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More Than a Million Aussies Forced to Sleep Rough


6 October 2015 at 10:49 am
Ellie Cooper
A “staggering” 1.4 million Australians, or 7.8 per cent of the population, have been forced to sleep rough at some stage in their life, research from RMIT University has revealed.

Ellie Cooper | 6 October 2015 at 10:49 am


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More Than a Million Aussies Forced to Sleep Rough
6 October 2015 at 10:49 am

A “staggering” 1.4 million Australians, or 7.8 per cent of the population, have been forced to sleep rough at some stage in their life, research from RMIT University has revealed.

The study, by Emeritus Professor Chris Chamberlain and Dr Guy Johnson from the Centre for Applied Social Research, also found that 13 per cent of currently housed Australians experienced homelessness during their lifetime, with half of those experiencing it more than once.

Professor Chamberlain said the results found that 900,000 men and 500,000 women have slept rough in parks or improvised dwellings, dwarfing previous estimates.

“Our survey contradicts the popular conclusion that rough sleeping is rare in modern Australia,” Chamberlain said.

“It’s been generally estimated that about 100,000 Australians have ever slept rough yet our research reveals a staggering 1.4 million have done so.

“The statistics are startling because they are so unexpectedly high. Nobody had any idea that the numbers were this big.”

Chamberlain and Johnson randomly surveyed 1349 people with the intention of comparing their findings to Census data.

“The Census is carried out in August when it is bitterly cold and Census collectors are not going to find people sleeping rough at that time of year,” Chamberlain said.

“Most people are hiding away for warmth and, of course, hiding away for safety.

“The 2011 Census counted just 6800 rough sleepers, but crucially, the Census does not ask if people have ever experienced homelessness.”

He said the study also contradicted the belief that women experiencing homelessness are not sleeping rough.  

“Our findings show men are more likely to experience homelessness than women, but a significant number of Australian women have been in the same boat and half of them have slept rough,’’ he said.

“It is normally taken for granted that it’s only men who sleep rough – but this is another myth.”


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.


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