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First Nations people housing needs must be addressed

June 27, 2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up one-fifth of the nation’s homeless population on Census night despite accounting for only 3.8 per cent of the overall population, prompting calls for urgent investment to close the gap.

Homelessness Australia and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association are urging the Commonwealth to begin developing a pipeline of investment in Aboriginal community controlled housing at least at the level of the previous National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.

According to an ABS Census analysis released today, 24,930 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were experiencing homelessness on Census night in 2021. The report finds:

  • 37 per cent of Aboriginal Torres Strait Isladner people experiencing homelessness were under the age of 18.
  • 60 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings.
  • Thirty per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness were in urban areas (defined as cities or inner regional) while the remainder were in non-metropolitan (outer regional, remote and very remote.)

Kate Colvin, CEO of Homelessness Australia said a robust response spanning both urban and non-metropolitan communities was needed.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience homelessness at almost ten times the rate of the broader community, which is utterly unacceptable,” Kate Colvin said. “A combination of racism in the housing market, poverty and disadvantage is badly aggravated by record low vacancy rates. Lack of secure and affordable housing compounds inequalities in health and education.

“We must invest in affordable, quality homes to achieve justice, health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Rob Macfarlane, Chief Operations Officer for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association said:
“Today’s data serves as a stark reminder of the work that lies ahead. We cannot shy away from these challenges; we must invest in affordable appropriate housing for our community to achieve positive outcomes for First Nations people.

“These statistics serve as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to prioritise the well-being and future prospects of our young community members. No child should have to face the harsh reality of homelessness, and it is our duty to ensure that they have access to safe, stable, and nurturing environments where they can thrive.”

Federal investment in Indigenous housing plummeted over the last decade, from $794 million in 2011-12 to only $111.7 million in 2023-24 and zero in 2024-25. While Labor committed $100 million for remote housing in the October 2022 Budget, this investment is limited to remote communities in the Northern Territory. Yet unmet First Nations housing need and high rates of homelessness are present across the nation in major cities, regional areas, as well as in remote communities.

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