Australian Bureau of Statistics
4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/04/2008
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HOUSING AND HEALTH
Data on overcrowding at the national level come from ABS surveys and the Census. Various measures can be used to define and measure the extent of overcrowding. The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness is an internationally accepted measure of housing utilisation. Households that require one additional bedroom to meet the standard are considered to experience 'a moderate degree of overcrowding', whereas households requiring two or more bedrooms are said to experience a 'high degree of overcrowding'. The Canadian model is sensitive to both household size and composition and uses the following criteria to assess bedroom requirements:
In the 2006 Census, information on the number of bedrooms (in dwellings) was obtained for 151,900 Indigenous households (91% of all Indigenous households). Some 376,600 Indigenous people were living in these dwellings. The following overcrowding rates are based on these dwellings (and their Indigenous residents), i.e. those for whom housing utilisation could be determined.
Using the Canadian housing utilisation measure, there were around 20,700 overcrowded Indigenous households (14%) and 102,400 Indigenous people (27%) living in overcrowded conditions in 2006. There has been some improvement in rates of overcrowding, with the proportion of Indigenous households that were overcrowded decreasing from 16% in 2001 to 14% in 2006 (table 4.11).
Overcrowding rates varied according to tenure, with the highest rates of overcrowding found in Indigenous households renting Indigenous/mainstream community housing (40% of Indigenous households and 64% of Indigenous people). In contrast, home owners (with or without a mortgage) had the lowest rates of overcrowding (7% of Indigenous households and 11% of Indigenous people).
State or territory
Overcrowding rates also varied by jurisdiction, reflecting the type of housing options available to Indigenous people in different parts of Australia. In 2006, Queensland had the largest number of overcrowded Indigenous households (6,200) followed by New South Wales (5,200). The highest rates of overcrowding among Indigenous households were in the Northern Territory (38%) followed by Western Australia (16%). Rates of overcrowding were especially high in the Indigenous/mainstream community housing sector in the Northern Territory, where 61% of households were overcrowded.
The most recent national survey to include measures of housing quality was the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). According to the survey, around one-third (35%) of Indigenous households were living in dwellings that had structural problems (e.g. rising damp, major cracks in floors or walls, major electrical/plumbing problems and roof defects). Just over half (55%) of Indigenous households renting mainstream or community housing reported that their dwellings had structural problems, while the corresponding proportions for renters of state/territory housing, private and other renters, and home owners were 42%, 33% and 22% respectively (ABS & AIHW 2005). In 2006, the ABS Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) also collected information about the state of repair of houses in discrete Indigenous communities, and their connection to essential services. Selected data from the survey are presented in tables 4.13 and 4.14.
The WAACHS developed a measure of housing quality based on the healthy living practices outlined in the National Framework for Indigenous Housing. The survey classified 16% of dwellings with Aboriginal children as being of 'poor housing quality'. Dwellings with poor housing quality were more likely to be rented, and to be located in areas of extreme isolation and areas of relative socioeconomic disadvantage. Households living in poor quality dwellings had poorer economic wellbeing, lower levels of family functioning, experienced more life stresses and were more likely to overuse alcohol (Silburn et al 2006).
Discrete Indigenous communities
The 2006 CHINS provides more detailed information on the housing quality of dwellings in discrete Indigenous communities (ABS 2007). Discrete Indigenous communities are those inhabited predominantly by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with housing or infrastructure that is managed on a community basis. These communities have an estimated population of 92,960 people and are primarily located in remote and very remote areas of Australia (ABS 2007d).
The CHINS data on dwelling condition were collected for permanent dwellings and categorised according to the cost of repairs required to the dwelling. No data were collected on the 1,596 temporary or improvised dwellings in these communities which are likely to have been in the poorest condition. Some 4,039 Indigenous people (4% of the usual resident population) were living in temporary or improvised dwellings in 2006.
In discrete Indigenous communities across Australia, there were around 6,674 dwellings (31%) that required major repair or replacement (table 4.13). Dwellings in remote and very remote areas tended to be in the poorest condition, with 9% requiring replacement compared with 4% of dwellings in non-remote areas.
Connection to services
The 2006 CHINS collected data on main source of water, sewerage and electricity at the community level for all discrete Indigenous communities. While the data show services available to communities and the number of permanent dwellings located in these communities, some of these dwellings may not have had access to a service that was available at the community level. In addition there are improvised dwellings in these communities for which data were not collected.
The main source of drinking water for the majority of permanent dwellings (8,078 or 53%) was bore water. There were another 4,685 dwellings (30%) in communities connected to a town supply and 1,682 (11%) in communities where the main source of water was a river or reservoir. In addition there were 201 permanent dwellings in communities where the main source of water was a well or spring and 10 permanent dwellings in communities that had no organised water supply (table 4.14).
In relation to sewerage, 5,725 permanent dwellings (33%) were in communities with some type of septic system. The next most common type of sewerage system was a town system (5,229 or 30% of dwellings) followed by community water-borne systems (5,162 or 30% of dwellings). There were also 51 permanent dwellings in communities with no organised sewerage supply (table 4.14).
The main type of electricity supply for the majority of permanent dwellings (9,161 or 53%) was community generators. There were also 6,323 dwellings (37%) in communities connected to the state grid and 447 (3%) in communities with domestic generators as their main source of electricity. In addition, there were 85 permanent dwellings in communities with no organised electricity supply (table 4.14).
Between the 2001 and 2006 CHINS' there was a decrease in the number and proportion of permanent dwellings not connected to an organised sewerage system (table 4.15). Over this period, the number of dwellings in communities not connected to an organised sewerage system fell from 153 to 51. There was also a small decrease in the number of dwellings in communities not connected to an organised water supply (from 13 to 10) and a small increase in the number of permanent dwellings in communities not connected to an organised supply of electricity (from 80 to 85).
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