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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Housing conditions of Indigenous people

Housing Stock: Housing conditions of Indigenous people

Indigenous households are more likely than non-Indigenous households to live in rented dwellings. In 1994, 70% of dwellings occupied by Indigenous households were rented, compared to 28% of all dwellings in Australia.

The housing conditions of Indigenous Australians have received increasing attention both locally and internationally in recent years. Despite the improvements that have been made in providing housing for Indigenous people, such as land ownership, improved dwelling design and the recognition of cultural needs, the standard of accommodation remains lower than that experienced by other Australians1.

There are a number of factors that affect the housing conditions of Indigenous people. These include income, education, employment status, population growth, previous funding, remoteness, community infrastructure, cultural factors and land ownership2. In particular, employment status and income affect the affordability of housing.


Dwellings, location and landlords

Private dwellings are premises occupied by a household and include houses, flats, home units, garages, tents and improvised dwellings. They exclude special dwellings such as hostels, hospitals, and prisons.

Indigenous households are those households in which one or more members identified as Indigenous.

Capital city comprises all state and territory capital city statistical divisions.

Other urban comprises all centres with a total population of 1,000 and over excluding capital cities.

Rural comprises rural areas and towns with a total population of less than 1,000 people. Most remote Indigenous communities are included in this category.

Landlords comprise: state housing authorities; community landlords, where the dwellings are owned by community organisations, predominantly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations; other government landlords, where the dwellings are owned by commonwealth, state/territory and local governments; and other landlords, which include non-government employer provided housing.


Where Indigenous people live
In 1994, there were estimated to be 303,000 Indigenous people in Australia. More than half of them lived in either New South Wales (27%) or Queensland (26%).

Of the total Indigenous population, 43% lived in other urban areas, 30% lived in rural areas and 27% lived in capital cities. Geographic location can influence housing conditions. For example, there is generally more choice of housing in urban areas than in rural areas.

The geographic distribution of Indigenous people varies in each state. In 1994, 55% of Indigenous people in New South Wales lived in other urban areas and 13% lived in rural areas. In comparison, 27% of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory lived in other urban areas and 59% lived in rural areas.

WHERE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE LIVED, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Total
State
%
%
%
%
'000

New South Wales
31.9
55.3
12.8
100.0
80.5
Victoria
47.9
43.3
8.7
100.0
19.2
Queensland
19.3
44.4
36.3
100.0
79.8
Western Australia
28.2
42.8
29.0
100.0
47.3
South Australia
42.5
28.9
28.5
100.0
18.4
Tasmania
29.3
35.9
34.9
100.0
10.1
Northern Territory
14.4
26.7
58.9
100.0
46.0
Australia(a)
27.2
42.8
30.0
100.0
303.2

(a) Includes the Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Type of dwelling
In 1994, 86% of dwellings occupied by Indigenous households were separate houses compared to 79% of all Australian dwellings3.

The type of dwelling varied according to geographic location. 84% of dwellings occupied by Indigenous households in capital cities were separate houses compared to 88% in rural areas. Capital cities had the highest proportions of semi-detached, row or terrace houses, or townhouses (6%) and flats, units or apartments (8%) occupied by Indigenous households. This partly reflects the availability of this type of accommodation in these areas.

Other dwellings, which include caravans, shacks and improvised accommodation, were most common in rural areas (9%).

TYPE OF DWELLING OCCUPIED BY INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of dwelling
%
%
%
%

Separate house
83.5
87.3
88.2
86.2
Semi-detached, row or terrace house or townhouse
5.7
4.7
1.3*
4.2
Flat unit or apartment
8.3
6.5
1.4*
5.9
Other dwelling(a)
2.5
1.5
9.1
3.6
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total dwellings(b)
28.6
37.3
20.5
86.4

(a) Includes caravans, tents, cabins, houseboats, improvised homes (e.g garages, sheds, tents, shacks etc), campers out and houses or flats attached to a shop, office etc.
(b) Includes type of dwelling not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Nature of occupancy
Indigenous households are much more likely to be renters than owners or purchasers. In 1994, 70% of Indigenous households lived in rented dwellings compared to 13% in dwellings that were owned and 13% that were being purchased by a household member. In comparison 28% of all households in Australia lived in rented dwellings, 42% lived in dwellings owned by a household member and 28% in dwellings being purchased by a household member3.

Indigenous people living in rented dwellings were part of larger households than those living in dwellings that were either owned or being purchased. While 70% of the dwellings occupied by Indigenous households were rented, 75% of Indigenous people lived in them. Of Indigenous people living in rented dwellings, 23% lived in dwellings which had eight or more other residents compared to 7% of those living in dwellings that were owned and 4% of those living in dwellings that were being purchased.

The ability to purchase a home is closely related to income. In 1994, 60% of Indigenous households had an annual gross income of $40,000 or less, and 20% had under $16,000. This compares to 65% and 25% respectively for all Australian households (see Income of Indigenous people).

NATURE OF OCCUPANCY OF INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

Dwellings
Persons(a)
Type of occupancy
%
%

Rented
70.1
75.3
Being purchased
12.6
10.6
Owned
12.7
8.8
Other
4.5
5.3
Total
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total(b)
86.4
293.8

(a) Excludes people in special dwellings.
(b) Includes nature of occupancy not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Dwelling characteristics
The quality of housing can affect the health of the occupants. The absence of running water, toilets and bathing facilities can lead to an increased incidence of disease among dwelling occupants4.

In 1994, almost all dwellings occupied by Indigenous households in capital cities and other urban areas had electricity and/or gas connected, toilet, running water and bathroom/shower facilities. Dwellings in rural areas were less likely than those in capital cities or other urban areas to have these facilities. 8% of rural dwellings did not have electricity and/or gas connected, 8% did not have running water, 9% did not have a toilet and 11% did not have a bathroom/shower.

Overcrowding is an important issue affecting the housing conditions of Indigenous people1. In 1994, 20% of Indigenous people lived in the 8% of dwellings which had eight or more residents. In comparison, less than 1% of the total Australian population lived in households of eight or more people5. Large Indigenous households were most common in rural areas where 38% of Indigenous people lived in the 17% of dwellings which had eight or more residents. In comparison, in capital cities 8% of Indigenous people lived in the 3% of dwellings which had eight or more residents, and in other urban areas 17% of Indigenous people lived in the 6% of dwellings which had eight or more residents.

There are many reasons why Indigenous people live in larger households. For example, it is not uncommon for Indigenous people to live with their extended families. In 1994, 8% of Indigenous households were multi-family households compared to less than 1% of all Australian households5.

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF DWELLINGS OF INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS(a), 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Dwelling characteristics
%
%
%
%

Electricity/gas connected
99.9
99.4
92.3
97.9
Running water
99.5
98.9
92.4
97.6
Toilet
99.3
99.0
90.8
97.2
Bathroom/shower
98.5
97.8
89.3
96.0
Dwelling is on a sealed road
98.5
95.2
58.3
88.1
Proportion of dwellings with 8 people or more
2.6
5.9
17.2
7.5

(a) Excludes characteristic not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0 and unpublished data)


Problems with dwellings
In 1994, 12% of all dwellings occupied by Indigenous households were in need of repair. 11% of dwellings did not have enough bedrooms and 10% did not have enough living area. Additionally, 6% of dwellings had inadequate bathing facilities and 6% did not have sufficient insulation or ventilation.

PROBLEMS WITH DWELLINGS(a) REPORTED BY INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS NOT SATISFIED WITH THEIR DWELLING, 1994


(a) More than one problem may have been reported.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0).


Rental housing
In 1994, 78% of all dwellings occupied by Indigenous households in other urban areas were rented, compared to 64% in both capital cities and rural areas. 43% of rented dwellings occupied by Indigenous households were state housing, 26% were privately owned and 21% were community owned.

The type of landlord varies with geographic location. State housing was the main source of rental housing in capital cities (47%) and other urban areas (54%). This was followed by private landlords, who provided 42% of rented dwellings in capital cities and 21% in other urban areas. In rural areas, the majority of rented accommodation was provided by community organisations (58%).

People's satisfaction with their homes is linked to their expectations and to the problems they have experienced. In 1994, the household reference person of 76% of Indigenous households stated that the dwelling they lived in satisfied the occupants' needs. The highest level of dissatisfaction (38%) was experienced by those renting from community organisations. Tenants in privately rented dwellings were least likely to be dissatisfied (14%).

31% of renters in rural areas were dissatisfied with their dwellings compared to 24% in capital cities and 22% in other urban areas. This reflects the fact that community organisations provide much of the housing in rural areas and there is a high level of dissatisfaction with dwellings rented from this type of landlord. Additionally, the limited choice of housing in rural areas means that those who are dissatisfied with their dwelling may not be able to find alternative housing that better satisfies their needs2.

DWELLINGS RENTED BY INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of landlord
%
%
%
%

State housing
47.5
53.9
11.1
42.8
Private
42.2
21.3
14.4
26.2
Community
4.6
15.2
57.8
21.1
Other government
3.6
2.6
7.3
3.9
Other(a)
2.1*
7.0
9.4
6.0
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
18.2
28.6
12.8
59.6

(a) Includes employer provided housing and type of landlord not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)

PROPORTION OF INDIGENOUS RENTER HOUSEHOLDS DISSATISFIED WITH DWELLINGS(a), 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of landlord
%
%
%
%

Community
41.5
29.4
42.3
37.8
State housing
34.2
22.4
13.4
25.9
Private
13.2
15.1
13.1
13.9
Other government
13.8
22.0
7.0
13.8
Total
24.4
21.5
30.9
24.4

(a) Excludes satisfaction not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 Jones, R (1994) The housing need of Indigenous Australians, 1991 Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research ANU, Research Monograph No 8.

2 The National Housing Strategy (1991) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing: discussion package.

3 Australian Housing Survey, 1994 (4181.0).

4 Pholeros, P. et al. (1993) Housing for Health - Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia Health Habitat.

5 Australian Housing Survey, 1994 (unpublished data).

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