 (1,062 compared with 1,357). There were similar decreases in new households in public housing and community housing.
For detailed information on Indigenous homelessness, see Use of specialist homelessness services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and ‘Chapter 6, Regional variation in assistance to homeless Indigenous Australians’ in Australia’s welfare 2021: data insights.
Where do I go for more information?
For more information on Indigenous housing, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014–15. Cat no. 4714.0. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
ABS 2018a. Census of Population and Housing, customised report. Prepared for: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
ABS 2018b. Census of Population and Housing: estimating homelessness, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2049.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 2 August 2021.
ABS 2018c. Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians June 2016. 2020 web report. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 2 August 2021.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019a. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: a focus report on housing and homelessness. Cat. no. HOU 301. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
AIHW 2019b. National Social Housing Survey, 2018: key results. Cat. no. HOU 311. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
AIHW 2020. Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report. Cat. no. HOU 322. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
AIHW 2021. Housing assistance in Australia. Cat. no: HOU 325. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
AIHW & NIAA (National Indigenous Australians Agency) 2020. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework: 2.01 Housing. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 August 2021.
Australian Government 2018. National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Canberra: Australian Government. Viewed 2 August 2021.
Brackertz N 2020. The role of housing insecurity and homelessness in suicidal behaviour and effective interventions to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours: a review of the evidence. AHURI final report no. 345. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited (AHURI).
Dawel A, Shou Y, Smithson M, Cherbuin N, Banfield M, Calear AL et al. 2020. The effect of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing in a representative sample of Australian adults. Frontiers in Psychiatry 11:579985.
Flatau P, Cooper L, McGrath N, Edwards D, Hart A, Morris M et al. 2005. Indigenous access to mainstream public and community housing. AHURI Final Report no. 85. Melbourne: AHURI.
Horne R, Willand N, Dorignon L & Middha B 2020. The lived experience of COVID-19: housing and household resilience. AHURI Final Report no. 345. Melbourne: AHURI.
Memmott P, Moran M, Birdsall-Jones C, Fantin S, Kreutz A, Godwin J et al. 2009. Indigenous home-ownership on communal title lands. AHURI Final Report no. 139. Melbourne: AHURI.
SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2020. Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators 2020. Canberra: Productivity Commission.
Thomas M 2018. Social housing and homelessness. Budget review 2017–18, Parliament of Australia.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2020. WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change: the transformation needed to improve lives and wellbeing sustainably through healthy environments. Geneva: World Health Organization.