The rate of homelessness among Indigenous Australians fell between 2006 and 2011

Indigenous Australians are over-represented in the homeless population. On Census night in 2011, an estimated 26,743 Indigenous people were experiencing homelessness. Taking into account the size of the Indigenous population, 1 in 20 Indigenous people were homeless on Census night in 2011-14 times the rate for non-Indigenous people (1 in 284 people).

These data are based on a new method of estimating the homeless population developed by the ABS which distinguishes between 6 groups of homeless people according to their living situation. Among Indigenous people who were homeless in 2011, three-quarters (75%) were living in severely crowded dwellings- these dwellings contained an average of 12 people each. A further 12% were living in supported accommodation for the homeless, 6% were staying in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out, and the remainder were staying temporarily with other households, or in other temporary lodgings.

Between 2006 and 2011, the rate of homelessness among Indigenous people fell by 14%. In contrast, there was a 12% increase in the rate of homelessness among non-Indigenous people.

About 4 in 10 Indigenous homeless people were aged 18 or under

Indigenous people experiencing homelessness were more likely to be female, and tended to be younger than non-Indigenous people experiencing homelessness. In 2011, 51% of Indigenous homeless people were female, compared with 42% of non-Indigenous homeless people. About 4 in 10 (42%) of the Indigenous homeless population were aged 18 or under, compared with 23% of non-Indigenous homeless people.

In 2011, 60% of Indigenous people experiencing homelessness were in Very remote areas. Nearly all (97%) Indigenous homeless people in Very remote areas were living in severely crowded dwellings.

One-fifth of specialist homelessness services clients were Indigenous

Clients of specialist homelessness services are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. In 2012-13, about 1 in 5 (22%) clients were Indigenous-an estimated 54,885 clients. In comparison, about 3% of the total Australian population were Indigenous.

In 2012-13, an estimated 9.2% of the Indigenous population accessed specialist homelessness services. This was an increase from 8.8% in 2011-12.

Indigenous clients were more likely to be female (62%) than non-Indigenous clients (57%), and they tended to be younger-one-quarter (24%) of Indigenous clients were aged under 10 compared with 14% of non-Indigenous clients.

Domestic and family violence was the most commonly reported main reason that Indigenous people sought assistance from specialist homelessness services (22%), as it was for non-Indigenous clients (21%).

Agencies were able to support some Indigenous clients into more stable housing. Among Indigenous clients who ended support in 2012-13, the proportion who were homeless decreased from 48% at the start of support to 41% at the end of support, while the proportion in social housing increased from 28% to 35%.