Indigenous homelessness in Australia
Indigenous people are more likely to experience homelessness than other Australians. The 2006 Census identified that 2.5% of the population were Indigenous but that 9% of the homeless population were Indigenous. Indigenous people were over-represented in all sections of the homeless population.
For example, Indigenous people represent:
- 3.8 per cent (1,780) of the people who were living with other households
- 5.8 per cent (1,252) of residents of boarding houses
- 15.8 per cent (2,587) of occupants of improvised dwellings
- 20 per cent (3,910) of the people who were living in specialist homelessness services.
What we are doing to make homelessness everyone’s responsibility?
In December 2008, the Australian Government released a White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home, which called on all levels of government, business, the not for profit sector and the community to join together to reduce homelessness.
The Road Home outlined the need for new investment in homelessness and reform of existing services. Homelessness must be prevented wherever possible. People who experience homelessness must be supported to move quickly through the crisis system into long-term housing and at the same time get help to reconnect with education, employment and the community. Mainstream services and homelessness services have to work together more effectively to reduce homelessness.
Work already under way
In The Road Home the Australian Government committed to boost its efforts across all areas of government to achieve the 2020 headline goals and interim targets for reducing homelessness. The improvement in housing conditions for urban, regional and remote Indigenous communities will provide the foundation for improvements in health, education and employment and contribute towards closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
Specific Australian Government initiatives include:
- $1.2 billion per year over five years (2008-13) for the National Affordable Housing Agreement to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing that contributes to social and economic participation
- $5.6 billion for the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan to construct new dwellings and refurbish existing social housing dwellings. It is expected that seven per cent of dwellings will be specifically targeted to Indigenous Australians
- $400 million over two years (2008-2010) for the National Partnership Agreement on Social Housing to increase the supply of social housing. Based on current public housing allocations, up to 15 per cent of tenants accommodated may be Indigenous
- $5.5 billion over 10 years (2008-18) for the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing to provide up to 9,000 new houses and upgrades to existing houses in remote Indigenous communities
- $4.5 billion nationally over the next four years to build 50,000 affordable rental properties under the National Rental Affordability Scheme.
New work through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)
In November 2008, the Council of Australian Governments established a National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. Under the Agreement the Australian Government has agreed to provide additional funding to the states and territories to reduce homelessness. States and territories have agreed to match the Australian Government funding to deliver services and capital projects that will reduce homelessness.
Under the National Partnership Agreement the Australian and state and territory governments are contributing a total of $1.1 billion over four years to reduce homelessness.
Measures to reduce Indigenous homelessness
These measures will benefit Indigenous people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness:
A focus on Indigenous young people
New South Wales: The Transition Program for Aboriginal People, provides accommodation and support for Aboriginal young people, aged 10-17 years, in contact with the justice system to help them transition to independent living.
Queensland: Youth Housing and Reintegration Services, provides 30 bungalows for young people at risk of homelessness, in the backyards of family or care givers’ homes, in Townsville, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Inala, Mt Isa and Hervey Bay.
South Australia: The Indigenous Youth Early Intervention Program provides early intervention for young people and their families, where there is an identified risk of abuse or neglect.
Western Australia: The Domestic Violence Outreach initiative provides support for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence to stay in their present housing where it is safe to do so.
Northern Territory: The Youth Crisis Accommodation Services in Tennant Creek, will assist young people to attend school or training, remain engaged with family and receive the necessary support and counselling to build life skills.
Assistance for Indigenous people exiting prisons, child protection and mental health in-patient care to find stable housing
New South Wales: The Assisting Aboriginal Young People Leaving Care initiative provides funding for two additional case workers to an existing Aboriginal specific leaving care service provider, aimed at assisting those experiencing or at risk of homelessness to secure sustainable accommodation.
South Australia: The Integrated Housing Exits Program, supports an across Government policy in health, corrections and child protection being developed for mainstream agencies to provide long-term, case managed exit planning, transition and management, as well as ongoing specialist support. Twenty per cent of clients will be Indigenous people.
Northern Territory: The Assistance for People Leaving Correctional Services initiative is a case management model aimed at assisting people to overcome barriers to re-integration and reduce re-offending behaviour.
Assistance to Indigenous women and children experiencing family violence
Victoria: The Aboriginal and Family Violence Prevention and Legal service, located in metropolitan Melbourne, provides assistance to Indigenous women across the state to access appropriate legal services. New positions will be established to provide holistic approach for Indigenous women and children experiencing family violence. The target areas are the Gippsland and Loddon Mallee Regions.
Queensland: The Breaking the Cycle of Domestic and Family Violence initiative, is a new approach designed to ensure more timely and cohesive services are available for people adversely affected by domestic and family violence. It integrates human services and justice service systems through better information sharing and coordinated service delivery.
Northern Territory: The Family Violence Investment Strategy will prevent families experiencing violence from becoming homeless by expanding accommodation facilities and providing additional funding for domestic violence legal services.
Assisting Indigenous people to sustain their tenancies
New South Wales: The Tenancy Support Project focuses on preventing Indigenous homelessness by assisting Indigenous people to maintain their tenancies. The target areas are Richmond/Tweed and the Mid-North Coast.
Queensland: RentConnect, provides assistance for households to access the private rental market, and will be expanded to Rockhampton, Caboolture, Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and the Gold Coast.
South Australia: The Intensive Tenancy Support Program is an early intervention program which supports tenants to avoid tenancy disruption and eviction from public and private accommodation. Twenty per cent of clients will be Indigenous people.
Western Australia: Public and Private Tenancy Support Services, provide advocacy and case management support for families to assist social housing tenants at risk of eviction. Eleven per cent of clients will be Indigenous people.
Northern Territory: The Tenancy Sustainability Program provides intensive case management and life skills training to public housing tenants and applicants, as well as residents of Community Living Areas (Town Camps) who require assistance to manage and sustain their tenancies.
Assistance for Indigenous people sleeping rough to break the cycle of homelessness
New South Wales: Coordination of assertive outreach and supportive housing will involve assertive outreach, including health and medical components, and will be linked to long-term supportive housing for rough sleepers. The service will target inner Sydney.
Queensland: Assertive outreach is a new model to bring people off the streets into housing using assertive outreach teams. It targets Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and the Gold Coast.
South Australia: Aboriginal Transitional Accommodation will provide 180 transient Indigenous people, each year, with housing and support to access health and welfare services. It will be delivered through Port Augusta and Ceduna Town Camps.
Western Australia: The long-term stable accommodation for rough sleepers initiative, will redevelop two existing crisis accommodation services using Common Ground principles. Eleven per cent of clients will be Indigenous.
Northern Territory: The Intervention and Case Management Service assists homeless and itinerant people to return to their home, communities or into other accommodation as needed. The target areas are Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs.
Innovative long-term accommodation and intensive support to keep Indigenous people housed and connected
A Place to Call Home will provide 600 new permanent dwellings, together with tenancy and support services for the first 12 months, for people who are at immediate risk of homelessness.
Common Ground supports seven projects nationally, either renovating existing accommodation or constructing new, affordable accommodation. The project targets people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. There is a 35 unit Common Ground facility in Port Augusta, supporting Indigenous people who are homeless.
Foyer models currently support seven projects nationally, providing a safe environment, with personal support, for young people residing in Foyer Style accommodation.