Homelessness in Australia

Last updated
Abandoned homeless shelter Mawson, ACT Abandoned homeless shelter Mawson Canberra.JPG
Abandoned homeless shelter Mawson, ACT

Homelessness in Australia is a social issue concerning the number of people in Australia that are considered to be homeless, especially in recent few years of g20-land in the eastern provinces since 2014. There are no internationally agreed upon definitions of homelessness, making it difficult to compare levels of homelessness across countries. [1] A majority of people experiencing homelessness long-term in Australia are found in the large cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. It is estimated that on any given night approximately 105,000 people will be homeless [2] and many more are living in insecure housing, "one step away from being homeless". [3] A person who does not obtain any shelter is often described as sleeping 'rough'.

Homelessness circumstance when people desire a permanent dwelling but do not have one

Homelessness is defined as living in housing that is below the minimum standard or lacks secure tenure. People can be categorized as homeless if they are: living on the streets ; moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family and emergency accommodation ; living in private boarding houses without a private bathroom and/or security of tenure. The legal definition of homeless varies from country to country, or among different jurisdictions in the same country or region. According to the UK homelessness charity Crisis, a home is not just a physical space: it also provides roots, identity, security, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing. United States government homeless enumeration studies also include people who sleep in a public or private place not designed for use as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing due to a lack of, or an unsteady income. Homelessness and poverty are interrelated.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Sydney City in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,230,330 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.


A person is considered to be homeless in Australia if they:

2011 census homelessness figures

There were 105,237 people experiencing homelessness in Australia on census night in 2011. This equated to 1 in 200 Australians, [4] and represented an increase of 17% from the 2006 census, with the rate of homelessness increasing from 45 per 10,000 to 49 per 10,000.

Census Acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include agriculture, business, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practice.

People who are homeless in Australia are classified into one of six categories. These are:

56% of people experiencing homelessness on census night were male and 44% female. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were over-represented in homelessness data making up 25% of the homeless population, compared to 2.5% of the Australian population. 30% of those experiencing homelessness were born overseas above the % of the Australian population.

Torres Strait Islands archipelago north of Australia

The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea.

From 2006 to 2011 the number of people sleeping 'rough' decreased from 9% of the homeless population to 6%. There was also a significant increase (23%) in the number of people staying in homelessness services.

2016 census homelessness figures

The number of homeless people in Australia jumped by more than 15,000 — or 14 per cent — in the five years to 2016, according to census data. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said 116,000 people were homeless on census night in 2016, representing 50 homeless people per 10,000. [5]


Domestic and family violence25
Financial difficulties15
Housing stress13
Inappropriate or inadequate dwellings10
Relationship or family breakdown~6
Housing affordability stress~5
Source: AIHW Specialist Homelessness
Services data collection (2011–12)

There are many causes of homelessness. [6] [7] [8] The reasons for homelessness are many and varied and each individual's path to homelessness is different and unique. Some other reasons for homelessness are: addictions, exiting care (foster care system or prison system), barriers facing refugees, debt, disability, unemployment, lack of support, blacklisting, poverty, and being kicked out of home.[ citation needed ] Some of the current homeless population in Australia were previously in large-scale residential institutions for the mentally ill. Deinstitutionalisation of people with mentally illnesses began in Australia during the 1980s, and most now live in the general community.

Deinstitutionalisation process of replacing long-stay psychiatric hospitals with less isolated community mental health services

Deinstitutionalisation is the process of replacing long-stay psychiatric hospitals with less isolated community mental health services for those diagnosed with a mental disorder or developmental disability. In the late 20th century, it led to the closure of many psychiatric hospitals, as patients were increasingly cared for at home or in halfway houses, clinics and regular hospitals.


It has been estimated that a single homeless person costs the government $30,000 per year. [9]

Government responses

The Road Home - Federal Government White Paper

The Road Home [10] was launched by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in December 2008. [11] This White Paper sets an ambitious target to halve homelessness by 2020 and offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who need it. [12] Launching the White Paper, Kevin Rudd said, referring to the 105,000 homeless people in Australia "A country like this should not have this problem, so large and longstanding, without being addressed, It's time we had a decent solution to this problem that has been around for a long time." [13]

The Road Home focuses future effort and investment into three strategies:

  1. Turning Off the Tap: Early intervention services to prevent homelessness.
  2. Improving and expanding services which aim to end homelessness: Ensuring that Services are more connected, integrated and responsive to achieve sustainable housing, improve social and economic participation and end homelessness for their clients.
  3. Breaking the Cycle: Ensuring that people who become homeless are able to quickly move through the crisis system into stable housing with the support they need so that homelessness does not recur.

Affordable housing

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG)'s National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) subject to provisions of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations, defines and measures housing and homelessness services for the Commonwealth and the States and Territories. [14] In 2008 Rudd announced that NAHA would "deliver more longer-term housing for Australians who are homeless, more public and community housing and build and renew run down and overcrowded housing for Indigenous Australians living in remote areas." [10] NAHA's manadate includes a) social housing; assistance to people in the private rental market; support and accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and home purchase assistance; b) (b) working towards improving coordination across housing related programs to make better use of existing stock and under-utilised Government assets and achieve better integration between housing and human services, including health and disability services; and c) reducing the rate of homelessness." [14]

National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)

Since 2008, the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) was formed to allow the Commonwealth Government to provide matching funding to hundreds of homelessness services. [15] In response to the federal funding, states and territories typically match the Commonwealth’s contribution. The total annual NPAH funding is around $250 million per year which is directed to around 800 homelessness services around Australia. [16]

In 2016, homelessness services across Australia began a #SaveNPAH campaign to ensure the Australian Government renews the funding package past 2017. The services stated that without the funding, services would be forced to cut back on essential programs and thousands of Australians would become homeless. [17] [18] [19] The #SaveNPAH campaign succeeded in part, with the Australian government committing to a one year extension of funding. [20] [21]

State Government initiatives

In South Australia, the State Government of Premier Mike Rann (2002 to 2011) committed substantial funding to a series of initiatives designed to combat homelessness. Advised by Social Inclusion Commissioner David Cappo and the founder of New York's Common Ground program, Rosanne Haggerty , the Rann Government established Common Ground Adelaide [22] building high quality inner city apartments (combined with intensive support) for "rough sleeping" homeless people. The government also funded the Street to Home program and a hospital liaison service designed to assist homeless people who are admitted to the Emergency Departments of Adelaide's major public hospitals. Rather than being released back into homelessness, patients identified as rough sleepers are found accommodation backed by professional support. Common Ground and Street to Home now operate across Australia in other States.

Ask Izzy

Ask Izzy is a mobile website which connects people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. They provide essential services such as meals, housing, support and counseling. The website was developed by Infoxchange in partnership with Google, REA Group and News Corp. [23] [24]

Youth homelessness

In the mid-1970s, evidence began to emerge that the traditional homelessness population predominantly consisting of middle aged or older males was changing. Instead, younger people began emerging in surveys of the homeless population. This change is attributed to the disproportionately high unemployment rates among young people at the time, inadequate unemployment benefits (particularly for teens who had left school), burgeoning inflation rates and increasing housing and rent costs. This change in demographic increased the demands made on the non-government welfare sector to accommodate homeless youth. [25]

According to the 2006 census, there were over 44,000 young people experiencing homelessness. This means that about 43% of the Australian homeless population are infants, children or youth under the age of 25. A particularly common form of youth homelessness in Australia is "couch surfing" whereby the person experiencing homelessness relies on the support of friends to sleep on their couch or floor. [26] Relationship breakdown and family conflict are often cited as common instigators of youth homelessness. [27]

Youth Homelessness Matters Day is an annual event run across Australia that highlights youth homelessness and associated issues. [28]

Youth refuges

Youth refuges started appearing in Australia in the 1970s as a community based response to youth homelessness. [29]


Post traumatic stress disorder and homelessness

A 2006 University of Sydney study of Sydney's homeless found a very high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst the homeless. [32] [33] [34] [35]

Awareness days

See also

Mental health:

Related Research Articles

Tanya Plibersek Australian politician

Tanya Joan Plibersek is an Australian politician serving as Deputy Leader of the Labor Party since 2013, and has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Sydney since 1998. A member of the Labor Party, Plibersek served as a minister in the Rudd and Gillard Governments.

Homeless shelter Service agency which provide temporary residence for homeless people

Homeless shelters are a type of homeless service agency which provide temporary residence for homeless individuals and families. Shelters exist to provide residents with safety and protection from exposure to the weather while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact on the community. They are similar to, but distinguishable from, various types of emergency shelters, which are typically operated for specific circumstances and populations—fleeing natural disasters or abusive social circumstances. Extreme weather conditions create problems similar to disaster management scenarios, and are handled with warming centers, which typically operate for short durations during adverse weather.

Mission Australia

Mission Australia is a national Christian charity that provides a range of community services throughout Australia. In 2017–18, Mission Australia employed approximately 2800 staff and 1750 volunteers, and supported more than 119,000 children, young people, adults and elderly people across 461 programs and services. The organisation specialises in the areas of homelessness and housing, families and children, early learning, youth, employment and skills, alcohol and other drugs, disability, mental health, and strengthening communities. James Toomey became CEO in November 2017, succeeding Catherine Yeomans, who served as CEO from March 2014.

Patrick McClure Australian executive

Patrick Joseph McClure, AO chaired the Reference Group on Welfare Reform (2014-2015), advises governments on social policy, is a company director and a former chief executive officer of Mission Australia and the Society of St Vincent de Paul (NSW/ACT). He is chair of the Oak Tree Retirement Villages Group.

Pru Goward Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and politician

Prudence Jane Goward, an Australian politician, was a Liberal member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 2007 to 2019, representing the seat of Goulburn.

Australian Hotels Association organization

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) is a federation of not-for-profit employer associations in the hotel and hospitality industry, registered under the Fair Work Act and respective State Laws. The AHA's role is to further and protect the interests of its members throughout Australia which are employers and can be owners, operators or lessees of hotels, bars and other hospitality businesses. The areas of focus include accommodation, food, beverages, entertainment, wagering and gaming; the maintenance of the law; promotion of business activity, education, training and advocating the economic and social benefits of the industry.

Christopher Keith "Chris" Riley is an Australian Roman Catholic priest. He is a member of the Salesian order and the founder and CEO of the charity Youth Off The Streets.

Homelessness in the United Kingdom is measured and responded to in differing ways in England, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but affects people living in all areas of the countries.

Youth Homelessness Matters Day According to the National Youth Coalition for Housing the next Youth Homelessness Maters day will be held on 18th April, 2018.(YHMD) is an annual day which seeks to highlight the issue of youth homelessness in Australia. YHM Day is supported by the National Youth Coalition for Housing. NYCH supports and informs groups across the country who wish to inform the community about youth homelessness.

Launch Housing is based in Melbourne (Australia) and has been providing various services to people experiencing homelessness. It started operations in 1964 at Hanover Street in Fitzroy, and took on the name Hanover; the same as the street. It has 7 offices in Melbourne providing different services such as housing support, employment services, and various other support services to people experiencing homelessness. It's an independent and non-profit organisation not affiliated with any religious group, institution or government. It is funded by private, corporate and government donors.

Department of Family and Community Services (New South Wales)

The New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services is a former department of the Government of New South Wales and was previously responsible for the delivery of services to some of the most disadvantaged individuals, families and communities in the state of New South Wales, Australia until July 2019.

Caretakers Cottage organization

Caretakers Cottage is an Australian non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in Sydney assisting children and young adults facing homelessness. Caretakers Cottage is funded by the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services to provide services for young people across Sydney's South-Eastern district. Services include short-term, emergency accommodation, semi-independent living options, case support and early intervention for young people at risk of homelessness.

Laurie Matthews founded Caretakers Cottage a youth homelessness service in Sydney, Australia and currently serves as CEO. Laurie was also a founding member Yfoundations, a peak body organisation for youth homelessness in New South Wales. and has served on the Yfoundations board for a number of years between 1989 and 2011.

Southern Youth and Family Services (SYFS) is a non-profit organisation which operates a number of youth homelessness programs in regional New South Wales, Australia. Among the organisation's program is a crisis youth refuge in Wollongong, a youth and family centre in Warilla, as well as the Resourcing Adolescents to Gain Essentials Scheme (RAGE) in Nowra which provides material/financial support for bond, moving expenses, travel, financial support, detox and rehab.

Youth Action is the peak body organisation for young people and youth services in New South Wales, Australia. Previously known as Youth Action Policy Association (YAPA), the organisation represents 1.25 million young people and the services that support them.

Coast Shelter is a non-profit organisation assisting homeless young people and adults in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. The service was founded in 1992 as Gosford Emergency Accommodation Services. The service's predecessor was the Rumbalara Youth Refuge established by Gosford City Council in 1985. Since the its founding, the organisation has assisted over 16,000 individuals.

Detour House is a non-profit organisation servicing homeless and other at-risk girls and women, based in Sydney, Australia. Detour House also incorporates The Girls Refuge, a crisis accommodation service for homeless girls.

The Foyer housing model is a method of transitional housing for youth that evolved from temporary housing for laborers in Europe. After World War Two, foyers were used to provide accommodation for a movement of people from rural France to cities seeking work. The term "foyer" means hearth in French. They later developed to house migrant workers, primarily from Algeria, serving as a path to independent labor and accommodation.

Samaritans Foundation is an Australian based charity operating in New South Wales. The organisation provides a number of social support services for the homeless and people with disabilities.

Aged care in Australia

Aged Care in Australia, is the provision of services to meet the unique needs of older people in Australia. It includes both residential aged care as well as services provided in the home such as personal care, domestic assistance, home nursing, nutrition and meal preparation, respite services, continence management, mobility & dexterity assistance, transport, social support and the provision of equipment and aids.


  1. "Homelessness, the homeless, and integrated social services". 2015: 111–164. doi:10.1787/9789264233775-7-en.
  2. McLennan, Leah (2010-06-17). "CEOs brave cold to help homeless". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  3. "#HomelessnessCounts during Homelessness Week 2016, 1-7 August". Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  4. "2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011". abs.gov.au.
  5. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-14/homelessness-in-australia-jumps-14pc-over-five-year-period/9547786
  6. "Homelessness is a Human Rights Issue". Australian Human Rights Commission.
  7. Forell, S; McCarron, E; Schetzer, L (2005). "No home, no justice? The legal needs of homeless people in NSW". Law and Justice Foundation of NSW.
  8. "There is no one definition of homelessness". Homelessness Australia. Archived from the original on 2012-08-10.
  9. Robinson, Natasha. “Homelessness hits top suburbs as housing affordability takes its toll.” The Australian. September 23, 2014. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/homelessness-hits-top-suburbs-as-housing-affordability-takes-its-toll/news-story/a163948db06b8e4c45c71ca48f154691 (Retrieved February 3, 2017).
  10. 1 2 The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness (PDF) (Report). Canberra, Australia: Homelessness Taskforce, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. 2008. p. 92. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  11. "Rudd's 2020 homeless pledge welcomed". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2008-12-21.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2010-06-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. "Rudd's vow to homeless called bold, visionary". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2008-12-22.
  14. 1 2 National Affordable Housing Agreement (PDF) (Report). The Council of Australian Governments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2016-12-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  16. "National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness - Department of Social Services, Australian Government".
  17. "NPAH Campaign".
  18. "'Tsunami Of Homelessness' Feared As Underfunded Services Plead For More Cash".
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. http://chp.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/NPAH-extension-media-release-161209.pdf
  21. Karp, Paul (8 December 2016). "Coag agenda: Turnbull gives ground on homelessness and family violence" via The Guardian.
  22. "Common Ground". commongroundadelaide.org.au.
  23. GILLETT, CHRISTOPHER. "Ask Izzy app connects the homeless to food, shelter and health services." The Herald Sun. January 29, 2016.
  24. Wright, Tony. "Prime Minister Turnbull meets Kent and spruiks new website for homeless." The Sydney Morning Herald. Jan. 29, 2016.
  25. Fopp, Rodney. "Long-term accommodation for young people." National Youth Affairs Research Scheme. 1990.
  26. Morello, Vincent (2010-04-13). "Couch Surfing Risky for Homeless Youth". www.smh.com.au The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  27. Seymour, George (2010-04-09). "The Young and the Homeless". www.onlineopinion.com.au On Line Opinion . Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  28. "Welcome from NYCH". youthhomelessnessmatters.net. Archived from the original on 2010-02-21. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  29. Barratt, Sam. "Youth refuge: Towards diversity and specialisation?." Parity 25, no. 3 (2012): 38.
  30. Coffey, Michael. "What Ever Happened to the Revolution? Activism and the Early Days of Youth Refuges in NSW." Parity. Volume 19, Issue 10. Another Country: Histories of Homelessness. Council to Homeless Persons. (2006): 23-25.
  31. Coffey, Michael. "What Ever Happened to the (R)evolution?: Take 2 Revisiting Activism and the Early Days of Youth Refuges in NSW." Undercurrent No. 1. (2008): 5-12.
  32. Rossmanith, Kate (16 May 2006). "Study reveals stress factor in homelessness". University of Sydney.
  33. Taylor, Kathryn; Louise Sharpe (1 March 2008). "Trauma and post traumatic stress disorder amongst homeless adults in Sydney" (PDF). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 42 (3): 206–213. doi:10.1080/00048670701827218. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-19.
  34. Lee, Stuart; et al. (June 2010). "Mental Health Care on the Streets: An Integrated Approach". Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 44 (6): 505–512.
  35. Huey, Laura Huey; Fthenos, Georgios; Hryniewicz, Danielle (July 2012). ""I Need Help and I Know I Need Help. Why Won't Nobody Listen to Me?" Trauma and Homeless Women's Experiences with Accessing and Consuming Mental Health Services". Society and Mental Health. 2 (2): 120–134. doi:10.1177/2156869312445287.
  36. "The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales on March 15, 1982 · Page 7".
  37. "The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales on March 15, 1982 · Page 9".
  38. "Annual Report 1982" (PDF). Caretakers Cottage.
  39. "National Youth Coalition for Housing - NYCH".
  40. "Homelessness Week". Archived from the original on 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2017-01-27.