Domestic violence affects the physical, emotional, social and economic wellbeing of individuals and families (OfW 2005). Domestic violence is also a major factor contributing to homelessness in Australia, particularly for women. In 2003–04, it is estimated that 33% (32,700) of the 100,200 clients accessing the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), the major government response to homelessness in Australia, were women escaping domestic violence (Table A1 and AIHW 2005:12). In addition, 66% (34,700) of the 52,700 accompanying children in SAAP were children who accompanied a female parent or guardian escaping domestic violence (Table A12 and AIHW 2005:13).

The definition of homelessness used in SAAP considers a person to be homeless if he or she does not have access to safe, secure and adequate housing. Hence, even if a person has a physical home, they are considered to be homeless if they are subjected to domestic violence, as they are not safe in that environment. The SAAP National Data Collection defines domestic violence as physical or emotional abuse inflicted on the client by a partner or other family member.

This bulletin, the fourth thematic report from the SAAP National Data Collection focusing on a particular client group, provides an overview of the 2003–04 data about female clients escaping domestic violence and the children who accompanied them.