Media Release by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

ABS review of homelessness data

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib today encouraged all organisations and individuals with an interest in homelessness to have their say in the next Census homelessness count.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s independent national statistics agency, has initiated a review of the methodology used to count the homeless from information collected through the Census held every five years in Australia.

The discussion paper, released today, asks for the views of the homelessness services sector and all interested parties to make a submission to the ABS. 

Senator Arbib said that accuracy of data is the most important principle in terms of counting the homeless.

“Improving our understanding and knowledge of people who are homeless is an important goal and I support attempts to enhance the accuracy of data,” Senator Arbib said.

“We know that counting the homeless is a very complex task and there is always the potential for undercounts or overcounts of particular groups.”

Senator Arbib said that point-in-time data does not provide any indication of the flow of people in and out of homelessness or the number of people who are homeless outside of the Census year.

“There is no such thing as perfect accuracy in these situations but what is important is that the figures obtained through the Census can be used as a general guide and cross-checked with Government research obtained through Centrelink, Specialist Homeless Services and other research,” Senator Arbib said.

“The Australian Government is deeply concerned about the levels of homelessness in our community and has committed to ambitious goals to halve homelessness and offer supported accommodation to all those who seek it by 2020.

“The Government remains committed to these goals, despite any change in methodology used.”

The ABS has stated that should there be a revised methodology, it will apply the finalised methodology back to the 2001 and 2006 to enable a comparative analysis of the trend in homelessness over time.

“I encourage all stakeholders to examine the assumptions, methodology and processes used in the ABS review, as well as provide input and identify issues with counts of certain groups in the community,” Senator Arbib said.

The ABS discussion paper on the review of the Counting the Homeless methodology will be open for public discussion until 30 June 2011. The final paper of the review will be made available by the ABS in July 2011 ahead of Census night on 9 August 2011.

Further information on how to make a submission is available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ website at