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4725.0 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, Apr 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/05/2012  Reissue
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HOUSING AND COMMUNITY FACILITIES: OVERCROWDING

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth.


Note: In this section 'children' refers to people aged 0–14 years. The terms 'youth' and 'young people' refer to people aged 15–24 years. Data presented are from the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0).

KEY MESSAGES

In 2008:
  • 92,700 or 31% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth lived in overcrowded housing
  • in remote areas, more than half (58%) of all children and youth lived in overcrowded housing.

Living in overcrowded conditions may affect health and wellbeing in a number of ways. For example, having inadequate household facilities to properly meet the needs of occupants can assist the spread of infectious diseases, as well as leading to increased household tension (Endnote 1).

WHO IS LIVING IN OVERCROWDED HOMES?

The Canadian National Occupancy Standard, is an internationally accepted tool that measures the extent to which a dwelling is being utilised and the need (or not) for additional bedrooms in order to adequately house the occupants.

In 2008, an estimated 92,700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth (31%) lived in overcrowded housing (based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard).

In remote areas, more than half (58%) of children and youth lived in an overcrowded dwelling compared with just over one-quarter (26%) in regional areas and one-fifth (19%) in major cities.

While a higher proportion of children and young people in remote areas were living in overcrowded conditions, the number of affected children and youth in regional areas was almost as high as in remote areas (34,600 compared with 39,600).

3.1 OVERCROWDING BY REMOTENESS AREA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 0–24 years—2008

Children
0–14 years
Young people
15–24 years
Children and Young people
0–24 years

No.
Major cities
11 780
6 760
18 539
Regional areas 
22 754
11 807
34 561
Remote areas
26 049
13 573
39 622
Total
60 582
32 140
92 723
%
Major cities
19.1
20.0
19.4
Regional areas
26.4
25.1
25.9
Remote areas
57.5
59.0
58.0
Total
31.3
31.0
31.2

Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

OVERCROWDING BY TENURE TYPE

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people living in housing that was owned with a mortgage were the least likely to experience overcrowding (11% and 18% respectively), while children and young people living in housing rented from an Indigenous housing organisation were the most likely to live in overcrowded conditions (57% and 53% respectively).

The greatest number of children and young people living in overcrowded conditions were living in housing provided by a State or Territory Housing Authority (public housing) (18,900 children and 10,300 young people).

DEGREES OF OVERCROWDING

In 2008, there was a noticeable variation in the degree of overcrowding depending on location.

Of the 228,700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth living in non-remote areas, almost one-quarter (23%) lived in an overcrowded dwelling. Of these, just over two-thirds (69%) lived in a dwelling that needed only one extra bedroom in order to adequately accommodate all occupants.

Among the 68,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth in remote areas, more than half (58%) were living in a dwelling that was overcrowded. Of these children and youth:
  • 37% lived in a dwelling that needed one extra bedroom
  • 22% lived in a dwelling that needed two extra bedrooms
  • 14% lived in a dwelling that needed three extra bedrooms
  • 26% lived in a dwelling that needed four or more extra bedrooms.
SPOTLIGHT: MEASURING OVERCROWDING

There are many ways in which people utilise the space in their home and measuring this utilisation can be done in various ways. However, no one measure will be relevant in all cultural contexts.

The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness is commonly used in Australia, including as a measure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing utilisation and overcrowding. However the perception and reality of whether overcrowding is experienced will also be influenced by structural and cultural considerations (Endnote 1). For example, a household that is notionally overcrowded on a measure looking at the number of persons per bedroom may be equipped with sufficient resources to comfortably house all occupants, such as extra bathrooms and food preparation areas. Climate may also have an influence on overcrowding — certain climatic conditions may encourage higher bedroom occupancies, for example in tropical climates where air conditioning may only be installed in certain rooms within a building.

Further research into the housing requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is needed to inform the development of housing utilisation measures that better reflect the needs and preferred living arrangements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ENDNOTES

1. Steering Committee for the review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP), 2009, 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) - 'Key Indicators 2009' – Chapter Nine: Home Environment', Productivity Commission, Canberra <www.pc.gov.au>.

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