Indigenous “Homeless Away from Home”
30 October 2012 at 8:50 am
The seasonal mobility of aboriginal people is placing unexpected pressure on housing, social and education services in regional centres according to a new study.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O'Connor released the study into the nature and extent of seasonal homelessness experienced by Aboriginal people moving between remote and rural communities in South Australia.
The University of South Australia's Centre for Rural Health and Community Development surveyed Indigenous travellers in Ceduna and Port Augusta to find out their reasons for travel, how long they planned to be away from home, and how often they visited.
"Indigenous people in remote communities frequently travel to towns and cities for health, education and employment services, leisure, judicial requirements, seasonal conditions or safety," O'Connor said.
"These movements often lead to people being 'homeless away from home', and can put pressure on housing, social and education services in regional centres not expecting their arrival."
The Homeless away from home: Understanding homelessness patterns arising from the seasonal mobility of aboriginal people report was funded under the Gillard Government's $11.4 million National Homelessness Research Agenda 2009-13.
It analysed current data collections for Indigenous travellers and looked at ways to improve information about this group.
The researchers found that existing homelessness data is point-in-time and does not effectively capture mobility.
They trialled a questionnaire for local service providers in Ceduna and Port Augusta, areas which attract substantial Indigenous populations for a variety of purposes, including accessing services, shopping, recreation and leisure.
The researchers collected a range of data from Indigenous travellers, including the time of visit, frequency of visits and length of stay, gender, age, employment status and usual place of residence.
- There were more than twice as many male as female participants.
- In Ceduna, most participants were over 50 years old, whereas in Port Augusta participants were primarily under 40 years of age.
- Most participants, particularly older people and couples, were on circular trips between home communities and regional centres.
- Most participants intended their trip to be between one and three weeks, although a smaller group intended to stay at least three months.
- There were no first-time travellers among the participants.
"The researchers said the project raised awareness among the local service agencies of the need to develop consistent data to contribute to better knowledge around the needs of highly mobile and temporarily homeless Indigenous people," O'Connor said.
"However, the project also raised awareness of the difficulties associated with improving local data collections in rural and remote locations."