Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Specialist homelessness services annual report., AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 November 2021
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Specialist homelessness services annual report. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Specialist homelessness services annual report. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 11 December 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020 [cited 2021 Nov. 30]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020, Specialist homelessness services annual report, viewed 30 November 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
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The long-term welfare of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members is of importance as the nature of military service may mean serving and ex-serving personnel are exposed to a greater number of risk factors that may influence their likelihood of experiencing homelessness, including:
At 30 June 2019, there were more than 58,500 permanent current ADF members (Defence 2019). In addition, there were estimated to be around 631,800 living veterans, including all living persons who have ever served in the ADF either full-time or as reservists (DVA 2019).
Serving ADF personnel have access to housing and rental assistance through Defence Housing Australia. However, once personnel discharge from the ADF they are no longer able to access this housing support. Current or former ADF members can access a range of housing and homelessness services through government and non-government organisations (Defence 2017). To provide a better understanding of the extent to which current or former ADF members may need support from specialist homelessness services (SHS), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) indicator was introduced into the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) in July 2017.
It is important to note that variability in the implementation of this item has meant that coverage is still considered to be incomplete and limited analyses have been conducted to date. As is common with new data items, upon implementation there was a high number of ‘don’t know’ (14% in 2017–18) responses to the ADF question. In 2019–20, the number of ‘don’t know’ (9%) responses decreased. A ‘don’t know’ response is selected if the information is not known or the client refuses to provide the information. Expectations are that data quality will continue to improve over time, at which time further analyses may be undertaken. Further details about the ADF indicator in the SHSC are provided in the Technical information section.
The Use of specialist homelessness services by ex-serving ADF members 2011–12 to 2016–17 report linked SHSC and Defence personnel data to identify contemporary ex-serving ADF members (those who discharged after 1 January 2001) who had used services between 2011–12 and 2016–17. The report provides a longer-term view of clients, prior to the implementation of the ADF indicator in the SHSC.
Reporting ADF clients in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
The SHS ADF indicator is applied when a client self-identifies as a current or former ADF member. The ADF indicator is not applicable to clients who may have served in non-Australian defence forces, reservists who have never served as a permanent ADF member or clients under the age of 18. Note that differences between the results of this and other publicly reported estimates may be due to differences in how an ADF member is defined. Further details about the ADF indicator in the SHSC are provided in Technical information.
In 2019–20 (Table ADF.1):
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Note: Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year. Minor adjustments in rates may occur between publications reflecting revision of the estimated resident population by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18 to 2019–20.
In 2019–20, of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF (Supplementary table ADF.1):
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2019–20.
In 2019–20, the highest number of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF accessed services in Victoria (47% or more than 600 clients), followed by New South Wales (21% or almost 300 clients) (Table ADF.2).
Note: Clients may access services in more than one state or territory. Therefore the total will be less than the sum of jurisdictions.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
More than half (53%) of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF were experiencing homelessness at the time of seeking SHS support, which was higher than the general SHS population (43%) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.12).
In 2019–20, of clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF (Supplementary table ADF.4):
In 2019–20, clients were either presenting to SHS agencies for the first time as new clients or had previously been assisted by a SHS agency at some point since the collection began in 2011–12 (Supplementary table ADF.7).
Of those clients returning to SHS agencies for assistance (65% or almost 900 clients), males were more likely to be aged 45–54 (32% or almost 200 clients), while females were more likely to be aged 25–34 (28% or almost 100 clients).
More than a third of clients in 2019–20 were new (35% or almost 500 clients, less than the general SHS population (42%). One in 4 (25%) new clients were aged 45–54 years and an additional 1 in 5 (22%) were aged 35–44 years.
SHS clients can face additional vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to experiencing homelessness, in particular family and domestic violence, a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
In 2019–20, of the almost 1,400 clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF, almost 2 in 3 (66%) reported experiencing one or more of these vulnerabilities:
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
Problematic drug and
or alcohol use
1. Clients are assigned to one category only based on their vulnerability profile.
2. Clients are aged 18 and over.
3. Totals may not sum due to rounding.
In 2019–20, clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF receiving SHS support (Table ADF.4):
Length of support (median number of days)
Average number of support periods per client
Proportion receiving accommodation
Median number of nights accommodated
Note: The denominator for the proportion receiving accommodation is all SHS clients who have identified as current or former members of the Australian Defence Force. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant supplementary table.
SHS agencies provide a range of support services. For clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF receiving SHS support in 2019–20 (Supplementary table ADF.5 and ADF.6):
In 2019–20, the provision of support services to clients varied based on their identified need on presentation (Supplementary table ADF.3):
Compared with the general SHS population, clients who identified as current or former members of the ADF were more likely to need:
Defence (Department of Defence) 2019. Defence Annual Report 2018–19. Canberra: Department of Defence.
Defence 2017. ADF member and family transition guide: a practical manual to transitioning. Canberra: Department of Defence.
DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs) 2019. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Annual Report 2018–19. Canberra: Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
McFarlane A, Hodson S, Van Hooff M & Davies C 2011. Mental health in the Australian Defence Force: 2010 ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Study: Full report, Department of Defence: Canberra.
Searle, A, Van Hooff M, Lawrence-Wood E, Hilferty F, Katz I, Zmudzki F & McFarlane A 2019. Homelessness amongst Australian contemporary veterans: pathways from military and transition risk factors, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Melbourne: AHURI.
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