DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
Domestic and family violence is a significant cause of homelessness and personal safety is a concern for people who are subject to, or fleeing domestic and family violence.
Under the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) homelessness definition, a person displaced from their home due to domestic violence becomes homeless if they have a temporary living situation and do not have access to accommodation alternatives that are secure, safe and adequate (and the home in which they were subject to domestic violence is not considered a safe alternative accommodation to their homeless situation).
A person experiencing the violence who remains in their unsafe home with the perpetrator, could be considered to lack control of and access to social relations. However, assessing these situations in a measurement context is very difficult, and the ABS definition currently excludes such situations from its definition of homelessness and characterises their living situation as being precarious or unstable and being at risk of homelessness.
The ABS recognise the difficulties in both enumerating people who are displaced from their home due to domestic and/or family violence in the Census of Population and Housing, and in classifying all of those that are enumerated correctly as either homeless or not homeless on Census night. Those enumerated in supported accommodation for the homeless will be measured. Some who are in boarding houses, staying temporarily with other households, in improvised dwellings or sleeping rough, or staying in other lodgings such as hotels or motels on Census night and who report no usual address will be classified as homeless. However some will not be able to be distinguished from other people who were visitors on Census night.
Some people who are displaced due to domestic and family violence may not be enumerated in the Census. Out of fear they may not have themselves recorded on a Census form for the dwelling they are staying in. For those who are reported on a Census form as being away from home on Census night, they may be reluctant, for a number of reasons including stigma, to report having no usual address on Census night. Alternatively, they may have an expectation that they may be able to return to their home in the future and do not see themselves as not having a usual address. As a result they can not be distinguished from other people who were visiting on Census night and Census based estimates must be recognised as being an underestimate for this group.
The ABS have worked with its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group members to look to ways to both improve the enumeration of these homeless people in the Census as well as developing alternative sources of information such as the Personal Safety Survey. The Personal Safety Survey collects information on people who left a violent current or previous partner and whether they 'couch surfed', slept rough, stayed in a shelter etc. This provides an indication of what accommodation was used by people the last time they separated from their violent partner/s is an important source of information about homelessness and domestic violence.
As part of the development for Census 2021, the ABS will consider how they can improve the enumeration of, and the identification as homeless of those who were fleeing domestic and/or family violence in the Census. However the ABS recognise the need to use other data sources to gain a more complete picture of homelessness.
For more information on the definition of homelessness or the methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census see the Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012 (cat. no. 4922.0) and the Information Paper: Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing, 2012 (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).