2050.0.55.002 - Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, Aug 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/08/2011  First Issue
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Contents >> Contents >> Key issues: Homelessness and recently arrived migrants and culturally and linguistically diverse populations



  • The ABS has a strategy for the 2011 Census to enumerate those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, recognising the challenges of enumerating some new migrant communities.
  • The ABS will further consider activities to improve enumeration and identification of homeless persons, particularly for identified new emerging populations where Census enumeration efforts have been initiated to foster collaboration and engagement between the community and ABS.
  • The ABS will continue to analyse the characteristics of 'new migrants' as identified in the decision rules for each of the homeless groups, to determine if there are any other characteristics to distinguish those who are likely to be homeless compared to those who are not.


The Review methodology proposed treatment of some 'new migrants' staying with other households on Census night, as a 'culturally recognised exception' because there was no evidence that they were likely to be homeless. These people may have been accurately reporting on their Census form that they did not have a usual address that they had lived or intended to live in for six months of more in 2006. 'New migrants' have been defined as those people who had arrived in the Census year. They would have been in the country for no more than 7 months, and on average would have been living in Australia for only around 3 to 4 months if they arrived uniformly across January to end July 2006. Some of these new migrants would have arrived closer to the date of the Census. The Review did not apply this exception to those who were from countries where humanitarian visas are likely to be sourced from (i.e. persons with a country of birth of Kuwait, Iraq, Burma (Myanmar), Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Iran, Kenya, Burundi or Uganda). The Review also did not remove 'new migrants' who were living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out, were in supported accommodation for the homeless or staying in boarding houses.

There were 1,309 people who appear to be new migrants from countries other than those from which recipients of humanitarian visas are likely to be sourced who were staying with other households (including visitor only households). These 1,309 people come mainly from New Zealand, China, USA, and the UK (the largest source). Most were most likely to be young families. Other migrants, who arrived prior to the year of the Census and who reported no usual address, were not considered under this exception, and where considered with the rest of the population who reported no usual address under the decision rules for each of the homeless categories.

Around 450 of the new migrants were from the United Kingdom (UK) and most were in family groups, with about 30% of the UK new migrants being under 15 years of age. While about a third of the adults from the UK reported nil or negative personal income (potentially non-working spouses), another quarter reported personal incomes of $1,000 or more per week. Overall, about 60% of all the adults were staying with other households reporting their household incomes of $1,000 or more per week. The review had concluded that the reasons of mobility/change of address for reporting no usual address, according to the design and intent of the question, were more likely to apply, on average to these populations, than was homelessness for this group, even though some may have been homeless on Census night.

Submissions also noted that new migrants can have difficulty obtaining secure accommodation, and were particularly concerned about New Zealand migrants who do not require a visa to work in Australia. There were a little over 150 migrants from New Zealand (NZ) in this category under the review, and only about a sixth of the adults reported personal incomes of $1,000 or more per week and over a quarter reported nil or negative income. However, in terms of the household incomes of the people these NZ visitors were staying with, 10% reported nil or negative household incomes and 70% reported incomes of $1,000 or more per week.


The Census can be used to enumerate new migrants and refugees from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities who experience homelessness, however, there are complexities in the enumeration of this group, as with the broader CaLD community, including language barriers, illiteracy, and distrust and fear of disclosing personal information to government.

The ABS have special strategies for getting the message of the Census out to ethnically diverse communities. Whilst most CaLD refugees and migrants are enumerated, there are significant complexities in the migration process that can make distinguishing new migrants who are homeless from those settled and housed in their own residence difficult using the Census data.


In the reviewed estimates for 2006, 1,146 'new migrants' were classified as homeless on Census night, of which over half (56%) were enumerated in boarding houses and 1 in 5 were staying in supported accommodation for the homeless (19%). Fewer 'new migrants' identified as homeless were staying in other temporary lodgings (11%), staying temporarily with other households (9%) or residing in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (4%).

Whilst the majority of new migrants identified as homeless reported their current location on Census night as their home address (778), around 1 in 3 (31%) people reported having no usual place of residence. The complexities and costs in resettling, difficulties in accessing the private rental market, particularly for CaLD communities all create conditions that are conducive to homelessness (FaHCSIA 2003). Of the 359 homeless new migrants who reported they had no usual address (36% of whom were born in north-west Europe), 14% were employed and 64% were not in the labour force.


As outlined in How Australia Takes a Census, 2011 (ABS cat. no. 2903.0), people from CaLD backgrounds are one of the population groups that the ABS is focussing on as part of the public relations campaign, along with young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, people experiencing homelessness, travellers and international students. The ABS has developed a public relations campaign and information for each of these groups.

Almost one in five Australians speak a language other than English at home, therefore there is a need to provide assistance to households that have difficulties in speaking or reading English. A strategy has been developed by the ABS to ensure that the best possible enumeration of CaLD groups is achieved. The communications elements of this strategy include paid media advertising, providing information to community leaders and to relevant journalists and commentators, translating brochures into other languages, and providing information to migrant education units and community groups.

The Census also employs Collectors with skills in languages other than English, and operates a Language Helpline through the Census Inquiry Service. The Language Helpline caters for 10 of the most commonly used languages in Australia. If the caller is not conversant in any of the 10 languages offered by the Census Inquiry Service, a customer service representative will connect them to an external interpreting service which caters for over 100 languages, and set up a 3-way conference between the Census Inquiry Service, the caller, and the interpreter provided by the external service.

The ABS also identifies, as part of each Census, any new migrant communities where particular attention is given to facilitate trust in completing the Census.


The ABS will continue to analyse the characteristics of 'new migrants' as identified in the decision rules for each of the homeless groups, to determine if there are any other characteristics to distinguish those who are likely to be homeless compared to those who are not.

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