Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Study into the homeless away from home in South Australia

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor today released a new 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,” Mr 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.

They found:

  • 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,” Mr O’Connor said.

“However, the project also raised awareness of the difficulties associated with improving local data collections in rural and remote locations.

“The Government welcomes this research, which provides an important insight into a largely unknown client group.

“The causes of homelessness are complex and varied. This research is filling an important gap in research and will help with policy and service delivery.

“Through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, the Gillard Government and South Australian Government have invested more than $82 million in new and better integrated support services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“Indigenous South Australians are a priority population for services delivered under the agreement, with funding for transitional accommodation services, homelessness services specifically for Aboriginal families and adults, as well as specialist Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal family violence services.

“Under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, the Gillard Government has committed more than $5.5 billion over 10 years to help address overcrowding, homelessness and poor housing in Indigenous communities.

“Since January 2009, around 1,440 new houses have been completed and around 4,830 houses have been rebuilt and refurbished across the country, including 119 new houses and 166 refurbishments in South Australia.”

The report is available at