Domestic and family violence is the main reason women and children leave their homes in Australia  and has consistently been one of the most common reasons clients have sought assistance from specialist homelesssness agencies (see Clients, services and outcomes).
It is important to note that client numbers in the SHSC generally reflect the increased availability and accessibility of domestic and family violence services.
While SHS agencies mainly assist people who are victims of domestic and family violence, they may also assist perpetrators of violence who seek homelessness services. The SHSC is not able to separately identify these clients.
Key findings in 2015–16
- 106,000 people experiencing domestic and family violence sought assistance from homelessness agencies across Australia in 2015-16; 38% of all people requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies. This represents a rise in client numbers of 14% from 2014–15 and is higher than the growth rate of the general SHS population (9%).
- Nearly half (47%) of domestic and family violence clients were single parents with a child or children.
- One in 5 (22%, or over 23,000) were children aged 0–9 with over 36,000 under 18. The highest proportion of service users for adults was the 25–34 age group (20%); 93% of these were female clients.
- On average, each client experiencing domestic and family violence sought assistance from homelessness agencies on 2 occasions over the 12 month period (1.9 support periods per client), higher than the general SHS population (1.7). These periods of support tended to be shorter on average, than in 2014–15.
- Housing outcomes improved. The largest improvement in housing situation was for clients in public or community housing—up from 17% at the start of support to 24% at the end of support.
Clients experiencing domestic and family violence: 2011–12 to 2015–16
Since the beginning of the SHS collection in 2011–12, the number of clients who had experienced domestic and family violence has increased. Key trends identified over these 5 years have been:
- Nationally, the number of clients who had experienced domestic and family violence and sought assistance from specialist homelessness agencies has increased on average 7% each year since 2011–12 (Table DV Trends.1). The majority of these additional clients requesting assistance for domestic and family violence were single parent households (with a child or children).
- All jurisdictions had increases, with Tasmanian SHS agencies experiencing the highest average annual growth of domestic and family violence clients (15% each year) but Victoria contributing the most in terms of numbers of clients.
- The proportion of clients who were homeless upon presentation has increased, from 33% in 2011–12 to 38% in 2015–16.
- The proportion ending support with improved housing outcomes has increased, particularly for those in private rental or home owners (up around 5% to 47% in 2015–16).
Table DV Trends.1: Clients who have experienced domestic and family violence: at a glance—2011–12 to 2015–16
|Number of clients (proportion of all clients)
|Rate (per 10,000 population)
|Housing situation at the beginning of first support period (proportion of all clients)
|At risk of homelessness
|Length of support (median number of days)
|Average number of support periods per client
|Proportion receiving accommodation
|Median number of nights accommodated
|Proportion of a client group with a care management plan
|Achievement of all case management goals (per cent)
- Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year.
- The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant National supplementary table.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2015–16.
Clients experiencing domestic and family violence 2015–16
In 2015–16 specialist homelessness services agencies assisted 106,000 domestic and family violence clients. Compared with 2014–15:
- There were about 13,300 (14%) more clients seeking assistance for domestic and family violence.
- This growth was largely due to increases in New South Wales (over 5,800 clients), Victoria (around 4,300 clients) and Western Australia (almost 1,300) over the past 12 months.
- Over three-quarters (77%) of domestic and family violence clients were female.
- Nearly half of all clients (47%) seeking assistance for domestic and family violence were living in single parent households (with a child or children), unchanged from the previous year.
- Sixty-two percent were at risk of homelessness when first presenting for support, similar to the previous year (63%).
Age and sex
The majority (92%) of clients of specialist homelessness services in 2015–16 who were experiencing domestic and family violence were females and children, unchanged from 2014–15 (Figure DV.1). In 2015–16:
- Females aged 15 and over accounted for 63% (or about 66,000) of this group.
- Children aged 14 and under accounted for an additional 29% (or about 31,000).
- Males aged 15 and older accounted for 8% (or about 8,500) of the client group.
- Among children aged 0–9 years, there were similar numbers of boys and girls, totalling about 23,500 children.
Figure DV.1: Clients who have experienced domestic and family violence, by age and sex, 2015–16
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services 2015–16, National Supplementary Table DV.1.
Services needed and provided
clients experiencing domestic and family violence needed short-term or emergency accommodation.
The majority of clients who had experienced domestic and family violence were assessed as needing specific assistance for these events, which may include discussion or group sessions, counselling and specialised domestic violence support services (71%, or about 75,000). Of the persons identified as needing assistance for domestic and family violence, 89% were provided assistance.
The next most common services requested by this client group were (Figure DV.2):
- short-term or emergency accommodation (42%, or over 44,000) and 74% of these clients received this service
- material aid/brokerage (37%) with 89% of those requesting this service receiving assistance
- family/relationship assistance (30%) with 85% of these clients receiving assistance
- transport (30%) and 95% received this service
- long-term housing (30%) with just 5% of those requesting this service receiving assistance.
- financial information (27%) and 85% of these clients receiving assistance.
Figure DV.2: Clients who have experienced domestic and family violence, by most needed services and service provision status, 2014–15
Note: Excludes 'Other basic assistance', 'Advice/information', and 'Advocacy/liaison on behalf of client'.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services 2015–16, National Supplementary Table DV.3.
Of clients who experienced domestic and family violence and had ended support during 2015–16, at the start of support:
- 61% were at risk of homelessness
- most (42%) were living in private rental accommodation (either as a renter or rent free). Housing outcomes at the end of support for those clients who had experienced domestic or family violence revealed that:
- the proportion of clients that were homeless decreased from 39% at the beginning to 27% at the end of their support.
- this decrease was particularly evident for those living in a house/townhouse or flat with no tenure or ‘couch surfing’ which decreased from 15% to 10% following support.
- the largest improvement in housing situation at the end of support was for clients in public or community housing—up from 17% at the start of support to 24% at the end (Figure DV.3).
Figure DV.3: Clients who have experienced domestic and family violence and who had closed support, by housing situation at the beginning and end of support, 2015–16
- The SHSC classifies clients living with no shelter or improvised/ inadequate dwelling, short-term temporary accommodation, or in a house, townhouse, or flat with relatives (rent free) as homeless. Clients living in public or community housing (renter or rent free), private or other housing (renter or rent free), or in institutional settings are classified as housed.
- Proportions include only clients with closed support at the end of the reporting period.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services 2015–16, National Supplementary Table DV.4.
- Spinney A, 2012. Home and safe? Policy and practice innovations to prevent women and children who have experienced domestic and family violence from becoming homeless. Final report no. 196. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.