Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience higher levels of housing disadvantage than other Australians, including more homelessness, more overcrowding, lower levels of home ownership and higher levels of housing stress. Aboriginal households in WA face significant challenges in exercising their rights to appropriate and affordable housing. Poverty, lack of economic opportunities, language, literacy, cultural practices and discrimination all contribute to insufficient housing options for Aboriginal people in WA. The current state of Aboriginal housing in WA is inadequate, with significant overcrowding and existing housing stock in desperate need of repair and maintenance, especially in remote communities.
- The 2011 Census figures registered 69,665 people in WA identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This is 3.1% of the then total Western Australian population (2,239,170) and 12.7% of the then total Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (548,370). [i]
- As of 2013, Indigenous households were 6 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australian households to live in social housing, with 1 in 4 Indigenous households receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance. [ii] Indigenous households are more than twice as likely to receive housing assistance as non-Indigenous households. [iii]
- The degree of overcrowding among Aboriginal people appears to increase with distance from primary urban areas such as Perth. Seventy-five percent (75%) of those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people classified as homeless in the 2011 Census were in severely overcrowded conditions. [iv] Among Indigenous households, the rate of overcrowding was highest in social housing dwellings (23%) while the lowest was in privately owned dwellings (7%). [v] According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, as of 2011 there were approximately 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in 1,800 severely overcrowded dwellings. [vi]
- Aboriginal people experience homelessness at a higher rate than non-Aboriginal people. Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up 2.5% of the total Australian population, 25% of the homeless population identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the 2011 Census. [vii] However, an information paper commissioned by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that, due to misclassification and differences in cultural perspective, there is an over-representation of overcrowded and severely overcrowded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons and households, and an under-representation in homelessness. [viii]
- Aboriginal Australians tend to have lower rates of home ownership than non-Aboriginal households. At the 2011 Census, 31.6% of Aboriginal people in WA owned their own home or had a mortgage, compared to 35.9% nationwide [ix]
- The movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households throughout WA affects housing outcomes. Many Aboriginal Australians in remote communities travel to regional and urban centres to access employment, visit friends and family, go shopping, and access health and education services. [x] This movement, whether short or long term, may lead to shifting household composition, interruptions in schooling for children, and overcrowding in Indigenous households.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households often face discrimination securing housing in the private rental market. Although racial discrimination is illegal, private landlords are not prohibited from discriminating against people based on income (ie. Centrelink recipients) and household composition. Discrimination is not prohibited where rooms of a person’s home are sublet.
The WA Department of Housing (DoH) operates several programs to assist Aboriginal people access rental housing and home ownership, and support remote Aboriginal communities. Some of the services and programs provided by the DoH include:
- Private Rental Aboriginal Assistance Loan Scheme (PRAAL) - http://www.housing.wa.gov.au/housingoptions/rentaloptions/praal/Pages/default.aspx
- Remote Aboriginal Housing - http://www.dhw.wa.gov.au/housingoptions/rentaloptions/remoteaboriginalhousing/Pages/default.aspx
- Keystart Aboriginal Home Ownership Loans - http://www.housing.wa.gov.au/housingoptions/homeownershipoptions/KeyStart/Pages/default.aspx
With the Residential Tenancies Act legislation coverage into remote Aboriginal Communities from 1 July 2010 under the Aboriginal Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2010 , the DoH is developing a strategy to support and facilitate remote Aboriginal communities through the transition.
The WA Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) key functions are to develop strategic policy to guide, coordinate and inform service delivery to Indigenous people.
- Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT)
- WA Aboriginal Advisory Council (WAAC) and the Indigenous Implementation Board
Office of Native Title (Department of the Premier and Cabinet WA)
Non-g overnment Services
- Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) - http://www.als.org.au/
- Tenancy WA - provides information and support for public and private tenants and community workers - http://www.tenancywa.org.au/
- Perth Aboriginal Services Directory - Ruah - http://www.ruah.com.au/news-article-perth-aboriginal-resource-directory-2014/
- Advocare Assistance for older Aboriginal people - http://www.advocare.org.au/assistance-for-older-aboriginal-people/
- Aboriginal Hostels - http://www.ahl.gov.au/
- Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) (aka Aboriginal Medical Service) - http://www.ahcwa.org/
- Useful link to Aboriginal websites - http://www.bri.net.au/ABSITES.htm
Last updated May 2015
[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Census of Population and Housing: Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011 , Cat. no. 2076.0.Canberra, A.C.T: Author
[ii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013). Housing Assistance for Indigenous Australians , Cat. no. IHW 131. Canberra, A.C.T: Author
[iv] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011 , Cat. no. 2049.0. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/2049.0Feature%20Article12011?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=2049.0&issue=2011&num=&view =
[v] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). Housing Circumstances of Indigenous Households: Tenure and Overcrowding , Cat. no. IHW 132. Canberra, A.C.T: Author
[vi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013). Australia’s Welfare 2013: Chapter 3 – Housing . Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129544557
[vii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011 , Cat. no. 2049.0. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/2049.0Feature%20Article12011?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=2049.0&issue=2011&num=&view =
[viii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Information Paper: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Perspectives on Homelessness , Cat. no. 47360.0 . Canberra, A.C.T: Author
[ix] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). Housing Circumstances of Indigenous Households: Tenure and Overcrowding , Cat. no. IHW 132. Canberra, A.C.T: Author
[x] Australian Bureau of Statistics . (2014). Information Paper: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Perspectives on Homelessness , Cat. no. 47360.0 . Canberra, A.C.T: Author
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