Latest release

Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness methodology

Reference period
2016
Released
14/03/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 This publication presents estimates of the prevalence of homelessness on Census night, derived from the Census of Population and Housing using the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) definition of homelessness. Prevalence is an estimate of how many people experienced homelessness at a particular point-in-time. The ABS uses six homeless operational groups to present the estimates of homelessness. Estimates are also presented for selected groups of people who may be marginally housed and whose living arrangements are close to the statistical boundary of homelessness and who may be at risk of homelessness.

2 In addition to estimates of the prevalence of homelessness from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, this publication also includes selected estimates from 2001, 2006 and 2011 comparison. More detailed estimates for 2011 are available in Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011 (cat. no. 2049.0) and for 2006 and 2001 in Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2006 (cat. no. 2049.0). 2011 estimates have been revised for this publication, see the 'Boarding houses' section of these 'Explanatory notes' for more information.

3 Other ABS collections publish information on homelessness. The publications Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings (cat. no. 4430.0), General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) (cat. no. 4714.0) all included a module on previous experiences of homelessness. These data give a picture of the incidence of homeless, as well as trends in homelessness over time, at least for those who have transitioned out of homelessness at the time of interview. The ABS has also collected information in the Personal Safety survey: Personal Safety, Australia (cat. no. 4906.0) about people living in fear of a violent partner and where they go when they leave a violent partner. The GSS module is being further enhanced for incorporation in the 2019 GSS.

4 In May 2016, the ABS released the article Mental Health and Experiences of Homelessness, Australia, 2014 (cat. no. 4329.0.00.005). The article presented information from the 2014 General Social Survey on persons who reported experiencing homelessness in the past. Comparisons are made between people who reported having a mental health condition and people without a mental health condition.

Scope of the Census based homelessness estimates

5 The Census aims to enumerate all persons in Australia on Census night (with the exception of foreign diplomats and their families). People in Norfolk Island on Census night were counted for the first time in the 2016 Australian Census following passage of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015.

6 To maximise the quality of the enumeration of the Australian population, the ABS has a special strategy to enumerate some homeless populations that are hard to enumerate through the standard Census procedures.

7 The Census is the only collection that goes to all persons in Australia, and is therefore the best source to get a prevalence estimate of the number of homeless Australian people at any one point-in-time. However, ‘homelessness' itself is not a characteristic that is directly measured in the Census. Instead, estimates of the homeless population may be derived from the Census using analytical techniques, based on both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may respond to Census questions. 

8 An accurate measure of the prevalence of homelessness allows society to judge some aspects of the scale of the problem. If prevalence measures are estimated on a consistent, comparable basis and at regular intervals, then trends and the direction of change can be determined. It allows society to hold itself and governments accountable for some outcomes at this broad level, and can be used to identify, over time, if interventions or policies have been successful. 

9 As importantly, to target prevention, or amelioration of the circumstances of homelessness, it is necessary to know the locations of the homeless, and their characteristics. Such knowledge also allows monitoring of the outcomes of programs to identify what interventions are successful. Ideally, fine geographic level prevalence measures allow consideration of where homeless people are located for place-based targeting of services and other interventions. The characteristics of the homeless population, such as sex, age, whether of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, or the identification of sub populations are also valuable delineations of a point-in-time measure for interventions tailored to client needs.

10 The prevalence estimates of homelessness cover usual residents in Australia and Other Territories on Census night and do not include:

  • overseas visitors;
  • people who were enumerated in offshore, shipping or migratory regions; and
  • people on an overnight journey by train or bus.
     

11 In 2011 and previous Censuses, Norfolk Island was not included in the definition of geographic Australia. Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands have been included since the 1996 Census. These two changes reflect amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

12 The prevalence estimates of homelessness cover persons in 'Other Territories' for the first time in 2016.

Concepts and definitions

13 This publication uses the ABS definition of homelessness, operationalised for using data from the Census of Population and Housing. A summary of the definition can be found in 'Appendix 1: Definition of Homelessness'. For more information also see:

Homeless operational groups

14 The ABS has developed six homeless operational groups for presenting estimates of people enumerated in the Census who were likely to have been homeless on Census night. These groups are:

  1. Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out;
  2. Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless;
  3. Persons staying temporarily with other households;
  4. Persons living in boarding houses;
  5. Persons in other temporary lodgings; and
  6. Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings.


15 Detailed listings of the rules used to classify Census data for these groups are included in 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'. More details on how these groups relate to the definition of homelessness can be found in the Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).

Other marginal housing groups

16 The ABS also compiles estimates from Census data for specific key groups of people who may be marginally housed, but who are not classified as homeless. Those groups are:

  • Persons living in other crowded dwellings;
  • Persons in other improvised dwellings; and
  • Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks.


17 The marginal housing groups are limited to the groups that can be obtained from the Census. Other marginal housing, such as housing with major structural problems or where residents are in constant threat of violence, cannot be obtained from the Census and are therefore not included.

Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG)

18 The role of HSRG is to provide advice to the ABS on the compilation, production and dissemination of robust statistics for use in analysing, understanding and reporting on homelessness in Australia.

19 HSRG members are selected to provide expert advice, from their particular perspective, on the priorities for and issues in the compilation, production and dissemination of robust statistics when analysing, understanding and reporting homelessness in Australia. The HSRG is represented by relevant Commonwealth and State and Territory government agencies, academia, peak organisations and service providers.

20 This group was also consulted during the 2011 and 2006 publication process.

Under/overestimation and underenumeration

21 Observing homeless people in any data collection is a challenge, and the homeless circumstance may mean that these people are not captured at all in datasets used to enumerate people generally. Not all homeless people will be enumerated in data sets of those homeless people accessing particular services for the homeless. The 2014 ABS General Social Survey found that, of those who had had an experience of homelessness in the last ten years and who were no longer homeless at the time of interview, only 33% had sought assistance of formal services (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014).

22 While data on people who access services are very important in understanding people who access services, they cannot provide an estimate of the total number of homeless people at one point-in-time. Only the Census offers the opportunity to estimate the number of people who were likely to have been homeless at any one point-in-time.

23 However, there is an inherent imprecision in estimating homelessness using data from the Census of Population and Housing. The Census is not designed to classify people according to whether or not they were homeless on Census night. Variables collected in the Census that were designed for other purposes must be interpreted as proxies for likely homelessness. The ABS methodology includes in its homelessness estimates groups of people who were enumerated in the Census and, on balance, were most likely to have been homeless on Census night.

24 It may be tempting to overestimate homelessness in some groups to compensate for both underenumeration and likely underestimation for some other groups. However, such an approach would result in estimates of characteristics that did not reflect those of the homeless population, including but not limited to their geographic spread. This may result in the misdirection of policy, funds and services. And while a balance between unavoidable underestimation and deliberate overestimation may result, this is unlikely, particularly when there is little information on the magnitude of underestimation. It is also very likely that the scale of any imbalance in error will be very different with each Census, destroying the capacity to monitor change over time. Recognising which groups of homeless people are underestimated in the Census, and using supplementary data sources to understand these groups, will both better address the needs of homeless people, and allow for assessments of change over time in the level of homelessness.

25 ABS recognises that some groups of people are more likely to be underenumerated in the Census. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' are more likely to be both underenumerated and overrepresented in the homeless population. ABS has developed strategies for each Census aimed at maximising the enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons.

26 So called rough sleepers and people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless are also at risk of being underenumerated in the Census. The ABS develops a homeless enumeration strategy for each Census, and works with homeless service providers to maximise the enumeration of these groups on Census night.

27 The ABS Post Enumeration Survey (PES) is used to estimate underenumeration of the Australian population in the Census. However it only covers people in private dwellings at the time of the PES, and therefore will not capture homeless people staying in non-private dwellings at the time of the PES but who were missed on Census night. Also the PES does not capture sufficient information to determine whether a person is homeless. Furthermore, the PES is a sample survey and the likelihood of including a homeless person in a private dwelling is low. For all of these reasons the PES cannot be used to estimate underenumeration or under-coverage of homelessness estimates derived from the Census.

Key population groups

28 For some key groups, Census variables provide limited opportunity to estimate those likely to be homeless. Three key groups are:

  • homeless youth,
  • homeless people displaced due to domestic and family violence, and
  • homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
     

Youth

29 The ABS homeless estimates derived from the Census are likely to underestimate the extent of youth homelessness but there are no data available to determine even approximately the magnitude of the underestimation. 

30 For some youth (sometimes referred to as 12–18 years or 12–24 years) who are homeless and 'couch surfing', a usual residence may still be reported in the Census. Their homelessness is masked because their characteristics look no different to other youth who are not homeless but are simply visiting on Census night. A usual address may be reported for 'couch surfers' either because the young person doesn't want to disclose to the people they are staying with that they are unable to go home, or the person who fills out the Census form on behalf of the young person staying with them assumes that the youth will return to their home. Homeless youth will be underestimated within the group: 'Persons staying temporarily with other households'. 

31 ABS has not been able to establish any reliable way, with existing data sources, of estimating homelessness among youth staying with other households and for whom a usual address is reported in the Census. Service providers and researchers have indicated that the estimates of homeless youth derived from Census data do not concord with their knowledge about youth homelessness but there is no information to know the extent of any divergence. However, some of the views expressed about the prevalence of youth homelessness appear to reflect on the incidence of homelessness i.e. the number of youth who experience homelessness over a year will be many times the number who are homeless at any one point-in-time. For some purposes, particularly early intervention, an incidence measure may be more appropriate to inform on the scale of the issue. 

32 Guided by its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG), the ABS is continuing to undertake research and development to improve the estimation of homelessness, including youth homelessness.

33 Until a robust methodology is developed to measure the level of youth homelessness, the ABS will focus on producing transparent, consistent and repeatable estimates that can be used to monitor change over time. Because the ABS methods are transparent, users can assess whether there is any evidence to suggest that the components of homelessness that cannot yet be estimated reliably are likely to be moving differently over time to those elements that can be measured.

34 For analysis on youth homelessness from the 2006 Census see the ABS publications: Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) and Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002). Further investigations on the limitations and challenges in estimating youth homelessness are available in the Information Paper: Living Arrangements of Secondary School Students - Quality Study, July 2012 (cat. no. 4111.0.55.001).

Persons displaced due to domestic and family violence

35 The ABS recognises the difficulties in both enumerating people who are displaced from their home due to domestic and/or family violence, and in classifying correctly as either homeless or not homeless all of those who are enumerated 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. 

36 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 any 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 cannot 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.

37 The ABS have worked with its HSRG members to look to ways to both improve the enumeration of these homeless people in future Censuses as well as developing alternative sources of information such as the Personal Safety Survey: Personal Safety, Australia (cat. no. 4906.0).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

38 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been underenumerated in the Census, and estimates of homelessness based on Census data will therefore be an underestimation. In the 2016 Census, the net undercount rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was 17.5%. Some of those who were underenumerated may have been homeless at the time of the Census. 

39 The 2016 PES estimated that 786,689 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have been counted in the Census, compared with 648,939 persons who were counted. This is equivalent to a net undercount of 137,750 persons, or a rate of 17.5%. This is only slightly higher than 2011, which estimated a net undercount of 114,188 persons, or a rate of 17.2% (ABS, 2016).

40 Indigenous status, as collected in both the Census and PES, is based on responses to a question related to information that some people will consider personal and sensitive. Respondents may choose to indicate in the Census that they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, not of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, or they may choose to not answer the question at all. If no answer is provided, the Census does not impute for this missing response (which is also the case for imputed persons). While the person (real or imputed) will continue to be counted in broad-level Census counts, they will not be included in the Census counts for Indigenous status. There were 1,411,031 people (6.0%) whose Indigenous status was not stated in the 2016 Census, compared with 1,058,447 people (4.9%) in 2011 (ABS, 2016a)

41 Underestimation of homelessness among those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were enumerated in the Census may occur as, for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, information regarding 'usual residence' may have been provided which masks their homelessness. 

42 It is debated in the literature whether the concept of 'no usual address' is appropriate for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Morphy (2007) discusses the problems in defining a 'usual resident' and 'visitor' in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context, as the distinction between 'my country / not my country' is more salient than the distinction between 'resident / visitor'. This issue becomes particularly problematic for people who are highly mobile. Chamberlain and MacKenzie (2008) also discuss the relevance of 'no usual address' to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, as the 'usual address' question is approached with a different cultural frame of reference. They note that it is not culturally appropriate to record 'no usual address' on Census night because 'home' is understood in a different way, particularly when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are staying with their extended family. Due to the different cultural frame of reference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is widely assumed that the Western concept of 'no usual address' is under-reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (Chamberlain and MacKenzie, 2008). This issue will impact on Census based estimates of homelessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons enumerated in the Census who are classified as being in the categories of 'improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out', or temporarily visiting friends or relatives while homeless.

43 In recognition of the differences in understanding of the concepts of home and homelessness in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context, the ABS is undertaking further research about how the ABS statistical definition of homelessness may be understood in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian context. The ABS developed a culturally appropriate module on previous experiences of homelessness in the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey which can be compared to estimates from the total non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population from the 2014 General Social Survey.

44 Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness from the Census should be considered to be an underestimate.

Interpretation of the usual residence questions in the Census

45 The 'usual residence' or usual address variable in the Census is designed, for Census purposes, to report on: population characteristics by small area; and to report mobility i.e. of current usual address versus address one and five years ago.

46 Interpretation of Census data on 'usual address' as an approximation to homelessness without reference to other information reported in the Census is incorrect due to the way the question is worded and the intent of the question.

47 The ABS Census asks people to report a usual address. The instructions for reporting are to write in: "the address at which the person has lived or intends to live for a total of six months or more in the relevant Census year. For persons who have no usual address write NONE..."

48 For the first time in 2016, the ABS asked people who were in crisis accommodation to write 'none-crisis' instead of just 'none' as their place of usual residence. This message was part of the homelessness enumeration strategy and was passed on through homelessness service providers. Persons who reported 'none-crisis' as their place of usual residence and were enumerated in a private dwelling that were estimated to be in supported accommodation.

49 There are a very wide range of reasons why a person may not have stayed, or be intending to stay, at a particular address for six months or more in a particular Census year. In the 2007–08 Survey of Income and Housing about 16% of household reference persons reported having lived at their current private dwelling address for less than one year, implying that on average, at least 250,000 people change address each month (See Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

50 People will have moved from a former usual address for many reasons, for example moving for study or work, or upon retirement. Some of these movers may be temporarily accommodated in their new city or town, and at the time of the Census, cannot report a future address of the home that they have not yet rented or bought.

51 People who moved in July or August, just before the Census, might report their former home as the place they had lived for at least six months, but may consider it odd to report this old address as their 'usual' address. It is considered unlikely that people report a former usual address as their current usual address after they have permanently left that address, or left it on a long-term basis. The design of the Census 'usual address' question for reporting on mobility, and for supporting population measures, would be undermined if people did report their old usual addresses to which they would not be returning, or not returning for quite some time. By reporting 'no usual address' these people are counted in the population where they are enumerated, and counted as movers from their former usual address.

52 People moving to step up in either the jobs market or the residential property market, or people capitalising on their lifelong residential investment when they retire, may temporarily not own any property while between investments, but are unlikely to experience the forms of social exclusion that affect people who fit a more traditional view of homelessness. For example, as reported in ABC radio interviews, families moving from Queensland to Karratha to rent a slab on which to park their caravan reported that 'the money was just too good to refuse'. Such families would certainly benefit from cheaper housing options in their new area in the long term, either to rent or to add to their holdings of owned premises, but the issues for social inclusion are less likely to reflect the entrenched disadvantage (or risk of such disadvantage) that characterises the homeless population as defined by the ABS definition of homelessness, see Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0).

53 The ABS uses reporting of 'no usual address' as a starting point to classify anyone who may be homeless, and then refines this broad inclusion by analysing these people to classify, on balance, groups of people who are unlikely to be homeless. The areas of exploration of those reporting 'no usual address' but, on balance, as a group are unlikely to be homeless, include those identified as overseas students in group houses, 'grey nomads' travelling in their caravans after retirement, and a wide range of other people in visitor only households, especially those renting in holiday destinations, and sharing holiday accommodation with other families that do report a usual residence, and recently arrived migrants or residents returning to Australia who, similar to internal migration situations, have not yet had the opportunity to select their permanent home. Some of these people in these groups are clearly not staying with usual residents in a household, while others are staying in a substantial dwelling that they may own in a holiday destination but which may be a second or third home and is not their 'usual residence' in a Census year.

Identification of non-private dwellings and private dwellings

54 Both non-private dwellings (NPDs) and private dwellings may house people on Census night who may be homeless. NPDs include places such as hotels, motels, staff quarters, boarding houses, prisons, hospitals etc. Given the different context and Census field procedures, different interpretations of Census variables are required for private dwellings and NPDs to determine whether the occupants in the dwelling are, on balance, most likely to be homeless on Census night. 

55 There has been a change in the way this information is collected. In 2016, it was recorded by ABS Address Canvassing Officers in the lead up to the Census as part of establishing the Address Register as a mail-out frame for designated areas. In areas enumerated using the traditional approach of delivering forms, the information was collected by ABS Field Officers during the Census collection period. Type of non-private dwelling data was also updated as required by ABS Field Officers during the 2016 Census enumeration period.

56 The boarding house classification of NPDs by their owners appears to work reasonably well in the field. However, the classification is not designed to only capture boarding houses for the homeless - it also captures dwellings such as regional accommodation serving children from multiple schools, which need to be removed for the purposes of estimating homelessness.

57 If a private dwelling is being operated illegally on the basis of multiple room-by-room tenancies, it may have been classified in the Address register and enumerated according to its legal and apparent basis of operation as a private dwelling and not as a boarding house. The methodology applies rules for large (apparently) unrelated group households in order to try to identify, and include as homeless accommodation, any private dwellings that may be operating as boarding houses. However, this method is limited in its precision and may overestimate as boarding houses the number of large (apparently) group households due to the limitations of the Census in capturing all relationships in the household. 

58 The Census only captures the relationships in relation to the first person listed on the household form, and child relationships to person 2. Therefore, people in the household who are a couple, but neither person has a relationship to person 1, will not be reflected as a couple. Households with five or more usual residents may therefore be firstly incorrectly classified as group households, and secondly then incorrectly be assumed to be a boarding house for the homeless. When a usual resident on Census night is temporarily absent, failure to take this into account can also lead to wrong assumptions about the nature of both the household and the dwelling.

59 Some people in specific living situations in NPDs on Census night are not included in the definition of homelessness. While these living situations lack one or more of the key elements of 'home' identified in the definition of homelessness, the people occupying these places are not regarded as homeless. People in these living situations are not classified as homeless as:

  • they may have chosen to live in these circumstances and have accommodation alternatives;
  • are required by law to be living in these circumstances;
  • are in acceptable temporary living arrangements (such as student halls of residence); or
  • it is essential for their broader health and well-being to be living in these conditions.


60 The specific exclusions include:

  • people confined in prisons, detention centres and other institutions such as juvenile correctional facilities or hospitals;
  • students living in halls of residence; and
  • members of religious orders such as monks and nuns living in seminaries and nunneries and similar establishments.
     

Boarding houses

61 The definition of homelessness includes residents of boarding houses as homeless if they:

  • do not have control of or access to space and or no privacy; or
  • have no tenure or initial tenure is short and not extendable.


62 If it is assumed that people living in boarding houses do not have either of these elements and do not have accommodation alternatives, so they are considered homeless.

63 However, some residents of boarding houses have secure tenure and have access to space and privacy. These people would not be considered to be homeless, even if they do not have accommodation alternatives. The Census has some information which allows the ABS to establish whether a dwelling is most likely to be a boarding house. However it does not offer enough information about occupants security of tenure, or their access to space for social relations. Therefore, determining which occupants are homeless is difficult. In the absence of this information, on balance the ABS has included all people in these dwellings who are either usual residents (excluding staff) or visitors reporting no usual address, as homeless. This is likely to result in an overestimate of people who are homeless when assessed against the ABS definition. The ABS does, however, report those in boarding houses as a separate category to aid policy and service provision. This is because in some State and Territories boarding houses are used to move people out of other forms of homelessness, such as rough sleeping or couch surfing, towards more independent, secure, long-term accommodation.

64 Although the ABS makes a significant effort to identify boarding houses, both registered and unregistered, the ABS acknowledge that there will potentially be an underestimation of people living in boarding houses in estimates of homelessness, and an overestimation of those living in boarding houses who are likely to be homeless according to the ABS definition. For more information see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

65 The non-private dwelling type 'other or not classifiable' contains a variety of dwellings, including youth backpacker hostels and ski lodges. During validation it was identified that in some cases, these dwellings were being classified as likely to be homeless dwellings because they contained a large number of long term holiday makers, who were often not working, on low incomes, and reporting 'no place of usual residence'. In order to remove these from the homeless estimates, dwelling records in this category were scrutinised and removed if it was certain that they were holiday dwellings. This process was repeated for the 2011 estimates, and the population of this category has been revised accordingly. The number of persons in boarding houses in 2011 has been revised from 17,721 to 14,944.

66 In some cases, a boarding house was enumerated and classified as individual apartments due to having individual letter boxes, but additional information suggested that tenants only had a room rather than a self contained apartment, were sharing facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens, and the dwelling overall operated as a boarding house. The enumeration methodology has been amended for 2016 to ensure these dwellings are included as boarding houses. For more information, see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Supported accommodation for the homeless

67 To ensure that people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless are correctly classified, the ABS obtains lists of homeless supported accommodation to correctly flag these dwellings as homeless accommodation. In 2011 and 2006, there was an additional 'green sticker' strategy, whereby a physical sticker was census form in some sensitive supported dwellings. This was discontinued for 2016.

68 However, the nature of the provision of accommodation to homeless people in need of housing support services is continually changing. In the lead up to the next Census, procedures will be reviewed to ensure that people in new forms of supported accommodation are correctly classified. Advice from service providers about clients who are accommodated using vouchers or 'brokerage' in hotels, caravan parks, etc. will be used to classify them as people in supported accommodation for the homeless.

Transitional housing management units

69 Long-term supported accommodation, often described as Transitional Housing Management (THM) Units, often provides some security of tenure, the dwellings are adequate (including basic kitchen facilities and a bathroom), and the household has privacy and exclusive use of those basic facilities. The THMs that meet these levels of housing, under the ABS definition of homelessness, would not be classified as homeless. However, persons living in those THMs that lack one or more of these elements would be classified as homeless.

70 ABS obtained lists of addresses of supported accommodation from government bodies, individual Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. In 2011 and 2016, ABS also sought information about what type of supported accommodation was provided i.e whether it was crisis or transitional housing etc. Some of the lists ABS received included this extra detail, some did not. As this information is required to make an assessment about the adequacy of the dwelling, THMs have again been included in the homeless operational group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' in 2016.

Imputed records

71 Every effort was made to ensure that all households received a Census form and that they were completed and returned. The "Digital First" approach involved mailing information to households in most areas of Australia. Those households who did not respond received reminder letters and/or visits by Field Officers. For example, Field Officers were required to return to a household up to a total of five times after Census night in urban areas and up to three times in rural areas to attempt to obtain a response. This also applied where a householder stated they returned their form via electronic lodgement (online) or mail but the Field Staff had not received notification of the receipt of the form.

72 This is a change in 2016. In 2011, for some non-responding private dwellings Census Field Officers were able to obtain an estimate of the numbers of males and females staying in the dwelling and this was used as credible information to draw upon during the imputation process. This was not available in 2016 under the new collection method.

73 Where a private dwelling was identified as occupied on Census night but a Census form was not returned, the number of males and females normally in the dwelling and their key demographic variables require imputation. In these cases, the non-demographic variables are set to 'Not stated' or 'Not applicable'.

74 Where a person in a non-private dwelling did not return a form, their demographic characteristics are copied from another person in another non-private dwelling of the same type.

75 The dwelling response rate for the 2016 Census was 95.1%. In the 2011 Census this response rate was 96.5%, and in 2006 it was 95.8%. This measures the number of private dwellings that returned a completed Census form as a proportion of all private dwellings believed to be occupied on Census night. The decline in the reported dwelling response between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses is partly due to changes in the collection method that resulted in an overestimate of the number of occupied private dwellings. (ABS, 2016a)

76 The person response rate was 94.8% in the 2016 Census. In the 2011 Census it was 96.3% and in the 2006 Census is was 95.8%. Like dwelling responses rates, the over identification of occupied homes have led to a lowering of the reported person response rate in 2016 compared to 2011 and 2006. This measures how many people are included on a returned Census form as a proportion of all people (responding and non-responding) believed to be in Australia on Census night. Private dwellings believed to be occupied but did not return a Census form, contribute to the numbers of people who are considered non-responding. Similarly, people believed to be present in non-private dwellings (hotels, hospitals, boarding houses, etc.) but who did not complete a Census form contribute to the numbers of non-responding people (ABS, 2016a).

77 There are a number of reasons why person non-response occurs in the Census. People may indicate a desire to mail back a Census form or to complete the form online but may forget to do so, some people may refuse to complete a Census form, and some may have been left off a form. The dwelling response rate (outlined in the previous section) is only calculated for private dwellings, while the person response rate includes all people regardless of whether they are in a private or non-private dwelling,

78 No imputation is undertaken for 'rough sleepers', but it is undertaken for improvised dwellings.

79 Imputed records are retained in the estimates of homelessness for the group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless'. While some of these properties were enumerated as NPDs in the 2016 Census, most were enumerated as private dwellings and reassigned a flag based on the lists of properties provided by jurisdictions. In flagged private dwellings where a form was not returned, 4,265 persons were imputed. The imputation rate (imputed persons as a proportion of total persons) for persons in private dwellings flagged as supported accommodation is 26%, compared to 4% for all persons in private dwellings.

80 For listed properties it is known that the property is not a second home, nor a holiday home or a vacant property up for either sale, demolition or renting etc. For the 4,265 persons imputed from a 'donor' record, this estimate may understate or overstate the numbers of homeless people actually in those properties on Census night. However, the scale of any such error is not likely to be large nor biased.

81 Imputed records for people staying in non-contact private dwellings that are not flagged as supported accommodation dwellings are excluded from the homeless estimates because there is no certainty about the nature of the dwelling occupancy on Census night (it might be a second home, a holiday home or a vacant property up for either sale, demolition or renting etc.) and no information is available about the characteristics of the occupants to assess their likely homelessness. 

82 For more information on Census data quality, see Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia (cat. no. 2900.0).

Estimates of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless in 2001

83 While the 'list' and 'green sticker' strategies for SAAP properties were undertaken in the 2001 Census, the information was not retained. Therefore, for 2001 homelessness estimates of persons in supported accommodation for the homeless, the ABS has used data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) SAAP collection on the number of clients and accompanying children accommodated on Census night for every state and territory except Victoria. The Department of Human Services (Victoria) provided the ABS with a comprehensive list of their SAAP and THM properties. This was used along with the national SAAP data collection (to establish the number of women in domestic violence services) to provide an overall estimate of number of people in SAAP accommodation for Victoria in 2001. 

84 In 2001, the total number of people in the homeless operational group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' was 13,420.

85 However, the homelessness SAAP estimates for 2001 are only for totals and by state and territory, and no Census demographic characteristics are available. Nor is it possible to remove overlaps between the AIHW based estimate and the other homeless operational groups which can be directly estimated using Census data, which will result in some minor overestimation.

2016 comparison between Census estimate of supported accommodation for the homeless and the AIHW SHS collection

86 As in previous Censuses, in 2016 the ABS used a list strategy to supplement the ABS classification of dwellings that were supported accommodation for the homeless. The lists of addresses of supported accommodation were provided from government bodies, individual SHS providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. In 2016 ABS also sought information about what type of supported accommodation was provided, i.e. whether it was crisis or transitional housing etc. Some of the lists ABS received included this extra detail, some did not.

87 ABS enumerated 18,777 homeless persons in dwellings that were on the extra lists of supported accommodation. There were a further 2,576 persons in dwellings enumerated by ABS as non-private dwellings (NPDs which are hostels for the homeless, night shelters and refuges), which were not on the extra lists provided to ABS. In addition there were 55 persons who were residing in private dwellings who stated their usual residence as 'none-crisis' so were estimated to be in supported crisis accommodation. Together these strategies resulted in 21,235 homeless persons being enumerated in supported accommodation for the homeless in 2016.

88 The AIHW has provided ABS with data from the SHS Collection, for validation purposes, which are preliminary estimates of the number of people reported by SHS providers to have been in SHS accommodation on Census night (see tables 1 and 2 below).

Table 1. 2016 Census supported accommodation estimates and AIHW SHS provider estimates for reported accommodation on Census night (a)(b)

 NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAustralia
Census supported accommodation estimates
5,861
7,157
3,722
1,433
1,054
574
636
793
21,235
SHS provider reports - persons accommodated
5,203
5,843
3,401
798
1,312
649
607
700
18,512
Census less SHS
658
1,314
321
635
-258
-75
29
93
2,723
a. Source: ABS, 2016 Census of Population and Housing; AIHW, unpublished figures from SHS Collection (received October 2017)
b. Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. As a result cells may not add to the totals
 

Table 2. 2011 Census supported accommodation estimates and AIHW SHS provider estimates for reported accommodation on Census night (a)(b)

 NSWVicQldSAWATasNTACTAustralia
Census supported accommodation estimates
4,924
7,840
3,787
1,620
931
479
566
1,103
21,258
SHS provider reports - persons accommodated on Census night
5,770
4,415
3,455
781
1,419
509
550
1,020
17,918
Census less SHS
-846
3,425
332
839
-488
-30
16
83
3,340
a. Source: ABS, 2011 Census of Population and Housing; AIHW, unpublished figures from SHS Collection (received May 2016)
b. Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. As a result cells may not add to the totals
 

89 The estimates from the Census are higher in total for Australia than the AIHW SHS Collection estimates, and higher for all jurisdictions except Western Australia and Tasmania. The jurisdictions which exceed the 2016 SHS by the most are Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. This is compared to the same data for 2011 in the table above. In 2011, Census data overestimated SHS data in Victoria and Queensland, and underestimated in New South Wales and Western Australia. Notable differences in the rates of over and underestimation between Censuses are in Victoria and New South Wales.

90 The SHS Collection data which AIHW provided relate to a single day (9 August 2016) that was relatively early in the SHS Collection period of progressive implementation of reporting by agencies, and the AIHW have indicated that due to this progressive implementation the SHS Collection data are underestimated by about out 6 to 7% nationally, although the underestimate varies by jurisdiction. In addition, the AIHW has advised that a number of jurisdictions have changed their service delivery models which may have affected both the actual and reported levels of accommodation.

91 Other differences in persons can be attributed to the list received by the ABS from providers. The ABS seeks to obtain lists from organisations other than just those receiving SHS funding, additionally, NPDs classified as 'Hostel for the homeless, night shelter, refuge' may also not receive funding and not be recorded in the SHS Collection. Conversely, ABS numbers are reliant on receiving high quality address data that can be matched to the Census frame, so a reluctance to provide this information, or poor quality address information may result in underestimation by the ABS in this category. Additionally, whilst instructions were given to providers about the scope of what should be classified as 'supported accommodation for the homeless'. interpretation of scope may also cause this number to vary from the SHS Collection.

Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS)

92 For both the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings', and for the marginal housing group of 'Persons living in other crowded dwellings' just outside the definition of homelessness, the level of crowding is estimated according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS). 

93 The concept of crowding is based upon a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as the number of usual residents, their relationship to one another, their age and their sex.

94 There is no single standard or measure for housing utilisation, however the CNOS is widely used internationally and the ABS uses it for its measures of crowding. It is a suitable standard for use with Census data because all of the required variables for its calculation are available from the Census, although family coding limits its suitability in large complex family households, and where persons may be temporarily absent on Census night.

95 The CNOS for housing appropriateness is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:

  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom;
  • children less than five years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • single household members 18 years of age and over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples; and
  • a lone person household may reasonably occupy a bed sitter.


96 Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded. Persons resident in dwellings requiring 4 or more extra bedrooms to meet this standard are considered homeless in the operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings', and those in dwellings requiring 3 extra bedrooms are considered marginally housed in the group 'Persons living in other crowded dwellings'.

97 There may be some underestimation associated with the application of the CNOS to Census data. It is not possible to create a CNOS estimate of the number of extra bedrooms needed for households where any key piece of information is missing. This includes the number of persons per dwelling, age of the persons, the relationship in household, and in some cases, where at least one person (who is not the spouse of person 1) is temporarily absent on Census night. CNOS is not able to be determined for imputed records because, for such records, key information such as the number of bedrooms is missing. In addition, there may be cases where usual residents are not recorded on the Census form due to fear by the residents that they may be found to have more residents living in the dwelling than are allowed by their lease agreement.

98 For the first time in 2016, this measure is available as a standard output on the ABS Census dataset, as the variable 'HOSD Housing Suitability'.

99 In a small number of Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, supplementary information was available to determine number of bedrooms where this was 'Not Stated' in the Census data. This has been included and those dwellings allocated an overcrowding measure where possible for the purpose of the homeless estimates.

Visitor only households

100 For the purposes of homelessness estimation and estimating marginal housing visitor only households are those dwellings where all persons in the dwelling reported no usual address and there were no usual residents.

Relationship status of visitors

101 Relationship information collected on the Census form is only retained for those persons who were usual residents in a dwelling on Census night. It is not possible to present information on the relationships of visiting youth, or persons who reported no usual address, to either the usual residents of the dwelling or to other visitors to the dwelling on Census night.

Monetary cut-offs

102 The following paragraphs include additional details on the monetary cut-offs used in the homeless methodology for 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001.

Income

103 People aged 15 years and over are asked to report their usual gross income in the Census by selecting an income range (they are not asked to report in actual dollars) before deductions for tax, superannuation contributions, health insurance, amounts salary sacrificed, or any other automatic deductions. Income is generally considered to be understated in Census reporting.

104 As it is not possible to directly aggregate personal incomes reported in ranges, a specific dollar amount is imputed for each personal income range selected by each household member, and these are summed for each household and the result allocated to a household income range.

105 Individual and derived household income levels are used as cut-offs in homeless estimation methodology (as outlined in the rules for each of the homeless operational groups in 'Appendix 2: Estimation methodology'), along with other characteristics of the person or household, in determining whether households were more likely to have, on balance, accommodation alternatives.

106 For the 'Boarding house' homeless operational group, an individual income cut-off of $650 per week was used in 2016. For 2011 and 2006, an individual income cut-off of $600 per week was used and $400 per week in 2001. If 60% or more of the residents of a dwelling had incomes above this level the dwellings was not likely to be boarding house.

107 For the 'Persons in other temporary lodging' homeless operational group, an individual income cut-off of $500 per week was used in 2016. For 2011 and 2006, an individual income cut-off of $400 per week was used and $300 per week in 2001. Any individuals in these dwellings with incomes below this level and also with certain other characteristics was classified as homeless.

108 A household income cut-off of $2,000 or more per week in the 2016, 2011 and 2006 Census in conjunction with certain tenure types and employment status to ascertain the likelihood of the occupants of a dwelling classified as improvised being construction workers etc rather than as being homeless. For 2001 the household income cut-off was $1,594 per week.

Rental payments

109 As with high income, paying relatively high rent is an indication that someone has accommodation alternatives. The cut-off for rental payments has been increased in line with the intercensal Consumer Price Index increase for rents, and rounded to the nearest cut-off for 'RNTRD Rent (weekly) Ranges'.

110 The cut-off for rental payments was set at $450 per week in 2016 ($400 per week in 2011, $300 per week in 2006 and $265 per week in 2001).

Mortgage payments

111 As for income and rent, mortgage payment cut-offs were set to a level considered to indicative of accommodation alternatives and above a level of payment that could be afforded by people who were, on balance, most likely to be homeless.

112 The cut-off was $1,600 per month in 2016 ($1,400 per month in 2011, $1,050 per month in 2006 and $845 per month in 2001).

Rates per 10,000 of the population

113 Population rates presented in this publication are presented as a rate per 10,000 of the total population. That is the number of homeless persons per 10,000 persons of the usual resident population in the Census excluding people, at sea, or in migratory and off shore regions. The table below shows the usual resident population numbers for the 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001 Censuses that have been used as the base in the rate tables (table 3 below).

  NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.
Number of personsno.no.no.no.no.no.no.no.no.
2016
Age group (years)
 Under 121,124,542879,217736,394236,110388,02472,39040,57561,5803,539,503
 12–18617,942481,192413,262136,803208,59342,87220,30631,4761,952,771
 19–24581,941490,636376,187128,759190,40235,88319,31537,3531,860,725
 25–341,067,524889,190646,694218,107379,17858,03443,03666,1193,368,449
 35–441,002,886805,920628,124209,468345,03859,83034,63058,4073,144,935
 45–54977,984780,420631,705226,891334,95970,05031,31050,9893,105,007
 55–64889,763677,453552,886213,923282,04272,16023,29641,5062,753,734
 65–74677,020509,599422,601168,852199,66957,38111,66129,4532,076,707
 75 and over540,618412,998295,346137,737146,52041,3724,70420,5201,600,052
Sex
 Male3,686,0142,908,0772,321,889825,9971,238,419249,478118,570195,73911,546,638
 Female3,794,2173,018,5492,381,308850,6521,235,994260,482110,266201,65311,855,248
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin216,17647,788186,48234,18475,97823,57258,2486,508649,171
 Neither Aboriginal nor Torres Strait Islander origin6,826,2865,532,2754,211,0201,557,0012,237,541455,137147,327370,74821,341,231
 Not stated437,762346,563305,68585,464160,89131,25523,25720,1431,411,491
Need for assistance with core activities
 Has need for assistance with core activities402,048304,937243,267100,65195,65332,6316,85516,7471,202,945
 Does not have need for assistance with core activities6,558,7275,220,8674,103,6691,473,9132,185,295441,248190,038357,65420,535,077
 Not stated519,452400,817356,261102,089193,46136,08731,94322,9991,663,868
Total7,480,2285,926,6244,703,1931,676,6532,474,410509,965228,833397,39723,401,892
2011
Age group (years)
 Under 121,068,272800,423700,823227,550351,56874,12739,99253,6013,316,359
 12–18620,268473,674410,585141,700207,19946,27321,13731,0541,951,891
 19–24537,074445,145352,215126,524188,51835,73619,67236,4371,741,319
 25–34941,495760,878587,406202,321324,10155,28336,55658,2482,966,293
 35–44971,627774,615620,749216,374328,25664,85233,16152,9283,062,572
 45–54950,453726,475590,885224,945310,22971,55528,57748,0082,951,120
 55–64810,293611,249501,089199,607254,42466,82320,75438,7842,503,019
 65–74541,688402,224322,643133,202152,54344,7648,56721,6631,627,291
 75 and over476,491359,351246,341124,348122,33035,9393,53016,4951,384,837
Sex
 Male3,408,8802,632,6172,148,221787,2171,126,175242,675109,519176,74710,632,048
 Female3,508,7822,721,4232,184,520809,3511,112,991252,677102,428180,47710,872,643
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin172,62537,992155,82630,43269,66419,62556,7795,184548,129
 Neither Aboriginal nor Torres Strait Islander origin6,402,1115,069,1553,952,7041,503,2042,038,783456,343137,773338,02919,898,112
 Not stated342,925246,894224,20662,935130,71919,38017,39314,0071,058,449
Need for assistance with core activities
 Has need for assistance with core activities338,362255,497192,01787,11679,07028,7265,77511,963998,533
 Does not have need for assistance with core activities6,183,4644,821,3933,880,3971,436,3142,008,764444,214182,119328,91219,285,579
 Not stated395,832277,144260,32373,135151,33322,40924,05416,3461,220,573
Total6,917,6565,354,0394,332,7371,596,5692,239,171495,351211,943357,21821,504,689
2006
Age group (years)
 Under 121,029,428751,454636,437220,681312,13573,76538,37048,9533,111,223
 12–18624,435467,269388,368140,970196,72846,96520,87331,2901,916,898
 19–24516,756405,554320,915120,036163,53735,05517,69132,8571,612,401
 25–34891,023677,871523,581185,745261,33054,01932,03650,3022,675,907
 35–44957,834741,335575,551219,060296,53566,86331,13848,9162,937,232
 45–54904,332679,508539,166216,889279,63870,00926,46746,0052,762,014
 55–64719,545534,474437,533177,822213,29158,57016,95134,1552,192,341
 65–74465,327345,525259,421115,097126,94137,4536,31417,2431,373,321
 75 and over440,450329,379223,466118,027108,61133,6912,96614,3141,270,904
Sex
 Male3,228,4132,420,3691,935,296745,203975,809233,30399,293159,6549,797,340
 Female3,320,7172,512,0001,969,141769,125982,939243,08793,511164,38110,054,901
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin138,50230,143127,56825,55558,70416,76653,6593,875454,772
 Neither Aboriginal nor Torres Strait Islander origin6,019,3594,636,2043,551,9631,419,4531,772,746436,726122,654305,13618,264,241
 Not stated391,268266,024224,90869,318127,29722,89616,49215,0251,133,228
Need for assistance with core activities
 Has need for assistance with core activities278,246208,228154,70673,40168,40623,6574,62210,317821,583
 Does not have need for assistance with core activities5,838,2334,430,4023,491,2961,363,3281,747,503427,337165,767297,71417,761,580
 Not stated432,651293,740258,43577,598142,83725,39522,41616,0061,269,078
Total6,549,1304,932,3693,904,4381,514,3271,958,746476,390192,806324,03519,852,241
2001
Age group (years)
 Under 121,050,256754,068606,032227,968310,25477,18439,59451,3043,116,660
 12–18615,689449,938359,827141,181192,27047,41920,25232,3471,858,923
 19–24494,330375,973287,515110,938150,81933,24917,92430,7771,501,525
 25–34916,457691,797506,764199,256266,16958,21234,73249,0132,722,400
 35–44966,501713,227531,774223,099284,47268,83431,05248,5412,867,500
 45–54853,570631,475483,709207,118256,83065,07224,39245,4742,567,640
 55–64597,563434,841332,966144,706164,22346,69012,25126,0741,759,314
 65–74448,024327,442225,898112,309112,24834,2844,81614,8711,279,892
 75 and over383,789282,149187,155103,42390,33129,4782,37411,5971,090,296
Sex
 Male3,123,3422,287,8731,745,127724,114911,083225,72497,325152,4539,267,041
 Female3,202,8372,373,0371,776,513745,884916,533234,69890,062157,5459,497,109
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin120,04025,059112,56923,37558,46415,85550,7953,548409,705
 Neither Aboriginal nor Torres Strait Islander origin5,916,1784,443,9803,277,8121,401,6231,699,101428,386125,307295,91217,588,299
 Not stated289,961191,871131,25945,00070,05116,18111,28510,538766,146
Need for assistance with core activities(c)
 Has need for assistance with core activitiesnanananananananana
 Does not have need for assistance with core activitiesnanananananananana
 Not statednanananananananana
Total6,326,1794,660,9103,521,6401,469,9981,827,616460,422187,387309,99818,764,150
na not available
a. Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. As a result cells may not add to the totals.
b. 2016 Includes usual residents of External Territories and excludes usual residents at sea, migratory and off-shore regions. 2011, 2006 and 2001 Excludes usual residents of External Territories, at sea, migratory and off-shore regions.
c. Not available for 2001 as the data item 'Need for assistance with core activities' was not collected prior to the 2006 Census.

114 Table 1.5 shows the rate of homelessness per 10,000 of the population for all states and territories in 2016. The rate for the Northern Territory was 599.4 homeless persons per 10,000; higher than for the other states and territories. For all homeless operational groups, the rates of homelessness per head of population in the Northern Territory are higher than other states and territories. The rates for the operational groups 'Persons in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out' and 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings' show that a higher proportion of the Northern Territory population are in these situations than for other states and territories: 47.9 compared with between 1.4 and 4.4 homeless persons per 10,000 for the improvised dwelling group and 483.5 compared with between 5.2 and 22.5 for those living in severely crowded dwellings.

115 The overall difference in the rate of homelessness for the Northern Territory is therefore driven by the rate for the operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'. Nearly 40% of people in this operational group identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians. Compared to other states and territories in Australia, in 2016, the Northern Territory had a higher per capita population of Australians who were identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Persons living in severely crowded dwellings also had a higher proportion of persons who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Geography

116 Boundaries of SA2, SA3 and SA4 regions may change over time. Geographic correspondences between 2011 and 2016 editions of statistical areas are available in the downloads section of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001). These can be used to understand the relationships between 2011 and 2016 areas and to convert data from 2011 ASGS regions to 2016 regions.

117 The ASGS Local Government Areas are an ABS approximation of gazetted local government boundaries as defined by each State and Territory Local Government Department. Local Government Areas cover incorporated areas of Australia. Incorporated areas are legally designated parts of a State or Territory over which incorporated local governing bodies have responsibility. The major areas of Australia not administered by incorporated bodies are the northern parts of South Australia, and all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories. These regions are identified as ‘Unincorporated’ in the ASGS Local Government Areas structure. More information on Local government areas and changes between 2011 and 2016 boundaries can be found in Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 3 - Non ABS Structures, July 2017 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.003).

Use of Census data for estimating homelessness

Presentation of relationship information

118 In the published estimates of homelessness the ABS has not presented data on relationships between people who are homeless, such as household composition or family composition, except for persons in the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'. Relationship information is not available for all persons who are homeless. Some people in the homeless operational group 'Persons in improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out' are enumerated on Special Short Forms which do not collect information to the individual respondent's relationship to anyone else. Persons enumerated in NPDs on the Personal Form are not asked to provide information to establish their relationship to anyone else in the dwelling.

119 While information is collected about relationships between visitors and between visitors and other residents of private dwellings this information is not retained in Census processing. Therefore is not available for the operational group 'Persons staying temporarily with other households'. It is, however, possible to present relationship information for the usual residents of the dwelling the person is visiting.

120 For these reasons it is possible only to consider relationship information for those in the homeless operational group 'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings'.

What's new for the 2016 Census

121 The Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0) lists changes to classifications and Census questions since 2011, and new variables for 2016.

Items not available for 2016 homelessness estimates release

122 The data item 'Remoteness Area (RA)' (a geographical standard for the publication of statistics by relative remoteness) was not available at the time of publishing, and therefore has not been included for use in the analysis of 2016 homelessness estimates in this publication. 'Remoteness Area (RA)' data and analysis relating to homelessness will be published later in 2018.

Level of highest educational attainment

123 The classification 'Level of Highest Educational Attainment' records the highest educational achievement a person has attained. In this publication, the category 'Below year 10' includes 'Certificate I and II' and 'Certificate I and II not further defined' and those who report no educational attainment.

Humanitarian migrants

124 The ABS identified a group of new migrants - these are people who arrived in Australia the Census year and were born overseas who report having no usual address and were enumerated in a private dwelling which was not an 'improvised dwelling, tent or sleeper out'. The vast majority of these new migrants were not considered to be homeless. However, the ABS identified a group of new migrants which are likely to be humanitarian migrants, who in the methodology are classified as homeless. 

125 Humanitarian migrants are new migrants who report a country of birth which suggests they could be a recipient of a humanitarian visa. The top ten countries for humanitarian migrants are sourced from the Report ‘2015–16 Humanitarian Programme Outcomes’ (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2016). The 2001, 2006 and 2011 lists were sourced from the now discontinued ‘Immigration Update’ publication by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. This has necessitated a small change in definition whereby in 2001. 2006 and 2011 the list was the top ten countries for arrivals on humanitarian off-shore Visas, however for 2016 it is the top ten countries for Visas granted. The lists pertain to the financial year ending in the Census year.

126 In 2016 the countries were:

  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Myanmar
  • Afghanistan
  • Congo (DRC)
  • Bhutan
  • Somalia
  • Iran
  • Ethiopia
  • Eritrea
     

Census methodology

127 The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS, and one of the most important. Its objective is to accurately measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census night, and the dwellings in which they live. This provides a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of each of the state, territory and local government areas, primarily for electoral purposes and for the distribution of government funds. The Census also provides the characteristics of the Australian population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups. This information supports the planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments and other users.

Mainstream collection

128 In 2016, the ABS developed a new digital-first approach to the 2016 Census. The new approach changed the way Census materials were delivered to householders and how information was returned to the ABS. These changes were designed taking into account international best practices in Census procedures, and building on the Australian public's increasing access to and use of the internet, and their willing support of the Census.

129 Under the traditional Census method used for the past 100 years, forms were delivered by hand to every dwelling. The new delivery approach removed the need for Census Field Officers to visit every dwelling. Instead, approximately 80% of dwellings across Australia were, in the first instance, mailed information which included a unique login number for the online form. Those residents who did not wish to complete their form online were able to request a paper form, which they could complete and mail back in a provided prepaid envelope. For dwellings that had not responded by a specified date, reminder letters followed the initial correspondence. Census Field Officers then only visited dwellings that did not responded.

130 In the remaining areas of Australia, the more traditional delivery approach was used. In these areas, Census Field Officers delivered materials to each dwelling, enabling residents to either complete their form online or mail back a paper form. In these areas, the Field Officers attempted to make contact with residents when dropping off the form. Census Field Officers only made further visits to dwellings that had not responded.

131 About two thirds of Australians responded online to the 2016 Census, doubling the online response rate in 2011 of 33% (ABS 2016a)

History of the collection of data on homelessness in the Census of Population and Housing

132 The 1996 Census was the first Census to target Australia’s homeless population using a special enumeration strategy. This strategy aimed to not only maximise the coverage of the Australian population but also to provide information from the Census to policy makers and service deliverers on the number and characteristics of homeless people. The ABS has continued to have a special enumeration strategy for the homeless population for subsequent Censuses.

133 In the 2011 and 2016 Censuses the ABS employed special enumeration strategies for homeless people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In the lead-up to the Census, the ABS liaised with state/territory organisations in order to gain their assistance in correctly identifying accommodation likely to cater for the homeless. Prior to Census night, ABS staff from regional offices contacted groups providing services for the homeless to identify possible sites where homeless people were likely to be located. Where possible, members of the homeless community were to be engaged to enumerate ‘difficult’ areas where significant numbers of homeless people were likely to spend Census night. For more information see Appendix 3: 2016 Census Procedures in this publication. 

134 However the ABS has a long history of collecting information relevant to identifying homeless people in the Census. In the 1933 and 1947 Censuses, a question was asked for the ‘number of persons (if any) who slept out throughout the year on verandahs (not enclosed sleep-outs)’. In 1986, a dwelling structure category ‘Improvised dwelling’ was provided on the form for the collector to mark. This category was changed to ‘Improvised home, campers out’ in 1991, but there was no distinction between homeless people and those who were camping (such as on holiday).

135 Questions about the usual residence where a person usually lives provides an indication on homelessness. However, from 1976 until 1991, those who had no usual address were instructed to tick their usual address as ‘this address’. They were classified as having their place of enumeration on Census as their usual address. Since then, the form has an instruction to write ‘none’ if a person does not have a usual address for six months or more in the Census year.

136 From 1976 to 1991, collectors were instructed to seek out all people camping or sleeping out by visiting ‘any places in your Collection District (CD) on Census night where it is likely that persons may be sleeping out, e.g. camping areas, park benches, derelict buildings etc’. They were instructed if they found such a person to issue a Household Form and help them fill it out on the spot. They were assigned to a non-private dwelling type ‘campers out’. However, some collectors may not have followed this instruction if they did not believe there were people in their area, or for fear of their own safety. Prior to 1996, some Divisional Managers undertook additional measures to enumerate the homeless, such as providing refreshments.

Homeless enumeration strategy

137 The Homeless Enumeration Strategy employed since 1996 was developed with the aim of ensuring that everyone was enumerated on Census night. The strategy targets those homeless groups that are hard to enumerate through the mainstream Census collection. For more information see 'Appendix 3: 2016 Census Procedures'.

Response errors and non-response bias

138 Two potential sources of error in the Census are response errors and non-response bias. These may occur in any enumeration whether it is a full enumeration (Census) or a sample.

139 Response errors include errors on the part of respondents. These reporting errors may arise through inappropriate wording of questions, misunderstanding of what data are required, inability or unwillingness to provide accurate information, and mistakes in answers to questions. Some of the response error will reflect people with imprecise knowledge about other residents in their dwelling nevertheless reporting on behalf of others.

140 Non-response bias arises because the persons for whom no response is available may have different characteristics in relation to homelessness and marginal housing than persons who responded in the Census.

141 Response errors and non-response bias are difficult to quantify in any collection. However, every effort is made to minimise these errors in the Census by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of Census Field Officers and efficient operating procedures. Non-response bias is minimised by call-backs to those households which do not respond.

Census dictionary, 2016

142 The Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0) provides a ready reference for the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, providing information about the Census, the topics and classifications used, managing Census quality and a Glossary of Terms.

Census Post Enumeration Survey

143 The quality of the Census data is further enhanced by using information collected in a post-enumeration survey (PES) to obtain estimates of the net undercount in the Census. The PES is conducted immediately following the Census. While the PES collects information representative of the vast majority of Australians, it is not designed to estimate the undercount of persons who may be homeless (as it does not enumerate those who live in special dwellings such as boarding houses, or those who are not living in private dwellings at the time of the PES). It does, however, provide information about the characteristics of people who may have been missed in the Census. It will include some people who were homeless on Census night but were not homeless during the PES, or those who were staying in a private dwelling on Census night such as those people staying with other households. 

144 Since the PES does not approach non-private dwellings (nor people sleeping out) it does not generate specific undercount rates for people in those circumstances at the time of the PES. However, the final undercount estimates are weighted to account for the entire population, including those people in non-private dwellings and those who were not in dwellings.

Census data quality

145 An independent assurance panel of eminent Australian and international statisticians, academics, and state government representatives was established to independently review and assure the quality of statistical outputs from the 2016 Census. Overall, the assurance panel found 2016 Census data to be fit for rebasing the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) and having comparable quality to previous Australian Censuses and International Censuses. The assurance panel concluded that 2016 Census data can be used with confidence. Their results were released in the report: Report on the Quality of 2016 Census Data, June 2017

146 The person response rate measures how many people are included on a returned Census form as a proportion of all people (responding and non-responding) believed to be in Australia on Census night. The person response rate was 94.8% in the 2016 Census, compared to 96.3% in 2011 and 95.8% in 2006.

147 An issue identified by the panel was a net undercount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people identified from the 2016 Post Enumeration Survey, by a rate of 17.5 percent. This is marginally higher than in 2011, which estimated a net undercount of 17.2 percent of the population count. The panel advised the ABS to consider ways to improve the enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for future Censuses in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.

148 It has become increasingly difficult to determine whether dwellings are private or non-private. For example, blocks of self contained apartments or units may provide a mix of short term hotel-style accommodation or long term apartment accommodation. Similarly, establishments such as boarding houses or supported accommodation may provide self contained accommodation, accommodation with communal facilities, or both. In addition, certain types of sensitive dwellings may not be easily identifiable as such and may therefore be treated as private dwellings. For more information please refer to the data quality statement for 'DWTD Dwelling type' and 'NPDD Type of non-private dwelling' in Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia (cat. no. 2900.0)

What other data can I use to help me to understand homelessness?

149 In addition to prevalence estimates of homelessness from the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing, the ABS has collected previous experiences of homelessness from the General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0) and Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings (cat. no. 4430.0). The ABS expects to also include this module, further developed, in the 2019 General Social Survey.

150 Previous experiences of homelessness in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population were also collected in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (cat. no. 4714.0). The question module differs slightly from the module included in the General Social Survey for cultural appropriateness. The ABS also released both a Discussion Paper: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Perspectives on Homelessness (cat. no. 4735.0) and an Information Paper: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Perspectives on Homelessness (cat. no. 4736.0) about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Perspectives on Homelessness. These papers presented findings from engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and homelessness service providers in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples perspectives on homelessness. The paper presents different perspectives of homelessness and their alignment with the ABS statistical definition of homelessness and identifies the implications for measuring homelessness in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context.

151 The ABS also be collects experiences of homelessness for people who leave a violent partner through the Personal Safety Survey. The results were released in the publication Personal Safety, Australia (cat. no. 4906.0).

152 There are also non-ABS sources of information about homelessness, such as the AIHW SHS Collection, and reports through the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).

Products and services

153 The ABS offers specialist consultancy services to assist clients with more complex statistical information needs. Clients may wish to have the unit record data analysed according to their own needs, or require tailored tables incorporating data items and populations as requested by them. Tables and other analytical outputs can be made available electronically or in printed form. However, as the level of detail or disaggregation increases with detailed requests, the number of contributors to data cells decreases. This may result in some requested information not being able to be released due to confidentiality. All specialist consultancy services attract a service charge, and clients will be provided with a quote before information is supplied. 

154 If the information you require is not available from the publication or the data cubes, please contact the National Information and Referral Service (NIRS) on 1300 135 070, (international callers +61 2 9268 4909) or via email client.services@abs.gov.au. The NIRS can be contacted from anywhere in Australia between 8:30am and 5:00pm (AEST) Monday to Friday. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

155 For users who wish to undertake more detailed analysis of the data, the survey microdata will be released through the TableBuilder product: Microdata: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0.55.002) . For further details refer to the Microdata Entry page on the ABS website.

Confidentiality

156 The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must ensure that any statistical information about individuals cannot be derived from published data.

157 To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique is used to randomly adjust cell values. This technique is called perturbation. Perturbation involves small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics.

158 After perturbation, a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables. However, adding up cell values to derive a total will not necessarily give the same result as published totals.

159 The introduction of perturbation in publications ensures that these statistics are consistent with statistics released via services such as TableBuilder.

160 As an Australian Government agency, ABS also complies with the Privacy Act 1988 and handles personal information in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

Rounding

161 As estimates have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. As estimates have also been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential information, discrepancies may occur in estimates appearing in more than one table.

Acknowledgements

162 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

163 The ABS acknowledges and thanks the service providers and their staff for their ongoing contributions to help maximise the overall quality of the enumeration of the homeless population in the 2016 Census, some of whom serve on the ABS' Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG).

164 The ABS established the HSRG to advise the ABS on the development, collection, compilation, production and dissemination of robust statistics for use in analysing, understanding and reporting on homelessness in Australia. The ABS thanks all HSRG members for their contributions and commitment in advising the ABS.

References

165 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016a) Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia , 2016 (cat. no. 2900.0), Chapter: 'Item non-response rates'. Accessed 1 March 2018.

166 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Census of Population and Housing: Details of Overcount and Undercount, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2940.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

167 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia 2014 (cat. no. 4159.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

168 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) Housing Mobility and Conditions, 2007–08 (cat. no. 4130.0.55.002). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

169 Chamberlain, C and MacKenzie, D (2008) Australian Census Analytic Program: Counting the Homeless 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0) Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

170 Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2016), 2015–16 Humanitarian Programme Outcomes. Retrieved 5 September 2017.

171 Morphy, F (ed.) (2007) Agency, Contingency and Census Process: Observations of the 2006 Indigenous Enumeration Strategy in remote Aboriginal Australia Research Monograph, no. 28, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) ANU, Canberra.

Appendix 1 - definition of homelessness

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Overview of the definition of homelessness

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as 'home'lessness, not rooflessness. It emphasises the core elements of 'home' in Anglo American and European interpretations of the meaning of home as identified in research evidence (Mallett, 2004). These elements may include a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent 'home'.

In brief, the ABS statistical definition is that:

When a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate;
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.
     

The definition has been constructed from a conceptual framework centred around the following elements:

  • Adequacy of the dwelling;
  • Security of tenure in the dwelling; and
  • Control of, and access to space for social relations.
     

The elements are explained in more detail in the ABS Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0).

People must lack one or more of these elements to be defined as homeless. However, people who lack one or more of these elements are not necessarily classified as homeless. While homelessness is not a choice, some people may chose to live in situations that might parallel the living situations of people who are homeless. For example, people may be living in a shed while building a home on their own property, or on holiday travelling and staying with friends. These people have choice because they have the capacity to access other accommodation that is safe, adequate and provides for social relations. Having access to accommodation alternatives is contingent on having the financial, physical, psychological and personal means to access these alternatives (see the ABS Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0)).

The ABS definition of homelessness is used to produce statistics on homelessness from a range of ABS collections. This includes prevalence estimates of homelessness from the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing, and from household surveys such as the General Social Survey, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Personal Safety Survey, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, and other surveys, as appropriate.

This definition can also be used by other organisations to collect and output their statistics in line with the ABS definition and ABS statistical outputs.

More information on the development of an ABS definition can be found in the 'Factsheet: Homelessness - in concept and in some measurement contexts', available from the 'Summary' tab of the Information Paper – A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012 (cat. no. 4922.0).

How the definition of homelessness informs the methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census

The Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0) outlines which elements of the statistical definition are used in determining homeless living situations in each of the homeless operational groups.

The hierarchy below briefly outlines which elements of the definition are employed to determine the group as being homeless.

How does the heirarchy relate to output catergories?

Hierarchy outlining which elements of the statistical definition of homelessness relates to which group as being homeless.

How does the heirarchy relate to output catergories?

A table that conveys the following information:

Security of tenure in the dwelling

Homeless Operational Groups with no tenure:
Improvised dwellings, tents sleepers out – improvised dwellings; improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – rough sleepers; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless; persons staying temporarily with other households – persons staying temporarily with friends or relatives; persons staying temporarily with other households – persons staying temporarily in visitor only households; persons staying in boarding houses; persons staying in other temporary lodging (note, there will be lots of different situations some will lack space, etcetera, but all will lack security of tenure); severe crowding – those who do not own/have the lease.

Homeless operational groups with initial tenure short and not extendable (this includes a variety of tenure such as people staying in boarding houses, supported accommodation long term and short term, and renters on month to month leases):
Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless – some transitional housing.

Adequacy of the dwelling

Homeless operational groups where no basic facilities exist:
Improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – improvised dwellings; improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – rough sleepers.

Homeless operational groups where the structure of the dwelling is inadequate:
None.

Control of, access to social relations

Homeless operational groups with no control or access to space:
Improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – improvised dwellings; improvised dwellings, tents sleepers out – rough sleepers; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless – some transitional housing; persons staying temporarily with other households - persons staying temporarily with friends or relatives; persons staying temporarily with other households – persons staying temporarily in visitor only households; persons staying in boarding houses; persons staying in other temporary lodging (note, there will be lots of different situations some will lack space, etcetera, but all will lack security of tenure. Additionally, there is a question mark beside this box, indicating an unknown element to this); severe crowding – those who own/have the lease etcetera; severe crowding – those who do not own/have the lease.

Homeless operational groups with no privacy:
Improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – improvised dwellings; improvised dwellings, tents sleepers out – rough sleepers; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless – some transitional housing; persons staying temporarily with other households - persons staying temporarily with friends or relatives; persons staying temporarily with other households – persons staying temporarily in visitor only households; persons staying in boarding houses; persons staying in other temporary lodging (note, there will be lots of different situations some will lack space, etcetera, but all will lack security of tenure. Additionally, there is a question mark beside this box, indicating an unknown element to this); severe crowding – those who own/have the lease etcetera; severe crowding – those who do not own/have the lease.

Accommodation alternatives of the person

Homeless operational groups with no financial, no personal, no psychological, and no physical accommodation alternatives:
Improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out – improvised dwellings; improvised dwellings, tents sleepers out – rough sleepers; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless; persons in supported accommodation for the homeless – some transitional housing; persons staying temporarily with other households - persons staying temporarily with friends or relatives; persons staying temporarily with other households – persons staying temporarily in visitor only households; persons staying in boarding houses; persons staying in other temporary lodging (note, there will be lots of different situations some will lack space, etcetera, but all will lack security of tenure.); severe crowding – those who own/have the lease etcetera; severe crowding – those who do not own/have the lease.

These accommodation alternatives apply to any of the components of financial, personal, physical or psychological resources. If they do not exist the person’s situation needs to be further considered in terms of the other elements on the table.
  1. Includes a variety of tenure such as people staying in boarding houses, supported accommodation (long term and short term) and renters on month to month leases.
  2. Note there will be lots of different situations some will lack control of space etc. but all will lack security of tenure

** An X for accommodation alternatives applies to any of the components of financial, personal, physical or psychological resources. If they do not exist the person's situation needs to be further considered in terms of the other elements on the table.
 

References

Mallett, S (2004) 'Understanding Home: A Critical Review of the Literature', The Sociological Review, 52 (1), 62-89.

Appendix 2 - estimation methodology

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Introduction

This Appendix presents an overview of the consistent, transparent and repeatable Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) methodology for estimating the number of people enumerated in the Census of Population and Housing who may be homeless on Census night. More information on the methodology can be found in the publication: Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).

The following ABS methodology has been applied to producing homelessness estimates from the 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.

This methodology will also be applied to future Censuses. However, it may include improvements to both questions and field procedures as a result of 2021 Census developments, which will provide for new and better estimates for tracking future changes in homelessness. The transparency and repeatability of the methodology allows for an alternate estimate to be made that is consistent with 2016 to provide a link in monitoring change over time.

The methodology for use in the Census can only partially operationalise the definition because although the Census is designed for many purposes, it is limited in the nature of the questions it can ask that will reflect on homelessness. While the information derivable from the Census for homelessness measurement will improve over time, nevertheless some proxies will always need to be developed for some elements of the definition for some of the different homeless operational groups that can be output from the Census. Details on how each of the homeless groups relate to the definition can be found in 'Appendix 1: Definition of Homelessness', available from the 'Explanatory notes'.

The income, mortgage and rent cut-offs used in the rules for estimating homelessness are adjusted for each Census year. The cut-offs for 2016 Census are available in the 'Explanatory notes'.

Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

Estimating the homeless operational group 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out' commences by first considering the group of Australian residents who were enumerated in the Census in an 'improvised home, tent, sleepers out' and who reported either being at home on Census night or having 'no usual address'.

The Census does not directly collect any data on the ABS homelessness definitional element 'adequacy of the dwelling'. This methodology does not assume that the 'Improvised home, tent, sleepers-out' category is a reasonable proxy, and both field and processing errors may overstate this group.

Nor does the Census currently directly collect information about accommodation alternatives, and proxy measures are needed to identify indicators of accommodation alternatives.

Neither the Census usual address question nor the dwelling category is designed to measure homelessness (Information about the purpose of the usual address question is available in the 'Explanatory notes'. Analysis of the reported characteristics of persons enumerated in dwellings classified by Census Field officers as 'improvised home, tents, sleepers-out', shows that many were unlikely to have been homeless.

There are a range of reasons why people may be in a dwelling classified as improvised, and which is reported as their usual address but who, however, are not likely to be homeless. In the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses, Census Field officer notes showed that some dwellings classified as improvised dwellings were new homes being progressively occupied, or reflected large numbers of construction staff living in site sheds ('improvised dwellings') as they built new suburbs, highways or similar construction tasks. Some of the records classified as improvised dwellings appeared to relate to owner builders living in a shed or similar dwelling while building their home on their own property. The use of land, dwellings and property for these reasons is no different in 2016.

The ABS rules to classify homeless people who were enumerated in improvised dwellings on Census night are presented in the table below. The rules aim to avoid misclassification of the majority of the construction workers or owner builders who would have accommodation alternatives. Failure to do so would result in homelessness estimates being driven by building booms (when homelessness would appear to rise) and downturns (when it would appear to fall), and present an odd occupational grouping of the homeless.

To approximate the concept of accommodation alternatives applied to this group, variables such as tenure, income, rent and mortgage payments are used.

Rules for estimating persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying in improvised dwellings, tents and sleeping out. The rules start with the broad Census dwelling category of 'improvised home, tent, sleepers-out' and refines the category to avoid misclassifying as homeless those groups of people who were unlikely to be homeless on Census night.

Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

StepMinus / PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in an improvised home, tent, sleepers-out 
2MinusAll persons who reported a usual address elsewhere in Australia and overseas visitors.Australian holiday makers and international visitors - these people are not homeless
3EqualsAll persons enumerated in an improvised home, tent, sleepers-out who reported being 'at home' or having 'no usual address' 
4MinusAll imputed records(a)There is little evidence that all these people exist. For those that do, most would be removed using the other rules if the information were available. The imputed dwellings are most likely dwelling which are occupied on an intermittent basis where the occupants were enumerated (or even imputed) at their principal residence
5MinusAny person in a dwelling with a tenure type of owned outright, owned with a mortgage, being purchased under a rent/buy scheme, being rented, or being occupied under a life tenure scheme where at least one person was employed full-time(b)People for whom the nature of their employment indicates that, on balance, their accommodation could be because of their employment e.g. construction workers, road workers; and others in their own dwelling
6MinusAny person in a dwelling with a tenure type of being occupied rent free, 'other' tenure, or without a stated tenure where at least one person was employed full-time, and the combined income of all persons in the dwelling was at least $2,000/week(b)(c)People who, on balance, were mostly likely construction workers, road workers etc.
7MinusAny person who reported being 'at home' in a dwelling with a tenure type of owned outright where no one was employed full-time(b)People who, on balance, were most likely owner builders / hobby farmers
8MinusAny person in a dwelling with a tenure type of owned with a mortgage with reported mortgage repayments of at least $1,600/month where no one was employed full-time(b)(c)Remove those who, on balance, were most likely owner builders / hobby farmers
9MinusAny person in a dwelling with a tenure type of being rented with reported rental payments of at least $450/week where no one was employed full-time(b)(c)People for whom the rental payments indicate they could rent elsewhere (have accommodation alternatives)
 EqualsThose who are likely to be homeless 
a. Imputed records where no form was received for the private dwelling.
b. The variables 'number of people employed' and 'combined income' do not include visitors who reported a usual address elsewhere. Therefore a person who is visiting the dwelling and who is employed full-time or has an income doesn't impact on the identification of other people in the dwelling as being homeless.
c. In 2011 the combined income cut off was $2,000/week, the mortgage repayment cut off was $1,400/month and the rental payment cut off was $400/week. In 2006 the combined income cut off was $2,000/week, the mortgage repayment cut off was $1,050/month and the rental payment cut off was $300/week.
 

As noted in the above table, imputed records have not been classified as representing homeless people. While no imputation is undertaken for rough sleepers, imputation is undertaken for an improvised dwelling which may have been occupied on Census night and about which the Census Field Officer was not 'absolutely certain was unoccupied' but for which no contact could be made. Detailed analysis was undertaken in 2006 supporting the treatment of imputed records for this homeless operational group. Further information can be found in the 'Feature Article 2: Methodology Used to Calculate Homeless Estimates', available from the 'Summary' tab of the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2006 (cat. no. 2049.0).

For more information on analysis of this group see the ABS publications: Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) and the Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002).

Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless

The ABS considers that the vetting process to allocate people to the short supply of accommodation supplied under the Specialist Homeless Services (SHS) program and its predecessor the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is unlikely to provide supported accommodation for those people who have accommodation alternatives, and that most supported accommodation does not provide the ABS definitional element 'security of tenure'.

To estimate the number of people in supported accommodation for the homeless on Census night in 2016, ABS first included all persons in dwellings identified by the Address Register or field officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'hostels for the homeless, night shelter, refuge'. ABS then added people who were in dwellings flagged as being in supported accommodation using the Census 'list' strategy. In 2011 and 2006, there was an additional 'green sticker' strategy, whereby a physical sticker was census form in some sensitive supported dwellings. This was discontinued for 2016.

For the first time in 2016, the ABS asked people who were in crisis accommodation to write 'none-crisis' instead of just 'none' as their place of usual residence. This message was part of the homelessness enumeration strategy and was passed on through homelessness service providers. Persons who reported 'none-crisis' as their place of usual residence and were enumerated in a private dwelling that were estimated to be in supported accommodation.

Imputed persons are included in the estimates for this group because of the certainty of the nature of the dwellings flagged either by ABS staff, or by jurisdictions or services, and the irrelevance of the personal characteristics of occupants in ascertaining homelessness status for people staying in SHS properties.

Some supported accommodation, such as some transitional housing, may not meet the ABS definition of homelessness because the tenants have security of tenure in the dwelling. In general, information in the Census cannot distinguish the transitional housing properties that have security of tenure. While some extra information was collected to attempt to distinguish transitional housing management properties from other types of supported accommodation for the homeless, this was sometimes insufficient to accurately determine tenure.

Rules for estimating persons in supported accommodation for the homeless

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying in supported accommodation for the homeless. The rules start with the Census non-private dwelling category of 'hostels for the homeless, night shelter, refuge' and adds persons who were in a dwelling flagged as being supported accommodation through the 'list' strategy.

Persons in supported accommodation for homeless

Estimating homelessness 2006 and beyond

StepMinus / PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Address Register and by Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings classified as 'hostels for the homeless, night shelter, refuge'Include people residing in non-private dwellings offering supported accommodation for the homeless on Census night
2PlusAny person in a dwelling flagged as being supported accommodationInclude people enumerated in private dwelling identified as being supported accommodation for the homeless
3MinusAny person identified above who reported being either an overseas visitor or an 'owner, proprietor, staff and family'Remove overseas visitors and 'owner, proprietor, staff and family' in supported accommodation
 

Extra steps estimating homelessness 2016 and beyond

StepMinus / PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
4PlusAny person enumerated in a private dwelling that is not 'improvised home, tent or sleepers-out' who stated 'none-crisis' as their place of usual residence who were not overseas visitors and not already identified in Steps 1-3Include people who specifically stated they are in crisis accommodation.
5MinusRemove persons already identified in the operational group 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out'These people are already counted as homeless.
 EqualsPersons in supported accommodation for the homeless 
 

Estimating homelessness 2001

StepMinus / PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 Counts of the number of clients and accompanying children accommodated on Census night 2001 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) collection for every state and territory except VictoriaCensus data for persons in supported accommodation for the homeless identified through the list and green sticker strategies are not available
2PlusPersons accommodated in SAAP in Victoria from data from the AIHW SAAP collection and Department of Human Services (Victoria) for VictoriaAIHW SAAP data alone did not provide a full estimate of those in SAAP accommodation on Census night 2001.
 EqualsPersons in supported accommodation for the homeless 
 

Persons staying temporarily with other households

This group covers people for whom the elements of the ABS definition of homelessness that are lacking are 'security of tenure of the dwelling' and 'control, or access to social relations'. Visitors have no tenure. If they also, on balance, are most likely to lack accommodation alternatives then they are classified as homeless. Groups such as grey nomads, construction workers, recent migrants, other travellers are assumed, on balance, to have accommodation alternatives.

The homeless operational group 'Persons staying temporarily with other households' commences with the analysis of persons enumerated in any private dwelling structure (except an improvised home, tent, sleepers out) and who reported having 'No usual address'.

This group will contain people who were visiting on Census night for a range of reasons including those who are 'couch surfing'. It is unlikely that all of the people enumerated as 'visitors' without a usual address being reported on Census night meet the definition of homelessness.

People in private dwellings who report no usual address fall into two groups:

  • visitors who report having no usual address and staying in a dwelling that also contains usual residents of that dwelling; and
  • people staying in 'visitor only households' who report no usual address' and there are no usual residents in the dwelling.


Given the differences in the living circumstances on Census night of the two groups of people described above, each group needs to be considered using different judgements to determine whether the persons in the group are, on balance, likely to be homeless. Some of the people in 'visitor only households' will be families moving to a new location for work, people who have recently moved to, or returned to Australia and have not, or will not be living in their current property for six months or more in the Census year (given the Census takes place in August). In these circumstances they have correctly answered that they have no usual address, but they are not homeless.

Many other people in this visitor only household group were people travelling on Census night. Of these, the ABS classified one group as 'grey nomads' who were unlikely to be homeless and therefore were not included in the homeless population. Grey nomads are defined as people in dwellings where all people in the dwelling reported no usual address, were aged 55 years and over, were not in the labour force, and were staying in caravans on Census night.

Another group of people in 'visitor only households' were staying in properties (other than caravans) where the property was owned outright or on which they reported mortgage repayments. They were not staying with friends or relatives. These people were not included in the homeless estimates as the judgement was made that they reported no usual address because they were either travelling or moving primary residence, and staying in their holiday or second home at the time of the Census.

Another group of people in visitor only households were staying in properties (other than caravans) that they were renting. These people were not staying with friends or relatives and their characteristics suggested that they were travelling rather than being homeless on Census night.

The ABS also classified as not homeless people who were, on balance, most likely to be new migrants to Australia or returning to Australia to live. They were people who reported being overseas in August 2015, and who were renting or occupying premises on Census night and reported no usual address. For new migrants the year of arrival was 2016. On balance, most of the people within this group were unlikely to be homeless and had just not yet had the opportunity to settle in or back into Australia, or if they arrived in July or August would not be able to occupy their current address for six months in the year of the Census.

The ABS recognises that there are a number of groups that would be under represented in this homeless group of 'persons staying temporarily with other households'. These include youth, people fleeing domestic and / or family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who may be homeless but for whom a usual address on Census night is reported. They cannot be separated from those people who were visitors on Census night (such as those on family holidays, visiting relatives etc.). This 'invisibility', for some, of the homeless condition in the Census dataset should be taken into consideration when using the data for this group.

ABS has not yet been able to implement any reliable way of estimating homelessness among youth staying with other households and for whom a usual address is reported in the Census. Service providers and researchers indicate that the low estimates of homeless youth staying with other households does not concord with their knowledge about youth homelessness. Guided by its Homelessness Statistics Reference Group, the ABS is continuing to undertake research and development to improve the estimation of homelessness, including youth homelessness.

Imputed records have not been classified as representing homeless people based on analysis of 2006 data. Further information can be found in the 'Feature Article 2: Methodology Used to Calculate Homeless Estimates', available from the 'Summary' tab of the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2006 (cat. no. 2049.0).

For more information on analysis of this group see the ABS publications: Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.001) and the Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, August 2011 (cat. no. 2050.0.55.002).

Rules for estimating persons staying temporarily with other households

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify the persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying temporarily with other households. The rule starts with the broad Census dwelling category of persons enumerated in a private dwelling (which was not classified as an improvised home, tents, sleepers out) and who reported no usual address. The category is then refined for those groups of people who were unlikely to be homeless on Census night among two broad groupings:

  • visitors who report having no usual address and staying in a dwelling that also contains usual residents of that dwelling; and
  • people staying in 'visitor only households' who report 'no usual address' and there are no usual residents in the dwelling.
     

Persons staying temporarily with other households

StepMinus / PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in a private dwelling which was not classified as an improvised home, tent, sleepers-out who reported 'no usual address' 
2MinusAny person who was in a dwelling where all persons in the dwelling were aged 55 years and over, reported 'no usual address', were not in the labour force, and were staying in a caravan, cabin or houseboatPersons who on balance, would most likely to be 'grey nomads' and who were travelling and would have accommodation alternatives
3MinusAny person in a 'visitor only' household staying in a caravan, cabin or houseboat (except for persons in a 'caravan/residential park or camping ground' who report a tenure of being 'occupied rent free' or a tenure type of 'being rented' but not stating their weekly rent payments)Persons who on balance, would be most likely to be travelling except those who appear to be clients of supported accommodation services who were referred to caravan parks
4MinusAny person in a 'visitor only' household that was a 'separate house', 'semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse etc.', 'flat, unit or apartment', or a 'house or flat attached to a shop, office, etc.' and which was owned either outright or with a mortgage, or being rentedPersons who, on balance, were most likely to be moving frequently for employment reasons, staying in their second dwelling or who have moved after retirement etc.
5MinusAny person who was born overseas, first arrived in Australia in the Census calendar year and wasn't born in one of the top ten countries for humanitarian settlers in Australia(a)Persons who, on balance, were most likely to be recent migrants to Australia who at the time of the Census have not had time to choose their home and report a usual residence according to Census definitions
6MinusAny person who was born in Australia and reported being overseas the year before the CensusAustralians who, on balance, were most likely to be recently returning residents and who at the time of the Census have not had time to choose their home and report a usual residence according to Census definitions
7MinusAll imputed records(b)There is little evidence that these people even exist, in addition the 'no usual address' status has been imputed. Removes double counting for some 'visitor only' dwellings which were in holiday areas and may have appeared occupied when in fact they were not
8MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational group 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless'(c)These people are already counted as homeless in the previous homeless operational groups, this step removes double counting
 EqualsThose who are likely to be homeless 
a. The top ten countries for humanitarian settlers are sourced from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection report '2015-16 Humanitarian Programme Outcomes'. The 2001, 2006 and 2011 lists were sourced from the now discontinued 'Immigration Update' publication by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. 
b. Imputed records where no form was received for the private dwelling.
c. In 2001 no overlap can be determined between this and the homeless operational group 'persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' because Census data was not use for supported accommodation in 2001.
 

Persons living in boarding houses

The element of the ABS definition of homelessness that people in boarding houses are assumed to lack is 'control of, and access to social relations', and their staying in boarding houses is assumed to reflect a lack of accommodation alternatives which together indicate homelessness. Note that halls of residence for students, dwellings for members of religious orders and institutions such as hospitals are not boarding houses for homeless people.

The homeless operational group 'Persons living in boarding houses' commences with analysis of persons enumerated in non-private dwellings that were classified by their owners / managers as 'boarding houses, private hotel'. It is expected that in most cases these boarding houses etc. have been correctly classified by the owner / manager. However, because the Census boarding house category is not designed to approximate homelessness, it will include some student halls of residence that are not part of any one school but serve multiple schools in a region. Rules are used to exclude from homelessness estimates those dwellings that, on balance, appear to be more likely to be a student hall of residence.

The rules also aim to reclassify other non-private dwellings as boarding houses where the characteristics of the people in the dwelling suggest that they may be housing large numbers of homeless people and can be assumed, on balance, to be more likely to be a boarding house although they were classified by the owner / manager as 'staff quarters', 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' or as a dwelling type that was not classifiable, or a classification was not stated.

The non-private dwelling type 'other or not classifiable' contains a variety of dwellings, including youth backpacker hostels and ski lodges. During validation it was identified that in some cases, these dwellings were being classified as likely to be homeless dwellings because they contained a large number of long term holiday makers, who were often not working, on low incomes, and reporting 'no place of usual residence'. In order to remove these from the homeless estimates, dwelling records in this category were scrutinised and removed if it was certain that they were holiday dwellings. This process was repeated for the 2011 estimates, and the population of this category has been revised downwards accordingly. For more information see the Explanatory notes.

The rules also attempt to reclassify any dwellings that were identified by the address register or Census field officers as private dwellings but the characteristics of the occupants are such that, on balance, they are more likely to be a boarding house rather than a large (apparently) unrelated group household. If a dwelling is a private dwelling, but operates illegally on the basis of multiple room by room tenancies, the address register or field officer may classify it according to its legal presentation rather than on the basis of its unobserved operation as a boarding house. The rules are applied to identify these dwelling amongst large (apparently) unrelated group households. However, this method is limited and is likely to overestimate the number of large (apparently) group households as boarding houses due to the limitations of the Census in capturing all relationships in the household. The Census only captures the relationships to the first person on the household form (and child relationships to person 2), so if people in the household are in couple relationships but neither of the couple is reported as person 1, then such households with five or more usual residents may be incorrectly classified as group households rather than the family household it really is. That same household may then also be incorrectly assumed to be a boarding house and its residents classified as homeless. The correct classification of households as family households can also be affected when there are persons who were temporarily absent (PTAs) on Census night.

Rules are applied to these large (apparently) unrelated group households to ensure that, on balance, households such as student households, retirement villages, nursing homes, homes for the disabled, convents / monasteries and other religious institutions are not incorrectly reclassified as boarding houses for the homeless.

For private dwellings additional steps ensure that dwellings are only counted as housing people living in boarding houses when the characteristics of the dwelling and the people residing in them corroborate with a boarding house situation.

From 2006, additional information available from the Census about need for assistance with core activities and volunteering is used to refine the rules to assist with ensuring the best possible reclassification of private dwellings as boarding houses. The aim of using these variables is to correctly classify dwellings that were more likely to be convents or monasteries (and other similar religious institutions) as well as for dwellings more likely to be facilities for the aged. The necessary items for this classification refinement were not collected in the 2001 Census. The rules for 2001 therefore omit these steps which refine the classification of boarding houses.

To determine, on balance, that the dwelling is most likely to have been a boarding house for homeless people, variables such as labour force status, student status, income, tenure type, need for assistance with core activities, religion and volunteering are used. These are shown in more detail in the table below. All of the variables such as income are applied to the individual in private dwellings rather than considering the household income, because if they are in boarding houses, individuals would not be sharing their economic resources.

There has been a minor review of the classification of religious groups for Census 2016. The code has been updated to reflect this and does not impact the statistics.

Additional steps applied in 2011 to include people in dwellings to be classified as boarding houses based on the list process have been repeated for 2016. The rules were further modified in 2016 to allow for cases where a boarding house was enumerated and classified as individual apartments due to having individual letter boxes, but additional information suggested that tenants only had a room rather than a self contained apartment, were sharing facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens, and the dwelling overall operated as a boarding house.

Rules for estimating persons living in boarding houses

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying in boarding houses. The rules start with all persons enumerated in dwellings that were classified as 'boarding house, private hotel'. Then additional rules are applied to remove dwellings that are student halls of residences. Rules are applied to 'staff quarters' to pick up any that, on balance, were more likely to be boarding houses. Rules are also applied to 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' and 'other and not classifiable' or 'not stated' dwellings to identify if, on balance, they were more likely to be boarding houses. Finally rules are applied to private dwellings which appear to be large unrelated group households to determine if, on balance, they are more likely to be boarding houses.

Persons living in boarding houses

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in dwellings identified by Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings classified as 'boarding house, private hotel', where the person reported a residential status of 'Guest, patient, inmate, other resident' or 'Not stated' and reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' on Census night and where less than 60% of identified people in that dwelling reported a weekly income of $650 or more(a)Boarding house residents who were not staff/owners/managers etc. or who reported a usual address elsewhere.  Overseas visitors are also not considered
2PlusAll persons enumerated in dwellings identified by Census Area supervisors and Field Officers  as non-private dwellings classified as 'boarding house, private hotel' who reported a residential status of 'Guest, patient, inmate, other resident' or 'Not stated' and reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' on Census night and where less than 60% of identified people in that dwelling reported a labour force status of 'employed'As above
3MinusPersons in steps 1 and 2 above where at least 60% of identified people in that dwelling reported a student status of 'Full-time student'Remove from the above dwellings that, on balance, were most likely to be student halls of residence 
4PlusAll persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'staff quarters' where at least 60% of people in that dwelling reported a weekly income of less than $650 and less than 60% of people in that dwelling reported a labour force status of 'employed'(a)Identify those dwellings which were classified as staff quarters which may, with further consideration, on balance, be boarding houses 
5MinusPersons in step 4 where at least 60% of people in that dwelling reported a student status of 'Full-time student'Remove from the above dwellings that, on balance, were most likely to be student halls of residence
6MinusPersons in step 4 who reported a residential status of 'Owner, proprietor, staff, and family'Remove persons who were owners / managers staff or family
7MinusPersons in step 4 who were overseas visitorsRemove overseas visitors
8PlusAll persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' in a dwelling where at least 75% of people in that dwelling reported a weekly income of less than $600 a week and at least 75% of people in that dwelling reported a labour force status of 'unemployed' or 'Not in the labour force'  and at least 20% of people in that dwelling reported being 'At home'(a)Identify those dwellings which were classified as 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' which may, with further consideration, on balance be boarding houses
9MinusPersons in step 8 where more than 25% of people in that dwelling reported a student status of 'Full-time student'Remove from the above dwellings that, on balance, were most likely to be student halls of residence
10MinusPersons in steps 8 who reported a residential status of 'Owner, proprietor, staff, and family'Remove persons who were owners / managers staff or family
11MinusPersons in steps 8 who were overseas visitorsRemove overseas visitors
12PlusAll persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the as non-private dwellings and classified as 'Other and not classifiable' or 'Not stated', where the person reported a residential status of 'Guest, patient, inmate, other resident' or 'Not stated' in a dwelling and where:

- less than 90% of identified people in that dwelling reported being under 20 years of age and who reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' AND

- less than 85% of identified people who also attended a 'stated' type of educational institution or didn't attend an educational institution in that dwelling reported attending any type of educational institution and who reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' AND

- less than 90% of identified people in that dwelling reported a 'stated' religious belief and who reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' AND

- less than 50% of identified people in that dwelling reported a labour force status of 'employed' and who reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' AND

- less than 85% of identified people in that dwelling reported being 65 years of age or over and who reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' AND

- extra dwelling information did not identify the dwellings as a backpacker hostel or ski lodge. (new for 2016)
Add people who, on balance, were more likely to be homeless in other non-private dwellings who are not in what are presumed to be:

- correctional institutions for children,

- boarding schools, residential colleagues and halls of residence,

- convents, monasteries and other religious institutions,

- hotels, motels and staff quarters because the majority of their adult residents are employed,

- retirement villages and nursing homes, and

- backpacker hostels or ski lodges.
13PlusAll persons enumerated in a private dwelling which was classified as a group household, where the dwelling had at least four bedrooms or the number of bedrooms was 'Not stated' and the dwelling had at least five 'usual residents' where, for people reporting being at home, less than 60% of those people reported a weekly income of $650 or more and less than 60% reported a labour force status of 'employed' and less than 60% reported either attending any type of educational institution (above 'primary' level) or a labour force status of 'Employed, worked full-time' and less than 60% reported a need for assistance of 'Has a need for assistance with core activities'(a)(b)(c)Identify private dwellings identified in the Census as group households
14MinusPersons in step 13 in a dwelling with a landlord type of 'Real estate agent', 'State or territory housing authority', 'Person not in the same household-parent/other relative', or 'Employer-Government (includes Defence Housing Authority)'Remove 'group houses' identified in step 13 above which have a landlord type which indicates they are rented privately, rented from a state/territory housing authority or employer sponsored housing (e.g. staff quarters), as on balance, they were not likely to be boarding houses
15MinusPersons in step 13 in a dwelling with a tenure type of 'Fully owned', 'Owned with a mortgage', or 'Being purchased under a rent/buy scheme'Remove 'group houses' identified in step 13 above which have a tenure type which indicates they are on balance, most likely to be privately owned multi family households
16MinusPersons in step 13 in a dwelling located in a 'Caravan/residential park or camping ground', 'Marina', 'Manufactured home estate', or 'Retirement village (self-contained)'Remove dwellings in locations such as retirement villages which are on balance were unlikely to be the site of a boarding house
17MinusPersons in step 13 in a dwelling that was a 'Caravan, cabin, houseboat'Remove small dwellings such as caravans which, on balance were unlikely to be boarding houses
18MinusPersons in step 13 where at least 60% of the people who reported being 'At home' in that dwelling reported either a student status of 'Full-time student', 'Part-time student', or a labour force status of 'Employed, worked full-time'(b)Remove dwellings that, on balance, were most likely to be student halls of residence, student households or group houses with the majority of occupants employed full time and unlikely to house homeless people
19MinusPersons in step 13 where there are less than three persons enumerated in the dwellingRemove all dwellings where there is not enough information about all the usual residents to conclude that the dwelling is likely to be a boarding house 
20MinusPersons in step 13 where every person in that dwelling reported a voluntary work status of 'Volunteer'(c) Remove groups of people in households, who on balance, were most likely to be housed together and who volunteer their time (for example church groups who house people who work in the community sector assisting those with disabilities and volunteer their expertise)
21MinusPersons in step 13 where at least 90% of people in that dwelling reported a 'stated' religious beliefRemove those households who on balance were most likely to be in religious institutions, such as convents
22MinusPersons in step 13 where every person in that dwelling reported either a usual address five years ago of 'Overseas in 2011' or 'Not stated', or was an 'Overseas visitor 2016' and at least one person in that dwelling reported either a usual address five years ago of 'Overseas in 2011' or was an 'Overseas visitor 2016'Remove overseas visitors
23MinusPersons in step 13 where every person in that dwelling didn't state their weekly income, labour force status, type of educational institution, need for assistance, and the number of bedrooms in the dwellingRemove dwellings where there is not enough information about the occupants to conclude that the dwelling is likely to be a boarding house
a. In 2006 and 2011 the income cut off was $600/week.
b. The variables 'number of people employed', 'student status (full or part time)' does not include visitors who reported a usual address elsewhere. For example a person who is visiting the dwelling and who is employed full-time doesn't impact on the identification of other people in the dwelling as being homeless
c. Steps 13 and 20 could not be applied in 2001 as information about need for assistance and voluntary work was not collected.
 

Additional steps estimating homelessness 2011 and beyond

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
24PlusAll persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'boarding house, private hotel' or 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' or 'staff quarters' or 'hostels for the homeless, night shelter, refuge' where the person reported a residential status of 'Guest, patient, inmate, other resident' or 'Not stated' and reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' on Census night and the dwelling was identified through the boarding house list strategyIncluding people in non-private dwellings who were identified through the boarding house list strategy
25MinusAll persons who were considered homeless in steps 1-23 who were also in non-private dwellingsTo remove overlap with persons already considered homeless in the boarding house category
26EqualsAdditional persons identified through the boarding house list strategy who were enumerated in dwellings identified as non-private dwellings and classified as 'boarding house, private hotel' or 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' or 'staff quarters' or 'hostels for the homeless, night shelter, refuge' where the person reported a residential status of 'Guest, patient, inmate, other resident' or 'Not stated' and reported being 'At home' or having 'no usual address' on Census night 
27MinusPersons in step 26 enumerated in dwellings in ACT, Tas and WALists identifying boarding houses were received from NSW, Vic, Qld, SA and NT.
28MinusPersons in step 26 in dwellings where only one person was enumerated on Census nightDwellings housing only one person are unlikely to be boarding houses
29PlusAll persons enumerated in a private dwelling which was a separate house or a semi-detached, row or terrace house, or townhouse etc., who were 'At home' or reported having 'no usual address' which were identified through the boarding house list strategy.Counting people in private dwellings who were identified through the boarding house list strategy
30MinusAll persons who were already classified as homeless and in boarding houses in steps 1-23.To remove overlap with persons already considered homeless in the boarding house category
31EqualsAdditional persons identified through the boarding house list strategy who were enumerated in a private dwelling which was a separate house or a semi-detached, row or terrace house, or townhouse etc., who were 'At home' or reported having 'no usual address' 
32MinusPersons in dwellings in step 31 which housed one and multiple family households and lone person households.Remove dwellings which house families because the dwellings are unlikely to be boarding houses
33MinusPersons in step 31 in dwellings with tenure type of fully owned, owned with a mortgage, being purchased under a rent buy scheme, or, being occupied rent free or under a life tenure schemeDwellings which are owned, being purchased under a rent buy scheme or occupied under a life tenure scheme are unlikely to be boarding houses
34MinusPersons in step 31 in dwellings with landlord type of employer (including government employer - (includes defence housing authority)) or 'State and territory housing authority' or 'Housing co-operative/community/church group'Dwellings provided by employers or administered by state and territory housing authorities are unlikely to be boarding houses
35MinusPersons in dwellings in step 31 where more than 60% of persons who reported being 'at home' reported the same address on Census night as one year ago and five years agoDwellings where the majority of persons are housed in the same dwelling for 5 years are unlikely to be boarding houses
36MinusPersons in dwellings in step 31 with less than 5 usual residentsRemove dwellings where there were less than 5 usual residents as they are unlikely to be boarding houses
37MinusPersons in step 31 in dwellings where only one person was enumerated on Census nightDwellings housing one person are unlikely to be boarding houses
38MinusAll imputed records(d) 
d. Imputed records where no form was received for the private dwelling are only explicitly excluded from the data obtained in 2011 through the boarding house list strategy.  Imputed records are not flagged for non-private dwellings.  For the other private dwelling components of this methodology imputed records do not need to be explicitly removed because the rules to reclassify private dwellings as boarding houses exclude any not stated responses to the variables used.  Imputed records have not stated to the variables used therefore they are excluded.
 

Additional steps estimating homelessness 2016

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
39PlusAll persons enumerated in a private dwelling which was a flat unit or apartment who were 'At home' or reported having 'no usual address' which were identified through the boarding house list strategy and confirmed as operating as a boarding house.Including people in dwellings operating as boarding houses but enumerated as apartments who were identified through the boarding house list strategy
40(e)MinusAll persons who were already considered homeless in homeless operational groups 'Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out', 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' and 'Persons staying temporarily with other households'(e)These people are already counted as homeless in the previous homeless operational groups, this step removes double counting
 EqualsThose who are likely to be homeless 
e. Step 40, removing overlap between this and other operational groups, was also applied in 2006 and 2011.  In 2001 the step was not applied between this and the homeless operational group ‘persons in supported accommodation for the homeless’ because Census data was not used for supported accommodation in 2001 and no overlap can be determined.
 

Persons in other temporary lodging

The homeless operational group 'Persons in other temporary lodging includes people who reported having 'no usual address' on Census night who were enumerated in non-private dwellings which were classified by the Address Register or Census field officers as non-private dwellings and also classified by the building owner / manager as ‘hotel, motel, bed and breakfast’. People staying in other temporary lodgings who have no usual address lack the ABS homelessness definition element of 'security of tenure of the dwelling'. The rules then consider the income and employment status of these people to determine whether they could be considered to be homeless based on a lack of accommodation alternatives.

For the first time in 2016, the ABS asked people who were in crisis accommodation to write 'none - crisis' instead of just 'none' as their place of usual residence. This message was part of the homelessness enumeration strategy and was passed on through homelessness service providers. Persons who reported 'none - crisis' as their place of usual residence and were enumerated in a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast' were estimated to be in other temporary lodging.

Rules for estimating persons in other temporary lodging

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify the persons who were most likely to be homeless on Census night and staying in other temporary lodgings. The rules start with the persons enumerated in the non-private dwelling category of 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' who reported no usual address and is refined to remove people who were, on balance, unlikely to be homeless on Census night.

Persons in other temporary lodging

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 Persons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast', who were not previously identified as being homeless, who reported having 'no usual address' on Census night and reported a weekly income of less than $500 per week and reported a labour force status of 'Unemployed' or 'Not in the labour force'(a)Persons in dwellings which were classified as 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' who, on balance, were most likely to be homeless
2MinusAll persons who reported a student status of 'Full-time student'Students who, on balance, were unlikely to be homeless
3MinusAll persons who reported a residential status of 'Owner, proprietor, staff, and family'Persons who were owners / managers staff or family
4MinusAll persons who were overseas visitorsRemove overseas visitors
a. In 2011 and 2006 the weekly income cut off was $400/week, and in 2001 the weekly income cut off was $300/week.
 

Additional steps estimating homelessness 2016 and beyond

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
5PlusPersons enumerated in dwellings identified by the Census Area supervisors and Field Officers as non-private dwellings and classified as 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast', who were not previously identified as being homeless, and who stated 'none-crisi' as their place of usual residence.Persons have identified as being in crisis accommodation through the homeless enumeration strategy and therefore are likely to be homeless.
6MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational group 'Persons living in boarding houses 'These people are already counted as homeless in the previous homeless operational groups, this step removes double counting

Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings

People in severely crowded dwellings are considered to lack the 'control of, and access to social relations' element of the ABS definition of homelessness. Lack of accommodation alternatives is assumed for people living as usual residents in a severely crowded dwelling. The judgement is that people who had accommodation alternatives would not remain in such severely crowded circumstances.

The homeless operational group 'Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings' is operationalised as those usual residents of a private dwelling that, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS), requires four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the usual residents.

The concept of crowding is based upon a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as the number of usual residents, their relationship to one another, their age and their sex.

There is no single standard or measure for housing utilisation, however the CNOS is widely used internationally and the ABS uses it for its measures of crowding for other purposes. It is a suitable standard for use with Census data because all of the required variables for its calculation are available from the Census, although family coding limits the suitability of it in large complex family households, and where persons may be temporarily absent on Census night.

The CNOS is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:

  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom;
  • children less than 5 years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • single household members 18 and over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples; and
  • a lone person household may reasonably occupy a bed sitter.
     

Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded.

There may be some underestimation associated with the application of the CNOS to Census data. It is not possible to create a CNOS estimate of the number of extra bedrooms needed for households where any key piece of information is missing. This includes the number of bedrooms or persons per dwelling, age of the persons, the relationship in household, in some cases, where at least one person (who is not the spouse of person 1) is temporarily absent on Census night. In addition, there may be cases where usual residents are not recorded on the Census form due to fear by the residents that they may be found to have more residents living in the dwelling than are allowed by their lease agreement. A final source of underestimation is if a person states that the dwelling is not their place of usual residence, they will be treated as a visitor and not included in the CNOS calculation, even if they actually are staying in the dwelling for an extended period.

Treating overcrowding as homelessness at this severe level of lacking four or more extra bedrooms is designed to prevent the misclassification of people as homeless who may choose to live together under some crowding to save money, to be close to family, or for other reasons. In addition, it also takes account of the limitation of the Census household form which only seeks relationship information within the household in relation to 'person 1', as well as child relationships to 'person 2'. This limitation of Census family coding results in misclassification of family relationships, particularly for large households with complex family relationships or households which contain multiple families, or where persons are temporarily absent. Households that look like crowded group households in the Census may actually include a number of couples. Under the CNOS a single adult requires their own bedroom but a couple can share a bedroom, and the masking of relationships can inflate the crowding measure.

The boundary of four or more extra bedrooms required in the Census data aligns with the concept of extreme or severe crowding, and aligns reasonably well with results from ABS surveys, and avoids overestimation from Census data at lower thresholds due to family coding, persons temporarily absent and potential errors in the numbers of bedrooms being reported.

Other Census variables are not applied to imply accommodation alternatives in severely crowded dwellings. While some of the residents may own the dwelling in which they live in severely crowded conditions, the presence of other people that contribute to crowding demonstrates loss of the power to exercise control and choice in this living situation.

For the first time in 2016. the housing utilisation variable HOSD is available in standard Census outputs, although numbers will vary from the homelessness estimates publication for persons who have already previously been classified in other homelessness groups. In addition, in a small number of Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, supplementary information was available to determine number of bedrooms where this was 'not stated' in the Census data. This has been included and those dwellings allocated a CNOS value where possible.

Rules for estimating persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings

The following table presents the rules that are applied to classify the persons who were, on balance, most likely to be homeless on Census night and live in severely crowded dwellings. The rule starts with the persons enumerated in private dwellings where the dwelling would require four or more extra bedrooms under the CNOS and then refines the group by removing people who have already been considered as homeless in the other homeless groups.

Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in a private dwelling who were usual residents in dwellings which needed 4 or more extra bedrooms under the Canadian National Occupancy Standard(a) 
2MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational groups 'Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out', 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless', 'Persons staying temporarily with other households', 'Persons living in boarding houses'(b)These people are already counted as homeless in the previous homeless operational groups, this step removes double counting
 EqualsThose who are likely to be homeless 
a. For more information see the ‘Glossary’.
b. In 2001 no overlap can be determined between this and the homeless operational group ‘Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless’ because Census data was not use for supported accommodation in 2001.
 

Other marginal housing groups

The ABS presents, alongside the homeless estimates from the Census, estimates of the number of people in selected marginal housing circumstances. These are limited to categories that can be obtained from the Census. Other marginal housing, such as housing with major structural problems or where residents are in constant threat of violence, cannot be obtained from the Census and are therefore not included.

These marginal housing groups not only provide an indication of the numbers of people living in marginal housing close to the boundary of homelessness, but can also provide a possible indication of people who may be at risk of homelessness.

Three marginal housing groups are classified from the Census:

  • persons living in other crowded dwellings - those who were not living in 'severely' crowded dwellings;
  • persons in other improvised dwellings - those who were living in improvised dwellings but were not considered homeless under the rules for the group 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out'; and
  • persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks.
     

Each of these groups is discussed below.

Persons living in other crowded dwellings

Persons living in other crowded dwellings are those usual residents living in dwellings reported in the Census where the dwelling requires three extra bedrooms to accommodate them according to the CNOS (for more details see the section above 'Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings'). Under the operationalisation of the ABS definition they are not classified as homeless but are considered to be in marginal housing and may be at risk of homelessness.

Rules for estimating persons living in other crowded dwellings

The following table outlines the rules used to estimate the number of persons living in other crowded dwellings and ensures that no person who has already been counted as homeless is also counted in this marginal housing category.

Persons living in other crowded dwellings

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in a private dwelling who were usual residents in dwellings which needed 3 extra bedrooms under the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS)(a) 
2MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational groups 'Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out', 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless', 'Persons staying temporarily with other households', 'Persons living in boarding houses' and 'Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings'(b)These people are already counted as homeless
 EqualsThose who are likely to be marginally housed 
a. For more information see the ‘Glossary’.
b. In 2001 no overlap can be determined between this and the homeless operational group ‘persons in supported accommodation for the homeless’ because Census data was not use for supported accommodation in 2001.
 

Persons in other improvised dwellings

Persons in other improvised dwellings are those people who were enumerated on Census night in the dwelling category of an 'improvised home, tent, sleepers-out' who reported either being 'at home' on Census night or having no usual address, and are not considered, on balance, to be homeless (see above on 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out'). Under the ABS definition they are not classified as homeless because they have accommodation alternatives, in many living situations, the dwelling will be adequate. They are, however, included in marginal housing and may be at risk of homelessness.

Rules for estimating persons in other improvised dwellings

The following table outlines the rules used to estimate the number of persons living in other improvised dwellings and ensures that no person who has already been counted as homeless or in other crowded dwellings is also counted in this marginal housing category.

Persons in other improvised dwellings

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in an improvised home, tent, sleepers-out who reported being 'at home' or having 'no usual address' 
2MinusPersons already considered to be homeless in the homeless operational group 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out'These people are classified as homeless
3MinusAll imputed records(b)There is little evidence that these people even exist or that they were not in the dwellings to which they were imputed (which are occupied on a semi-permanent basis) and the occupants were instead either enumerated in their principal residence or imputed at that residence
4MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational groups 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless', 'Persons living in boarding houses' and 'Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings'; and the marginally housed group 'Persons living in other crowded dwellings'(a)These people are already classified
 EqualsThose who are likely to be marginally housed 
a. In 2001 no overlap can be determined between this and the homeless operational group 'persons in supported accommodation for the homeless' because Census data was not use for supported accommodation in 2001.
b. Imputed records where no form was received for the private dwelling.
 

Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks

Persons marginally housed in caravan parks are those considered to be in marginal housing and at risk of homelessness. Prior to the 2016 Census, Caravan data were grouped together with cabin and houseboat. For the 2016 Census this is available separately through an individual category, however for the purposes of this operational group the ABS has included both 'Caravan' and 'Cabin or Houseboat' categories. In both cases they must be located in a caravan park. Some people they have chosen to reside in a caravan park due to work, or due to convenience, cost or location and could select other accommodation alternatives, and rules are incorporated to exclude these people.

Rules for estimating persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks

The following table outlines the rules used to estimate the number of persons marginally housed in caravan parks and ensures that no person has already been counted as homeless or in other crowded dwellings is also counted in this marginal housing category.

Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks

StepMinus/PlusSteps taken to create homeless estimatesReason
1 All persons enumerated in a caravan, cabin or houseboat in a caravan/residential park or camping ground who reported being 'at home' on Census night. 
2MinusAll persons in dwellings with a tenure type of owned outright, owned with a mortgage, being purchased under a rent/buy scheme or occupied under a life tenure scheme 
3MinusAll persons in a dwelling where at least one usual resident reported working full-time(a)People who it could be reasonably assumed have accommodation alternatives
4MinusAll imputed records(b)There is little evidence that these people even exist or that they were not in the dwellings to which they were imputed (which are occupied on a semi-permanent basis) and the occupants were instead either enumerated in their principal residence or imputed at that residence
5MinusAll persons in a dwelling with a tenure type of being rented with reported rental payments of at least $450/week(c)Those people for whom the rental payments indicate they could, on balance, rent elsewhere (i.e. they have accommodation alternatives)
6MinusAll persons in a dwelling with a landlord type of employer, includes government employer (includes Defence Housing Authority)Persons for whom their accommodation is, on balance most likely to be related to their employment
7MinusAll persons in dwellings with 3 or more bedroomsPeople who are, on balance, most likely to be living in cabins
8MinusAll persons in dwellings where the combined income was at least $2000 a week(a)(c)People for whom their combined income indicates they could, on balance reside elsewhere (i.e. they have accommodation alternatives)
9MinusAny person who was already considered homeless in homeless operational groups 'Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless', 'Persons staying temporarily with other households' and 'Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings'; and the marginally housed group 'Persons living in other crowded dwellings'(d)These people are classified as homeless
 EqualsThose who are likely to be marginally housed in caravan parks 
a. The variables 'number of people employed' and 'combined income' do not include visitors who reported a usual address elsewhere. Therefore a person who is visiting the dwelling and who is employed full-time or has an income doesn't impact on the identification of other people in the dwelling as being marginally housed.
b. Imputed records where no form was received for the private dwelling.
c. In both 2011 and 2006 the combined income cut off was $2,000/week and the rental payment cut off was $300/week. In 2001 the combined income cut off was $1,594/week and the rental payment cut off was $265/week.
d. In 2001 no overlap can be determined between this and the homeless operational group ‘persons in supported accommodation for the homeless’ because Census data was not use for supported accommodation in 2001.
 

Appendix 3 - 2016 Census procedures

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Introduction

The Census of Population and Housing aims to count everyone in Australia on Census night. This requires a method of enumeration that is efficient and effective, while ensuring the information collected is of the highest quality. A "digital first" approach was adopted for 2016 Census, where key changes included the use of the Address Register and the move towards a predominantly mail-out census enumeration model. The 2011 Census conversely relied extensively on a large workforce in the field who provided updates on the characteristic of a dwelling, and delivered and collected forms.

As in previous Censuses, in 2016 there were a range of approaches used for collecting information from specific population groups. These approaches were designed in consultation and collaboration with relevant communities and/or service providers to ensure the coverage of all people in Australia (including these specific populations) was as complete as possible. The enumeration strategies relevant to the homelessness estimation are the Homelessness Enumeration Strategy and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy.

Census "digital first" approach

In the 2011 Census, households who preferred not to return a paper form were given the option to report online, in which about 34% of private dwellings responded in this manner. For more information about the method for collecting 2011 Census data, please refer to How Australia Takes a Census, 2011 (cat. no. 2903.0).

For 2016 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) adopted a 'digital first' approach anticipating an increased preference for online reporting. In fact, about 59% of private dwellings responded online. This new method addressed the difficulties in recruiting Census field staff as well as investing in the advantages and efficiencies of new technologies. The three main changes from that used in earlier Censuses were:

  • the development of a national Address Register to support mailing out of materials to households across Australia. The Address Register was formed using the Geocoded National Address File (GNAF) as its base and then built on using information gained through visiting every address through a large canvassing exercise, in addition to analysing other available data. This register formed the basis of addresses to which information was mailed out;
  • the postal delivery of an instruction letter detailing how to complete the Census online or how to request a paper form. Paper forms were then despatched and mailed back via Australia Post so that Census Field Officers only visited a minority of homes, where the use of the mail service was not considered viable or where a Census form had not been returned; and
  • the use of a smarter online form. Many enhancements were made to the online form to improve quality and make it easier for respondents to complete.
     

This method has sometimes been referred to as a ‘mail-out’ model, and it significantly reduced the number of Census Field Officers and the hours of Census Field Officer effort required to undertake Census enumeration. Approximately 80% of dwellings across Australia were, in the first instance, mailed a Census instruction letter which included a unique login number for the online form. Some adaptations to the standard mail-out model were deployed to encourage timely response from people in areas where the standard approach may not have been as effective.

In the remaining areas of Australia, a more traditional delivery approach (the 'drop off' approach) was used with Census Field Officers delivering materials to each dwelling, enabling householders to either complete their form online or mail back a paper form. In these areas, the Census Field Officers attempted to make contact with householders when dropping off the form, only making further visits to dwellings that have not participated.

The collection methodology is described in more detail in Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016. (cat. no. 2008.0).

Homeless enumeration strategy

The Homelessness Enumeration Strategy was designed to complement the mainstream Census and other special strategies to maximise the overall enumeration of the homeless population. It targets the enumeration of 'rough sleepers', 'couch surfers' and persons in supported accommodation for the homeless.

Rough sleepers

The approach for counting 'rough sleepers' was to focus on 'hot spots', using information received from service providers. ABS then worked closely with service and accommodation providers in awareness raising and local engagement in those areas, and recruited specialist field staff to help count people sleeping rough.

As in previous censuses, a collection period of one week spanning Census night was used to cover the various 'hot spot' locations. The use of Special Census Collectors, and particularly staff recruited from homelessness services, was designed to not only use their expertise to locate people sleeping rough, but also to ensure that the information collected relates only to those people sleeping rough on Census night (with no likelihood that they were enumerated elsewhere) and that they are not enumerated more than once in the 'hot spot' locations. The absence of mainstream Census collectors in the mail-out areas close to Census night diminished the ability of the ABS to identify the presence of homeless individuals/groups in unexpected areas, so increased engagement with service providers was essential to mitigate this change.

The Special Short Form was again generally used to enumerate 'rough sleepers'. However, to account for the different context of people sleeping rough in Northern Australia (including the Northern Territory and northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland) the mainstream household form was also used which captures more comprehensive information for groups of people sleeping rough.

Couch surfers

The identification of 'couch surfers' on mainstream forms was again given greater emphasis where the ABS ran targeted promotion campaign, through homelessness agencies, to encourage people who were experiencing homelessness to write 'None' in response to the usual address question on the Census form to indicate clearly that they had no usual address.

Other temporary lodgings

A new initiative was introduce for the 2016 Census, where persons being brokered to stay temporarily at a hotel, motel, or other accommodation were asked to write 'None - crisis' in response to the usual address question. Brokerage is typically arranged when accommodation is full at a homelessness service. The aim of this initiative is to further distinguish occupants staying in these other temporary lodgings who are there due to the person experiencing homelessness.

Supported accommodation for the homeless

As in previous Censuses, the ABS again used a 'list' strategy to support ABS classification of dwellings that were supported accommodation for the homeless. ABS obtained lists of addresses of supported accommodation from government bodies, individual Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. In 2016 ABS also sought information about whether the type of supported accommodation was short-term, long-term or mixed.

The Green Sticker Strategy used in 2011 was discontinued in 2016. The Green Sticker Strategy was used to enumerate homeless persons in supported accommodation where respondents were instructed to attach a Green Sticker to their completed Census form, to enable this return to be associated with the homeless strategy. The change of method in 2016 meant there was an increased reliance on the collection of supported accommodation lists to enable the correct classification of sensitive supported accommodation establishments and their occupants

Boarding houses

New lists of boarding houses (both registered and illegal boarding house operations) were sought from jurisdictions and homelessness service providers in 2016 and were received from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Northern Territory. Western Australia does not have a state-based register yet information is available at the local council level. Tasmania has no requirement to maintain a register while legal boarding houses do not operate in the Australian Capital Territory.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy

Since 1976, measures have been adopted to maximise coverage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. These include specific Census awareness activities, greater use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, greater involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and better coordination of the related field operations.

The 2016 Census campaign’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy targeted people living in urban and regional areas, as well as those living in town camps and discrete communities. It used multiple channels of communication, specific messaging, mainstream and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media, and culturally-specific design, music and talent to reach this audience group. Engagement with community groups, intermediaries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, elders and Census supporters was also an important part of the communication strategy.

The 2016 Discrete Communities and Remote Areas Strategy incorporated improvements to enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. At a broad level, the improvements for the 2016 Census included:

  • earlier and ongoing engagement;
  • a reduction in the overall enumeration period for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
  • an increase in the number of field staff recruited; and
  • a greater level of support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people requiring assistance in completing their form (in both urban and remote areas).
     

In nominated discrete communities the procedures included interviewing each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander household using a tailored Interviewer Household Form (IHF) - and employing local people, where possible, to conduct the interview.

For the 2016 Census the ABS also incorporated improvements to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in urban communities to participate in the Census. As part of this strategy in pre-identified urban areas increased support and assistance was provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the option of collecting Census information through an interview.

Other changes

For the first time, people in Norfolk Island on Census Night were included in the Australian Census, following passage of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015.

The practice of collecting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status via observation was discontinued in the 2016 Census. For enumeration via observation, a response to this question was recorded only if the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status of the person was confirmed by a service provider to whom the person is known, otherwise the question was left blank and coded to ‘Not Stated’ in the Census dataset.

Targeting of overcrowded dwellings was dropped for 2016 due to being deemed ineffective in past Censuses. Ensuring a full response within a dwelling proved challenging, as it relied on the awareness and compliance of all residents. Some households may have intentionally omitted residents from the household form for fear or repercussions from landlords or housing authorities. Further to this, the paper household form could only accommodate six present persons (and households needed to request a second paper form to report more people), while the online Census can accommodate a maximum of ten.

Glossary

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

People who identified themselves as being of Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait Islander origin, or both.

Address register

The address register was developed as the central source of addresses used in collection information to support 2016 Census, as well as all household and business collections. The main input to the Address Register is the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF), supplemented by other available address data sources and field work by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Field Officers.

Age

Refers to a person’s age. The 2016 Census form asks respondents to provide the date of birth for each person on the form, or age in years if date of birth is not known. Age is calculated from date of birth when provided, otherwise stated age is used.

Australia

Australia is defined in the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0) and includes the states and territories and the other territories of Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island. It excludes the other Australian external territories (Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and the Coral Sea Territory). In 2011 and previous Censuses, Norfolk Island was not included in the definition of geographic Australia. Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands have been included since the 1996 Census.

Australian born

Australian born includes all people born in Australia and excludes people:

  • born at sea,
  • whose response was classified 'Inadequately described, or
  • whose response was classified 'Not elsewhere classified'.
     

Australian citizenship

Refers to people who state they have Australian Citizenship. 

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare. This agency manages and produces the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) Collection.

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is the geographical standard used by the ABS since July 2011 for the collection and dissemination of geographic statistics. It is a hierarchically structured classification conceptually based on Mesh Blocks and is split into two broad groups, ABS structures and the Non-ABS structures to satisfy different statistical purposes. The ASGS ABS Structures used in this publication are:

  • Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2)
  • Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3)
  • Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4)
  • State/Territory (STE)
  • Australia (AUS)
  • Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA) and
  • Remoteness Area (RA).
     

The ASGS Non-ABS Structure used in this publication is:

  • Local Government Area (LGA).
     

For more information refer to the ABS geography page https://www.abs.gov.au/geography and the publication Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).

Average

See Mean.

Birthplace

See Country of birth.

Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS)

The Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS) for housing appropriateness is sensitive to both household size and composition. CNOS assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:

  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom;
  • children less than 5 years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • children 5 years of age or older of opposite sex should have separate bedrooms;
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom;
  • single household members 18 years or over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples; and
  • a lone person household may reasonably occupy a bed sitter.


Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded. 

Caravans

Enumeration of people in caravans varies depending on their situation. Occupied caravans are usually treated as private dwellings with the exception of some caravans on residential allotments.

  • Caravans on Residential Allotments: An occupied caravan on a residential allotment is usually treated as an occupied private dwelling. The exception to this is where there are one or more other structures on the allotment and the occupants of the caravan are residents of the main dwelling. In this case the occupants are all classed as one household and the caravan is counted as an additional room of the main dwelling.
  • Caravans on Roadsides/Open Land: Since the 2006 Census, caravans on roadsides/open land are treated the same as caravans in caravan parks. They are treated as occupied private dwellings and the occupants of the caravans complete Household forms. Prior to the 2006 Census, occupied caravans at roadside parking areas or on open land were classified as 'sleepers-out' for the variable Dwelling Structure.


See also Dwelling Structure.

Census

The Australian Census of Population and Housing is an official count of population and dwellings, and collects details of age, sex, and other characteristics of that population. For more information see the Census page 
https://abs.gov.au/censusHow Australia Takes a Census, 2011 (cat. no. 2903.0) and the publication Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia (cat. no. 2008.0).

Census list strategy

ABS obtained lists of addresses of supported accommodation and boarding houses from government bodies, individual Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) providers and umbrella homelessness services organisations. 

In 2016 ABS also sought information about what type of supported accommodation was provided i.e. whether it was crisis or transitional housing etc. Some of the lists ABS received included this extra detail, some did not. 

Lists of boarding houses (both registered and illegal boarding house operations) were sought from jurisdictions and homelessness service providers in 2016 and were received from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Northern Territory. Western Australia does not have a state-based register yet information is available at the local council level. Tasmania has no requirement to maintain a register, while legal boarding houses do not operate in Australian Capital Territory. 

Census counts

The Census counts people where they were located on Census night and this count of the population is referred to as the place of enumeration count. A count of the population based on their place of usual residence is also available. While every effort is made to achieve a complete Census count, some underenumeration inevitably occurs for various reasons, for example, the inadvertent omission of very young children, treatment of some dwellings as unoccupied when in fact they are occupied, and failure to find all dwellings. Refusal by householders to complete the Census form is not a significant cause of underenumeration.

Child

This is a person of any age who is a natural, adopted, step, foster or nominal son or daughter of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household. A child is also any individual under 15, usually resident in the household, who forms a parent-child relationship with another member of the household. This includes otherwise related children less than 15 years of age and unrelated children less than 15 years of age. In order to be classified as a child, the person can have no identified partner or child of his/her own usually resident in the household. A separate family in the household is formed in this instance. If a person is aged under 15 and has a partner and/or a spouse these relationships are not recorded.

Child aged under 15 years

This is a person who has been classified as a child of another household member and who is aged under 15 years. A person who is classified as a child aged under 15 is considered to be a dependent child.

Core activity need for assistance

The Core Activity Need for Assistance variable has been developed to measure the number of people with a profound or severe disability. The variable was first included in the 2006 Census. For the Census, people with a profound or severe disability are defined as those people needing help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication, because of a disability, long-term health condition (lasting six months or more) or old age.

Counting unit

The basic counting unit for homelessness estimation is the person. This counting unit provides for the richness of their personal characteristics (including relationships with others) for analysis as well as analysis by their living situation.

Country of birth

The Census records a person's country of birth. The Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0) is used to classify responses for Country of Birth. This classification uses the current names of countries, so if a person uses a former name, the current name is coded. For example, Siam would be coded to Thailand.

Couple family

A couple family is identified by the existence of a couple relationship. A couple relationship is defined as two people usually residing in the same household who share a social, economic and emotional bond usually associated with marriage and who consider their relationship to be a marriage or marriage-like union. This relationship is identified by the presence of a registered marriage or de facto marriage. A couple family can be with or without children, and may or may not include other related individuals.

Data quality

Each stage of the Census is subject to stringent quality assurance procedures which result in data of high quality. However, in a Census there are recognised sources of error and some of these may survive in the data produced. Potential sources of error in the Census are: underenumeration, respondent error, processing error and introduced random error. Introduced random error is used to protect the confidentiality of individuals. The effect of such errors on overall Census results is generally insignificant and does not impair the usefulness of Census data.

Yet, as homelessness estimates are estimated from Census using analytical techniques, using both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may have responded to particular Census questions, there are limitations of the Census data where underestimation or overestimation may occur for some homeless groups.

See also Overestimation and Underestimation.

Discrete community and remote areas strategy

The ABS has implemented procedures tailored to the enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in discrete communities and remote areas since the 1976 Census. These targeted procedures are in place to improve coverage, accuracy and quality of the data. At a broad level, these procedures include:

  • earlier, detailed and ongoing engagement;
  • flexibility of the field operations and staff to ensure that for each area the appropriate enumeration methodology is used and documented;
  • procedures which enhance the collection of data and to allow for closer management of the field operation and the tracking of progress; and
  • a greater level of support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need assistance.


Prior to enumeration, Local Engagement Managers are employed in select areas, with an aim of undertaking local engagement and intelligence gathering, to work with the Regional Management Unit to lay the groundwork for a successful enumeration by working with local organisations to raise awareness, and to build networks that can assist in identifying applicants for the new positions. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and some remote areas, a tailored interview form is used. In these cases the staff employed to undertake the enumeration train and work with people from the community so that the people from the community can conduct the interviews. In other pre-defined areas, with high Indigenous populations, Census staff provide a greater level of support in completing Census forms by offering to conduct an interview if necessary.

See also Interviewer Household form

Domestic violence

Violence by any member of the person's household (e.g. partners, parents, siblings, children, housemates, and other household members).

Dwelling

A dwelling is a structure which is intended to have people live in it, and which is habitable on Census night. Some examples of dwellings are houses, motels, flats, caravans, prisons, tents, humpies and houseboats. Private dwellings are enumerated using online or paper household forms, which obtain family and relationship data as well as information on the dwelling itself such as rent or mortgage payments and ownership.

Non-private dwellings (hotels, hospitals etc.) are enumerated on personal forms. 

All occupied dwellings are counted in the Census. Unoccupied private dwellings are also counted. This includes unoccupied units in retirement villages (self-contained). Unoccupied residences of owners, managers or caretakers of caravan parks, marinas and manufactured home estates are also counted, but other unoccupied dwellings in such establishments are not counted. Non-private dwellings with zero occupancy on Census Night are not included in the homelessness estimates.

Dwelling location

Dwelling Location applies to private dwellings, and describes the location of dwellings other than 'typical' private dwellings. The majority of private dwellings will appear in the 'Other' category.

There has been a change in the way this information is collected. In 2016, it was recorded by ABS Address Canvassing Officers in the lead up to the Census as part of establishing the Address Register as a mail-out frame for designated areas. In areas enumerated using the traditional approach of delivering forms, the information was collected by ABS Field Officers during the Census collection period. Location of private dwelling data was also updated as required by ABS Field Officers during the 2016 Census enumeration period. 

Dwelling structure

This variable classifies the structure of private dwellings enumerated in the Census.

There has been a change in the way this information is collected. In 2016, it was recorded by ABS Address Canvassing Officers in the lead up to the Census as part of establishing the Address Register as a mail-out frame for designated areas. In areas enumerated using the traditional approach of delivering forms, the information was collected by ABS Field Officers during the Census collection period. Location of private dwelling data was also updated as required by ABS Field Officers during the 2016 Census enumeration period.

Prior to the 2016 Census, Caravans data were grouped together with cabin and houseboat. For the 2016 Census this will be available separately through an individual caravan category. Cabin and houseboat data remain together.

The broad categories are: 

Separate house: This is a house which is separated from other dwellings by a space of at least half a metre. A separate house may have a flat attached to it, such as a granny flat or converted garage (the flat is categorised under Flat or apartment - see below). The number of storeys of separate houses is not recorded. Also included in this category are occupied accommodation units in manufactured home estates which are identified as separate houses. 

Semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse, etc.: These dwellings have their own private grounds and no other dwelling above or below them. They are either attached in some structural way to one or more dwellings or are separated from neighbouring dwellings by less than half a metre. 

Flat or apartment: This category includes all dwellings in blocks of flats or apartments. These dwellings do not have their own private grounds and usually share a common entrance foyer or stairwell. This category also includes flats attached to houses such as granny flats, and houses converted into two or more flats.

Caravan: This category includes all occupied caravans, regardless of where they are located. Occupied campervans are also included. For further detailed information see Caravans in this glossary. 

Cabins and Houseboats: This category includes all occupied cabins and houseboats. Cabins are self-contained and not intended for long term residential use. This includes occupied cabins located in residential parks or set up as temporary accommodation. A Houseboat is an occupied mobile dwelling (intended for use on water). It is not typically intended for long term use (although it could be currently used on a permanent or semi-permanent basis). Occupied houseboats are treated as occupied private dwellings regardless of location. It also includes occupied small boats.

Improvised home, tent, sleepers-out: This category includes sheds, tents, humpies and other improvised dwellings, occupied on Census night. This category also includes people sleeping out, such as those sleeping on the streets, in abandoned buildings, under bridges or in cars. 

House or flat attached to a shop, office, etc.: A house or flat attached to a shop, office, factory or any other non-residential structure is included in this category. 

See also Caravans, Dwelling, Dwelling Location, Dwelling Type, Tenure Type, Type of Non-Private Dwelling.

Dwelling type

There has been a change in the way this information is collected. In 2016, it was recorded by ABS Address Canvassing Officers in the lead up to the Census as part of establishing the Address Register as a mail-out frame for designated areas. In areas enumerated using the traditional approach of delivering forms, the information was collected by ABS Field Officers during the Census collection period. Dwelling type was also updated as required by ABS Field Officers during the 2016 Census enumeration period.

Dwelling Type classifies all dwellings into the basic dwelling types. The categories are:

Occupied Private Dwelling: An occupied private dwelling is a private dwelling occupied by one or more people. A private dwelling is most often a house or flat. It can also be a caravan, houseboat, tent, or a house attached to an office, or rooms above a shop. Occupied dwellings in caravan/residential parks or camping grounds are treated as occupied private dwellings. Dwellings located in caravan/residential parks or camping grounds can be identified by using the variable Dwelling Location. 

Unoccupied Private Dwellings: These are structures built specifically for living purposes which are habitable, but unoccupied on Census night. Vacant houses, holiday homes, huts and cabins (other than seasonal workers' quarters) are counted as unoccupied private dwellings. Also included are newly completed dwellings not yet occupied, dwellings which are vacant because they are due for demolition or repair, and dwellings to let. Unoccupied private dwellings in caravan/residential parks, marinas and manufactured home estates are not counted in the Census. The exception to this is residences of owners, managers or caretakers of the establishment and, from the 2006 Census, unoccupied residences in retirement villages (self-contained). 

Non-Private Dwellings (NPD): NPDs are those dwellings, not included above, that provide a communal or transitory type of accommodation. They are classified according to their function for the variable Type of Non-Private Dwelling. NPDs include hotels, motels, guest houses, prisons, religious and charitable institutions, boarding schools, defence establishments, hospitals and other communal dwellings. People in NPDs are enumerated on personal forms and so information on their family structure is not available. In the case of accommodation for the retired or aged, where the one establishment contains both self-contained units and units that are not self-contained, then both household forms (self-contained) and personal forms (not self-contained) are used as appropriate. Unoccupied NPDs are not enumerated in the Census, with the exception of residences of owners, managers or caretakers within an NPD. 

Migratory: People enumerated on an overnight journey by plane, train or bus cannot be allocated a dwelling type. This category exists for processing purposes only. 

Off-Shore: This includes dwellings such as off-shore oil rigs, drilling platforms and the like. Prior to the 2006 Census, it also included people enumerated aboard ships in Australian waters.

Shipping: This dwelling type is for people enumerated aboard ships in Australian waters. For the 2001 and earlier Censuses, they were included in the 'Offshore' category.

See also Dwelling Location, Dwelling Structure, and Type of Non-Private Dwelling.

Education

See Level of Highest Educational Attainment.

Educational qualification

Every Census since 1911 has included a question in which respondents reported their highest level of educational achievement. In the 1966 Census, respondents were asked to provide details of the qualification title and the institution at which it was obtained. In all Censuses since 1966, people aged 15 years and over have been asked whether they had obtained a qualification and, if so, the qualification name and field of study. The 1971 Census also asked whether the person was currently studying for a qualification and, if so, its name. Prior to 2001, this information was restricted to post-school educational qualifications. From 2001, the information includes all qualifications (both school and post-school) and the level and field of the highest qualification.

Employed

See Labour Force Status.

Enumeration

See Place of enumeration, Place of Usual Residence.

Estimated Resident Population (ERP)

The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) is the official measure of the Australian population, and is based on the concept of usual residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. The ERP includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months and excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia for less then 12 months.

Family

A family is defined by the ABS as two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household.

Each separately identified couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship forms the basis of a family. Some households contain more than one family.

Non-related persons living in the same household are not counted as family members (unless under 15 years of age).

Visiting families are not included as part of the household, and the relationships of other visitors are not coded. A household containing only a visiting family (e.g. a family at a holiday home) is coded to a household type of visitors only. 

Where all persons present are aged under 15 years, or where information for each person has been imputed, the household is deemed not classifiable to a family. Of people listed as temporarily absent, only spouse(s) and family children are used in coding family composition.

Family violence

Violence against a person by any family member (e.g. sibling, resident and non-resident family members).

Full/part-time student status

The Census records the full/part-time status of students.

General Social Survey (GSS)

The General Social Survey aims to collect data for persons aged 15 years and over on a range of social dimensions from the same individual to enable analysis of the interrelationships in social circumstances and outcomes, including the exploration of multiple advantage and disadvantage experienced in Australia.

Grey nomads

Grey nomads are defined as people in dwellings where all people in the dwelling were aged 55 years and over, were not in the labour force, and were staying in caravans, cabins or houseboats on Census night, and reported having no usual address. The majority of these grey nomads were enumerated in holiday destinations.

Group household

The ABS defines a group household as a household consisting of two or more unrelated people where all persons are aged 15 years and over. There are no reported couple relationships, parent-child relationships or other blood relationships in these households.

An unrelated child (e.g. boarder) under the age of 15 who lives in a household with one or more usual residents, is coded as forming a parent-child relationship within that household. These households become family households, not group households.

Highest year of school completed

The Census records the highest level of primary or secondary school a person has completed. Highest year of school completed is classified to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED).

This classification has changed since the 2001 Census. In 2001 it included a category 'Still at school'. The 'Still at school' category is excluded from the 2011 and 2006 classification. This allows the level of highest educational attainment to be determined for people still at school.

Homeless enumeration strategy

Everyone in Australia at Census time needs to be counted in the Census, excluding foreign diplomats and their families, no matter where they may be sleeping on Census night. To achieve this, the ABS has developed a strategy to obtain the best possible enumeration of people, no matter where they sleep. Some aspects of this strategy include liaising with service providers and engaging specialised field staff to count people sleeping rough on a special interview based form, and providing the ability for people to respond to the usual residence question as 'none' if they have no usual residence.

Homelessness

The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as 'home'lessness, not rooflessness. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent 'home'. In accordance with this definition, when a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives they are considered homeless if their current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate; or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.
     

See for more information the Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (cat. no. 4922.0).

Homeless operational groups

ABS has developed six homeless operational groups for presenting estimates of people enumerated in the Census who were likely to have been homeless on Census night.

These groups are:

  • Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents, or sleeping out;
  • Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless;
  • Persons staying temporarily with other households;
  • Persons living in boarding houses;
  • Persons in other temporary lodgings; and
  • Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings.
     

See the 'Explanatory notes' section of this publication for information on other marginal housing groups.

Homelessness Statistics Reference Group (HSRG)

Advisory group to the ABS on the development, collection, compilation, production and dissemination of robust statistics for the use in analysing, understanding and reporting on homelessness in Australia. 

Hours worked

The Census records the number of hours worked in all jobs held during the week before Census night, by employed people aged 15 years and over. This excludes any time off but includes any overtime or extra time worked. Hours worked, when used in combination with Labour Force Status, provides information on full-time and part-time employment. For Census purposes, a person is considered to be working full-time if they worked 35 hours or more in all jobs during the week prior to Census night.

Houseboat

Occupied houseboats have been classified as occupied private dwellings since the 1986 Census, and therefore receive household forms. Unoccupied houseboats are not counted. 

Household

A household is defined as one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. Under this definition, all occupants of a dwelling form a household and complete one form. Therefore, for Census purposes, the total number of households is equal to the total number of occupied private dwellings as a Census form is completed for each household from which dwelling information for the household is obtained. 

Household composition

The Census records the type of household within a dwelling. Household Composition indicates whether a family is present or not and whether or not other unrelated household members are present.

A maximum of three families can be coded to a household. Lone person households can contain visitors. Visitor only households can contain overseas visitors.

Household form

The household form is the primary means for collecting Census data and is used in all private dwellings. A personal form records person characteristics in cases where a household form is not appropriate. If there are more than six people in a household on Census night, a personal form is completed for the seventh person and any subsequent persons.

Household income

Household is the sum of the individual incomes of each resident present in the household on Census night. If any resident aged 15 years and over is temporarily absent, or does not state their income, then a value for Total Household Income is not derived for that household. These households will be categorised as: 'Partial income stated' or 'All incomes not stated'.

  • 'Partial income stated' is used when some household members (aged 15 years and over) are temporarily absent or have not stated their income.
  • 'All incomes not stated' is used when no member of the household (aged 15 years and over) has stated their income.
     

In most cases, the income of visitors to a household is excluded. The exception to this is households that comprise only visitors. Household income is calculated for these households in order to collect data on household income in tourist areas.

The 2011 and 2006 Censuses collected individual income in ranges, so before these could be summed to a household level a specific dollar amount needed to be imputed for each person. Median incomes for each range, derived using data from the 2003–04 and 2007–08 Survey of Income and Housing, were used for the purpose of compiling household income measures. For more information see the Information Paper: Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2007–08 (cat. no. 6553.0) and the Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing: User Guide, 2003–04 (cat. no. 6503.0)

This method, which imputes personal income values within reported individual income ranges, was selected as the best practical approximation that would result in the majority of households being included in the same Census household income range that would have been derived had individuals reported their incomes in dollar amounts rather than in ranges. The approximations are expected to generally support analyses looking at various other characteristics of both persons and households in terms of broad household income ranges.

The imputation used in deriving household income is likely to understate some household incomes, specifically lower household incomes in general but particularly for single income households. Single income households with lower income levels are most affected by the imputation methodology understating their incomes.

A more general issue with individual income reporting in the Census is that studies have shown individuals tend to understate their incomes compared with the amounts that would be reported in surveys designed specifically to measure income.

For the above reasons, care should be exercised in any use of Census household income information, which relies on the imputed values. Similar care should be taken when using 2001 Census data.

See Explanatory notes for more information.

Household type

See Household Composition.

Housing suitability

See Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS).

Improvised dwelling

See Dwelling; Dwelling Structure.

Imputation

Imputation is a statistical process for predicting values where no response was provided to a question and a response could not be derived. 

Where no Census form is returned, the number of males and females in 'non-contact' private dwellings may be imputed. In addition, the following key demographic variables may also be imputed if they are 'Not stated':

  • Age
  • Place of Usual Residence
  • Registered Marital Status
  • Sex
     

The imputation method used since the 2006 Census is known as 'hotdecking'. In general this method involves locating a donor record and copying the relevant responses to the record requiring imputation. The donor record will have similar characteristics and must also have the required variable(s) stated. In addition the donor record will be located geographically as close as possible to the location of the record to be imputed. The match must occur within the same Capital City or Balance of State

The methodology for imputation is tailored depending on whether no Census form or a partially completed form was returned.

See Explanatory notes for more information

Income

Each Census respondent aged 15 years and over is asked to indicate the range within which their gross income from all sources lies (rather than their exact income).

Total income, also referred to as gross income, is the sum of income received from all sources before any deductions such as income tax, the Medicare Levy or salary sacrificed amounts are taken out. It includes wages, salaries, overtime, business or farm income (less operating expenses), rents received, dividends, interest, superannuation, maintenance (child support), workers' compensation, and government pensions and allowances (including all payments for family assistance, labour market assistance, youth and student support, and support for the aged, carers and people with a disability).

As income from most sources is reported before deduction of expenses incurred in the earning of the income, these incomes are always a positive figure. However, income from some sources may be negative. Income from own unincorporated enterprise and income from rental property are collected net of expenses incurred in the raising of income, so may be negative. This may result in a negative total income.

While there is a tendency for incomes to be slightly understated in the Census, the distribution is largely consistent with that obtained from the ABS income surveys. Therefore, Census income data is useful as an indicator of relative advantage or disadvantage and economic well being.

Testing of the topic has shown that there is a general tendency for those not in the labour force to leave this question unanswered, as they consider income only applies to payments received as a result of employment. Similarly, pensioners and self funded retirees sometimes state that they receive no income as they do not regard their pension as income.

Indigenous status

The question about Indigenous origins on the Census form asks whether each person is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Torres Strait Islanders are the descendants of the Indigenous people of the Torres Strait, between the tip of Cape York and Papua New Guinea.

Individual income

Individual incomes are collected as ranges in the Census. To enable these range values to be summed, information from the Survey of Income and Housing, which collects income as individual values, is used to estimate the median income within each bracket collected by the Census. The relevant median value for each family/household member is then summed to produce family or household income.

See also Income, Household income

Industry of employment

Industry of employment describes the industries in which employed people aged 15 years and over work. The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) was used in classifying the responses given to the industry questions for the 2006 Census.

Interviewer household form

The Interviewer Household Form is used in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (and areas where language differences or other factors make use of the standard self-enumeration forms impractical). The Interviewer Household Form is an interview based Census form which is used to record the details of up to 12 persons in a household, and some dwelling data. If there are more than 12 persons in a dwelling additional Interviewer Household Forms are used. 

See also Discrete Community and Remote Areas Strategy.

Introduced random error

Under the Census and Statistics Act, 1905 it is an offence to release any information collected under the Act that is likely to enable identification of any particular individual or organisation. Introduced random error is used to ensure that no data are released which could risk the identification of individuals in the statistics. 

Many classifications used in ABS statistics have an uneven distribution of data throughout their categories. For example, the number of people who are Anglican or born in Italy is quite large (3,679,907 and 185,403 respectively in 2011), while the number of people who are Buddhist or born in Chile (528,981 and 24,937 respectively in 2011), is relatively small. When religion is cross-classified with country of birth, the number in the table cell who are Anglican and who were born in Italy could be small, and the number of Buddhists born in Chile even smaller. These small numbers increase the risk of identifying individuals in the statistics. 

Even when variables are more evenly distributed in the classifications, the problem still occurs. The more detailed the classifications, and the more of them that are applied in constructing a table, the greater the incidence of very small cells. 

Care is taken in the specification of tables to minimise the risk of identifying individuals. In addition, a technique has been developed to randomly adjust cell values. Random adjustment of the data is considered to be the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable Census data. When the technique is applied, all cells are slightly adjusted to prevent any identifiable data being exposed. These adjustments result in small introduced random errors. However, the information value of the table as a whole is not impaired. The technique allows very large tables, for which there is a strong client demand, to be produced even though they contain numbers of very small cells. 

The counts and totals in summary tables are subjected to small adjustments. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals. The counts are adjusted independently in a controlled manner, so the same information is adjusted by the same amount. However, tables at higher geographic levels may not be equal to the sum of the tables for the component geographic units.

It is not possible to determine which individual figures have been affected by random error adjustments, but the small variance which may be associated with derived totals can, for the most part, be ignored. 

No reliance should be placed on small cells as they are impacted by random adjustment, respondent and processing errors. 

Many different classifications are used in Census tables and the tables are produced for a variety of geographical areas. The effect of the introduced random error is minimised if the statistic required is found direct from a tabulation rather than from aggregating more finely classified data. Similarly, rather than aggregating data from small areas to obtain statistics about a larger standard geographic area, published data for the larger area should be used wherever possible. 

When calculating proportions, percentages or ratios from cross-classified or small area tables, the random error introduced can be ignored except when very small cells are involved, in which case the impact on percentages and ratios can be significant.

Labour force

For Census purposes, the labour force includes people aged 15 years and over who:

  • work for payment or profit, or as an unpaid helper in a family business, during the week prior to Census night;
  • have a job from which they are on leave or otherwise temporarily absent;
  • are on strike or stood down temporarily; or
  • do not have a job but are actively looking for work and available to start work.
     

The following people are classified as being in the labour force:

  • employed people (i.e. the first three groups above); and
  • unemployed people (i.e. the last group above).
     

People aged 15 years and over who are neither employed nor unemployed are classified as not in the labour force. This includes people who are retired, pensioners and people engaged solely in home duties (unpaid).

Labour force status

In the Census the Labour Force Status variable is derived for all people aged 15 years and over. It classifies people as employed working full-time, part-time or away from work, unemployed looking for full-time work, looking for part-time work, or not in the labour force. The category 'Employed, away from work' also includes persons who stated they worked but who did not state the number of hours worked.

Labour Force Status is derived using responses to questions on:

  • full/part-time job;
  • job last week;
  • hours worked;
  • looking for work; and
  • availability to start work.
     

The derivation methodology takes into account answers to these questions to derive the most appropriate Labour Force Status. 

Landlord type

This variable provides information on the type of landlord for rented dwellings. It applies to all households who are renting the dwelling (including caravans, etc. in caravan parks) in which they are enumerated on Census night.

Level of highest educational attainment

Records the highest educational achievement a person aged 15 years and over has attained. It lists qualifications and other educational attainments regardless of the particular field of study or the type of institution in which the study was undertaken.

Local Government Areas (LGA)

The ASGS Local Government Areas are an ABS approximation of gazetted local government boundaries as defined by each State and Territory Local Government Department. Local Government Areas cover incorporated areas of Australia. Incorporated areas are legally designated parts of a State or Territory over which incorporated local governing bodies have responsibility. The major areas of Australia not administered by incorporated bodies are the northern parts of South Australia, and all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories. These regions are identified as ‘Unincorporated’ in the ASGS Local Government Areas structure. LGA is an ASGS Non-ABS structure.

More information on local governments can be found at the Australian Local Government Association website: http://www.alga.asn.au

Location of dwelling

See Dwelling Location

Lone parent

A lone parent is a person who has no spouse or partner usually resident in the household, but who forms a parent-child relationship with at least one child usually resident in the household. The child may be either dependent or non-dependent.

Lone person household

Any private dwelling in which there is only one usual resident at least 15 years of age, is classified as being a lone person household.

Marginally housing groups

The ABS present, alongside the homeless estimates from the Census, estimates of the number of people in selected marginal housing circumstances. These marginal housing groups not only provide an indication of the numbers of people living in marginal housing close to the boundary of homelessness, but can also provide a possible indication of people who may be at risk of homelessness.

Three marginal housing groups are classified from the Census:

  • persons living in other crowded dwellings - those that are not in 'severely' crowded dwellings,
  • persons in other improvised dwellings – that is those who were living in improvised dwellings but were not considered homeless under the rules for the group 'Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out'; and
  • persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks.
     

Mean

The mean is calculated by summing the values of all observations in a set of data and then dividing by the number of observations in the set. Thus: mean = sum of all the observed values / number of observations.

Median

The median is the value that divides a set of data exactly in half. It is the middle value when the values in a set of data are arranged in order. If there is no middle value (i.e. there is an even number of values) then the median is calculated by determining the mean of the two middle values. Thus: median = the middle value of a set of data.

Mortgage repayments

These variables record the mortgage repayments being paid by a household to purchase the dwelling in which they were enumerated on Census night (also applicable to caravans).

The Census collects this information in single dollars up to $9,999. However, for practical purposes this information is recoded to a specific number of ranges for standard Census products.

Since 2011, Nil repayments is recorded as $0. Prior to 2011 a response of nil was coded to 'Not stated'.

Non-dependent child

A person aged 15 years or more, who is a natural, adopted, step, or foster child of a couple or lone parent usually resident in the same household, who is not a full-time student aged 15–24 years, and who has no identified partner or child of his/her own usually resident in the household.

Non-private dwelling

See Type of Non-Private Dwelling.

Non-school qualification - level of education

This variable describes the level of education of the highest completed non-school qualification (e.g. Bachelor Degree, Diploma). 

The full classification for levels of education, together with an explanation of the conceptual basis of the classification, can be found in the publication Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0). 

Not in the labour force

Persons not in the labour force are those persons who, during the week prior to Census night, were neither employed nor unemployed. They include persons who were keeping house (unpaid), retired, voluntarily inactive, permanently unable to work, in gaol, trainee teachers, members of contemplative religious orders, and persons whose only activity during the week prior to Census night was jury service or unpaid voluntary work for a charitable organisation.

Number of bedrooms in private dwelling

This dwelling variable provides a count of the number of bedrooms in each occupied private dwelling, including caravans in caravan parks.

Occupation

Occupation information is collected in the Census for all employed people aged 15 years and over. Two questions are used in the Census:

  • 'In the main job held last week, what was the person's occupation - Give full title'; and
  • 'What are the main tasks that the person usually performs in the occupation...'.


Collecting both occupation title and task information ensures more accurate coding of occupations.

For 2016, targeted supplementary questions on occupation, asking more specialised questions based on the initial response, have been added to the online census forms, to provide better quality fine-level data. Common occupation responses from 2011 which were difficult to code to an appropriate level of detail, for example 'nurse', are targeted by these questions.

The 2016 Census uses the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), 2013, Version 1.2 (cat. no. 1220.0) to code occupation data.

Occupied private dwelling

See Dwelling.

Older persons

Homelessness is a phenomenon becoming more prevalent among the older population, aged 55 years and over. It generally relates to the inability to maintain or find housing due to a sudden change in an older person's circumstances; such as retirement, divorce, death of a partner/spouse, affordable housing and barriers to employment.

Overcrowding

Households living in dwellings requiring extra bedrooms according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS).

See Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS). 

Overestimation

In the context of estimating homelessness overestimation occurs when persons who are represented in the underlying data set are misclassified as homeless when they are not. 

See also Undercount and/or underenumeration, Underestimation.

Overseas visitor

See Visitors to Australia.

Partner

A person identified as being in a couple relationship with another person usually resident in the same household is a partner. The couple relationship is established through reporting of either a registered or de facto marriage, and includes same-sex couples.

Partner violence

Any incident of sexual assault, threatened sexual assault, physical assault or threatened or attempted physical assault by a current and/or previous partner.

Personal form

The Census personal form records details for one person only. It contains the same questions as the household form, but excludes the household questions. The personal form is used:

  • for households with more than six people: the household form accommodates six people, so one personal form is completed for each extra person;
  • for privacy: if any person in a household prefers, for privacy reasons, not to be recorded on the household form, then a personal form and a privacy envelope are issued for that person; and
  • in non-private dwellings: one personal form is completed for each person in a non-private dwelling on Census night.
     

Personal Safety Survey (PSS)

The Personal Safety Survey aims to collect information about men's and women's experience of physical or sexual assault or threat by male and female perpetrators. Experiences of the different types of violence, since the age of 15, by different types of male and female perpetrators (including current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or date, other known man or women, and stranger) is explored. More detailed information, such as where the incident occurred and what action was taken, can be obtained for most recent incidents of each of the different types of violence by a male and female perpetrator. Additional information is also collected about respondent experiences of current and previous partner violence such as frequency and fears of violence, incidents of stalking and other forms of harassment and general feelings of safety.

Persons living in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out on Census night. For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who were in supported accommodation for the homeless on Census night. This includes persons staying in dwellings classified as 'Hostels for the homeless, night shelter' as well as dwellings identified through the Census 'list' strategy. Census 'list' strategy. In 2011 and 2006, there was an additional 'green sticker' strategy, whereby a physical sticker was census form in some sensitive supported dwellings. This was discontinued for 2016. 

For further information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons staying temporarily with other households

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who were staying temporarily with other households on Census night. This group also includes some people who were homeless who are in 'visitor only' households. Some people who are homeless are likely to be underestimated in this category such as youth, those escaping domestic and family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. 

For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons living in boarding houses

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who were in boarding houses on Census night. Estimation techniques are designed to take account of legal and illegal boarding houses in the estimates. As a result this category is larger than the number of people enumerated in the non-private dwellings classified as "boarding house, private hotel". For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons in other temporary lodgings

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who had no usual address and were in other temporary lodgings: 'hotel, motel, bed and breakfast' on Census night. For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons living in 'severely' crowded dwellings

The ABS homelessness operational group for people considered to be homeless who were living in severely crowded dwellings on Census night. This is operationalised in the Census as those people who were enumerated in a private dwelling that they were usual residents of and, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS), the dwelling required four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate them. For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

See also Canadian National Occupancy Standard.

Persons living in other crowded dwellings

The ABS group showing people who were marginally housed in other crowded dwellings on Census night. This is operationalised in the Census as those people who were enumerated in a private dwelling that they were usual residents of and, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS), the dwelling required three extra bedrooms to accommodate them. For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

See also Canadian National Occupancy Standard.

Persons in other improvised dwellings

The ABS group showing people who were marginally housed. This includes people who were enumerated on Census night in the dwelling category of an 'improvised home, tent or sleepers out' who reported either being 'at home' on Census night or having no usual address, and are not considered, on balance, to be homeless. For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks

The ABS group showing people who were marginally housed and living in caravan parks where they reported a usual address in a caravan, cabin or houseboat in a caravan park and are unlikely to have accommodation alternatives For information about rules for estimating persons in this group see 'Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology'.

Place of birth

See Country of birth.

Place of enumeration

The place of enumeration is the place at which the person is counted i.e. where they spent Census night, which may not be where the persons usually lives.

Place of usual residence

This is the place where a person usually lives. It may, or may not be the place where the person was counted on Census night.

Place of usual residence five years ago

Place of usual residence five years ago identifies a person's place of usual residence five years before the Census.

Population

Census count of persons based on their reported place of usual residence.

Post Enumeration Survey (PES)

A measure of the undercount in the Census is obtained from a sample survey of households undertaken shortly after the Census, called the Post Enumeration Survey (PES). It collects information about where people were on Census night and their characteristics, which are compared to the actual Census forms. The PES found an undercount of 1.0% in the 2016 Census, compared to 1.8% in 2001, 2.7% in 2006 and 1.7% in the 2011 Census.

The PES is only conducted in private dwellings therefore it cannot be used to estimate the undercount of homeless people on Census night.

Private dwelling

See Dwelling.

Proficiency in spoken English

Proficiency in Spoken English refers to persons who speak a language other than English at home, who report their self-assessed proficiency in spoken English. It should be regarded as an indicator of a person's ability to speak English rather than a definitive measure of his/her ability and should be interpreted with care. 

Registered marital status

Registered Marital Status reports responses to the question 'What is the person's present marital status?' and refers to the legal status of the person, and not necessarily his/her current living arrangement. The partners in a registered marriage must be of the opposite sex as same-sex relationships could not be registered as marriages in Australia at the time of the 2016 Census. Marital status is applicable to people aged 15 years and over. 

Relationship in household

This variable describes the relationship of each person in a family to the Family reference person or, where a person is not part of a family, that person's relationship to the Household reference person. 

Children who are usually resident in the household are classified as dependent if they form a parent-child relationship and are either 0–14 years of age; or they are 15–24 years of age and also a full-time student (in secondary or tertiary education). Children who are aged 15–24 years who are not full-time students and children aged 25 years and over are classified as non-dependent children. Children who are aged 25 years and over with a child or partner of his/her own, or who are full-time students aged 15–24 years of age with a child or partner of his/her own, are classified according to that relationship.

Remoteness area

See Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

Rent

The Census records the individual dollar amounts of rent paid by households on a weekly basis for the dwelling in which they were enumerated on Census night. This includes caravans etc. in caravan parks. The categories range from $0–$9,999 in single dollar amounts.

Residence

See Dwelling; Household; Usual residence.

Residential status in a non-private dwelling

The Census records whether people enumerated in non-private dwellings (such as motels, hospitals, colleges etc.) are staying there as either: members of staff of the accommodation (e.g. owner, proprietor, porter, cook, teacher, warden, family of owner or family of staff); or residents, guests, patients, inmates, etc.

No information on family relationships is available for people in non-private dwellings because they are numerated using personal forms. 

Scope and coverage

The 2016 Census of Population and Housing aims to count every person who spent Census night, 9 August 2016, in Australia. This includes people in the six states, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, and the Territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island. The other Australian external territories (minor islands such as Heard and McDonald Islands), are outside the scope of the Australian Census. 

People who leave Australia but who are not required to undertake migration formalities, for example those on oil and gas rigs off the Australian coast, and expeditioners to Australian bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory (and other locations) are included in the Census. They are coded to an Off-Shore Statistical Areas Level 1 in Tasmania.

Visitors to Australia are included regardless of how long they have been in the country or how long they plan to stay. The only groups of people who spend Census night in Australia but are excluded from the Census are foreign diplomats and their families, this derives from the Vienna Convention. In practice, a diplomat is defined as someone entitled to travel on a diplomatic passport. Foreign crew members on ships who remain on the ship and do not undertake migration formalities are also out of scope of the Census.

All private dwellings, except diplomatic dwellings, are included in the Census, whether occupied or unoccupied. Caravans in caravan parks and manufactured homes in manufactured home estates, are counted only if they are occupied. Occupied non-private dwellings, such as hospitals, prisons, hotels, etc. are also included, however unoccupied non-private dwellings are out of scope. Unoccupied residences of owners, managers or caretakers of such establishments are counted.

For more detail see Census of Population and Housing - Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0).

Self-enumeration

Self-enumeration is the term used to describe the way Census data are collected. The Census forms are generally completed by householders (or individuals in non-private dwellings) rather than by interviewers, although Interviewers are available in some areas.

Sex

The sex of each person enumerated in the Census is recorded as being either male or female.

Sleeping out

See Dwelling Structure.

Socio-economic indexes for areas - Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage (IRSD)

The Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD) is a general socio-economic index that summarises a wide range of information about the economic and social resources of people and households within an area. Because this index focuses on disadvantage, only measures of relative disadvantage are included. This means that a high score (or decile) reflects a relative lack of disadvantage rather than relative advantage.

This index summarises 17 different measures, such as low income, low education, high unemployment and unskilled occupations. A low score indicates relatively greater disadvantage in general. For example, an area could have a low score if there are (among other things) many households with low income, many people with no qualifications, or many people in low-skilled occupations.

A high score indicates a relative lack of disadvantage in general. For example, an area may have a high score if there are (among other things) few households with low incomes, few people with no qualifications or in low-skilled occupations.

Specialist Homelessness Service (SHS) collection

The Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) collection obtains information about people, adults and children, who seek assistance from specialist homelessness agencies. Services can include accommodation provision, assistance to sustain housing, domestic/family violence services, mental health services, family/relationship assistance, disability services, drug/alcohol counselling, legal/financial services, immigration/cultural services, other specialist services and general assistance and support.

This collection is complied by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). This collection only includes organisations that receive government funding to deliver specialist homelessness services, and can be either not-for-profit or for profit agencies.

This collection replaces the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) National Data Collection in 2001.

See also Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Spouse

See Partner.

State and territory

States/Territories are the largest spatial unit in the ASGS and are part of the Main Structure within ABS Structures. There are six states and six territories in the ASGS:

  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Western Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Jervis Bay Territory
  • Territory of Christmas Island
  • Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and
  • Territory of Norfolk Island.


These spatial units are political entities with fixed boundaries. In aggregate, they cover Australia without gaps or overlaps.

See also Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s)

The Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) is the second smallest geographic area defined in the ASGS, the smallest being the Mesh Block. SA1s are built from whole Mesh Blocks. Whole SA1s aggregate directly to SA2s in the ASGS Main Structure.

Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2)

The SA2s are a general-purpose medium-sized area built from whole SA1s. Their aim is to represent a community that interacts together socially and economically. Whole SA2s aggregate directly to SA3s in the Main Structure. SA2s do not cross State and Territory borders. In aggregate, they cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps. 

Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3)

The SA3s provide a standardised regional breakup of Australia. The aim of SA3s is to create a standard framework for the analysis of ABS data at the regional level through clustering groups of SA2s that have similar regional characteristics. SA3s are built from whole SA2s and aggregate directly to SA4s in the Main Structure.

Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4)

The SA4 regions are the largest sub-State regions in the Main Structure of the ASGS. They are designed for the output of labour force data and reflect labour markets within each State and Territory within the population limits imposed by the Labour Force Survey sample. SA4s provide the best sub-state socio-economic breakdown in the ASGS and in rural areas generally represent aggregations of multiple small labour markets with socioeconomic connections or similar industry characteristics. SA4s are built from whole SA3s and aggregate directly to States and Territories in the Main Structure.

Student

See Full/Part-Time student status.

Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP)

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) was established in 1985 to consolidate a number of Commonwealth, State and Territory government programs assisting people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness, including women escaping domestic violence. 

In 2011, the SAAP collection was replaced with the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) collection. 

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC)

The Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) aims to measure the prevalence of disability in Australia and levels of support needed, as well as providing a demographic and socio-economic profile of people with disability and older people (65 years and over) compared with the general population. It also provides information about people who provide care to older people and people with disability.

Temporarily absent

The Census form seeks information about people who usually reside in a dwelling but who are temporarily absent on Census night.

Tent

See Dwelling Structure.

Tenure type

Tenure Type describes whether a household is purchasing, rents or owns, the dwelling in which it was enumerated on Census night, or whether the household occupies it under another arrangement. Tenure Type is derived from the responses to a series of questions. It is applicable to all occupied private dwellings.

Territory

See State and Territory.

Torres Strait Islander people

People identified as being of Torres Strait Islander origin. May also include people identified as being of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.

Type of educational institution attending

The 2011 Census records the type of educational institution being attended by people who are full/part-time students. The categories cover pre-school through to tertiary institutions.

Type of non-private dwelling

This variable records the type of non-private dwelling in which people were enumerated on Census night. Non-private dwellings are establishments which provide a communal type of accommodation. Examples of the information collected are: Hotel, motel; Boarding house, private hotel; Public hospital (not psychiatric); and Child care institution. 

Hotels and private hotels are categorised differently within Type of Non-Private Dwelling (NPDD). This is mainly because of differences in length of residency, service provision, and how the hotel/private hotel classifies itself. 

There has been a change in the way this information is collected. In 2016, it was recorded by ABS Address Canvassing Officers in the lead up to the Census as part of establishing the Address Register as a mail-out frame for designated areas. In areas enumerated using the traditional approach of delivering forms, the information was collected by ABS Field Officers during the Census collection period. Type of non-private dwelling data was also updated as required by ABS Field Officers during the 2016 Census enumeration period.

Undercount and/or underenumeration

Although extensive efforts are made to contact all occupied dwellings and count all unoccupied private dwellings in the Census, locating and contacting them all is not possible. Some dwellings may not be identified. For example, flats above or behind shops or attached to private dwellings may not be included in the Census. Analysis of the undercount in previous Censuses has shown that people away from their usual residence on Census night (for example, travelling, camping, staying in a non-private dwelling, or visiting friends) are more likely to be missed than people at home on Census night. 

Even when a household is contacted, undercount is possible if not all members of the household can be included on the form (six people can be recorded on the paper form and ten on the online form) no extra online or paper forms are obtained. Undercount is also possible if the household, or a member of the household, refuses to cooperate and complete a Census form. A measure of the extent of underenumeration is obtained from the Post Enumeration Survey (PES). The official population estimates produced by the ABS take into account the results of the PES. However, the Census counts are not adjusted.

A measure of the extent of underenumeration is obtained from the Post Enumeration Survey (PES). The official population estimates produced by the ABS take into account the results of the PES. However, the Census counts are not adjusted. The PES is only conducted in private dwellings therefore it cannot be used to estimate the underenumeration of homeless people on Census night.

See also Post Enumeration Survey (PES).

Underestimation

The difficulty in isolating unique characteristics of the homeless population within the Census of Population and Housing can result in the misclassification of homeless persons, and subsequent underestimation of the homeless population. The complexity and diversity of persons homeless experiences, and person's not identifying themselves as homeless, increases the likelihood of underestimation of homelessness in particular groups, including Youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples', and people escaping domestic and family violence. 

Unemployed

See Labour force status.

Unoccupied private dwelling

See Dwelling.

Unpaid work

Census collects information from persons aged 15 years and over, separate from the labour force questions and covers the following topics:

  • voluntary work through or for an organisation or group in the previous twelve months;
  • caring for a person who has a disability, a long-term illness or problems related to old age in the previous two weeks;
  • caring for a child aged less than 15 years (including own child) in the previous two week;s and
  • domestic work for own household in the previous week.
     

Usual address

Usual address information is used to code usual residence.

See Usual residence.

Usual residence

Usual residence data provide information on the usually resident population of an area, and on the internal migration patterns at the state and regional levels. The 2011, 2006 and 2001 Censuses had three questions on usual residence that asked where the person usually lived on Census night, and where the person usually lived one year ago and five years ago.

Family variables are only derived for people counted at their usual residence. Temporarily absent persons are used to classify types of relationships and families existing in a household, but they are not used in the derivation of any other Census characteristics or in other Census output. If all members of a family are absent from their usual residence, no family records are created for them. Family and household structures are based on persons usually resident. If all members of a family or household are temporarily absent, the family or household is not counted. 

Visitor only households

For the purposes of homelessness estimation and estimating marginal housing, visitor only households are those dwellings where all persons in the dwelling reported no usual address and there were no usual residents.

See also Visitors to a household, Usual residence.

Visitors to a household

Characteristics of individual visitors to a household are available at the household of enumeration. Visitors may also be tabulated according to their Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) of usual residence but cannot be placed back to their dwelling of usual residence. For the 2016 Census, data is imputed to SA1 level where the respondent has given insufficient address information. Visitors are excluded from household and family classifications, although counts of visitors (and visitor only households) are still available separately. 

All household and family classifications in the Census are based on the relationships of people usually residing in the household. This applies when there is at least one person aged 15 years and over present. In these classifications, people temporarily absent are included, and visitors are excluded. The relationship of visitors to one another, or to any resident (including cases where all the people enumerated are visitors) is not further classified. 

Visitors to Australia

The question on the Census form, 'Where does the person usually live?' allows the identification of people who are usually resident in another country.

See also Place of enumeration, Place of Usual Residence.

Voluntary work for an organisation or group

See Unpaid Work

Weekly personal income

Provides an indicator of the gross income (including pensions and allowances) that persons aged 15 years and over usually receives each week. 

Year of arrival in Australia

Census collects the year of arrival in Australia for people born overseas who intend staying in Australia for at least one year. In 1996, data were collected in categories ranging from 'Before 1981' to '1996'. From 2001 onwards, data were collected by single year with valid responses in 2011 being in the range 1895 to 2011. For 2016, data are collected by single year with valid responses in the range 1900 to 2016.

Youth homelessness

Youth homelessness refers to those homeless youths aged between 12 and 24 years. This group is of interest as intervention (while in supported accommodation) with education and training programs leads to enduring housing outcomes. Some researchers define youth as aged 12–18 years. They may even dissect the age groups into 12–15,16–18 and 19–24 years due to the different characteristics of each, revolving around education and training, and labour force.

Quality declaration - summary

This quality declaration shows how the official estimates of the prevalence of homelessness from the ABS' Census of Population and Housing addresses each of the elements of the ABS’ quality framework, covering relevance, timeliness, accuracy, coherence, interpretability and accessibility.

Institutional environment

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see the ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

This publication presents estimates of the prevalence of homelessness and the characteristics and living arrangements of those likely to be homeless on Census night 2016. Estimates are also provided for people whose living arrangements are close to the statistical boundary of homelessness, but who are not classified as homeless. As homelessness itself is not a characteristic that is directly collected in the Census, estimates are derived from Census data using analytical techniques. Prevalence estimates (of how many people experienced homelessness at a particular point-in-time) enable analysis of the scale of homelessness, and can be used to report trends and to target services to prevent or ameliorate the circumstances of homelessness through knowing both the locations of the homeless and their characteristics. The ABS definition of homelessness underpins the methodology used to compile the ABS estimates of homelessness. An overview of the definition is provided in 'Appendix 1 - Definition of Homelessness'.

Timeliness

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 requires the Australian Statistician to conduct a Census on a regular basis. Since 1961, a Census has been held every 5 years. The 2016 Census was the 17th national Census, and was held on the 9th August 2016. Data on homelessness have been collected in varying forms in the Census since 1933.

Results for the Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness were released March 2018 with similar timing to other analytical products from the Census, including the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset.

Accuracy

To understand the accuracy of homelessness estimates, it is important to understand the quality of Census data. While homelessness itself is not a characteristic that is directly collected in the Census of Population and Housing, estimates of the homeless population are derived from the Census using analytical techniques based on both the characteristics observed in the Census and assumptions about the way people may respond to Census questions.

The ABS implemented a targeted strategy to assist in enumerating people experiencing homelessness during the 2016 Census and to improve the accuracy of data collected from this group. The accuracy of Census data is detailed in Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia (cat. no. 2900.0) including specific statements for each data item that include the non-response rate and other important contextual information.

Coherence

The first official ABS estimates of the prevalence of homelessness were published in 2012. Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2006 (cat. no. 2049.0) (published in 2012) presents estimates using data from the 2001 and 2006 censuses. Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011 (cat. no. 2049.0) presents data using data from the 2011 Census.

The estimates use the ABS methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census. For more information, see the Information Paper - Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).

There are small changes and improvements in the methodology over time which may affect the ability to compare intercensal estimates. These are detailed in 'Appendix 2 - Estimation Methodology'. A change in the treatment of boarding houses for the 2016 release has been applied to the 2011 data, and revised figures are available in this publication.

Interpretability

The 'Explanatory notes' section of this publication (cat. no. 2049.0) should also be referred to as it includes further information on survey methods and design, comparability with previous surveys and summary results.

Accessibility

Tabulated data are freely available in Excel spreadsheets which can be accessed from the 'Data downloads' section of this publication.

Customised data are also available on request. Note that detailed data will be assessed for disclosure risk which in some cases may result in data being regarded as unfit for release.

A Survey TableBuilder product: Microdata: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0.55.002) will be produced, subject to the approval of the Australian Statistician. For further details, refer to the Microdata Entry Page on the ABS website. It is expected that this will be released in mid-2018.

For further information about these or related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070, or email client.services@abs.gov.au. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to needs, discuss options, and provide you with an obligation free quote.

Abbreviations

Show all

$dollars
'000thousand
ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACLDAustralian Census Longitudinal Dataset
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
AIHWAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare
ASGCAustralian Standard Geographical Classification
ASGSAustralian Statistical Geography Standard
Aust.Australia
cat. no.catalogue number
CNOSCanadian National Occupancy Standard
CPIConsumer Price Index
CSACensus and Statistics Act 19050
DSSDepartment of Social Services
excl.excluding
ERPestimated resident population
ETHOSEuropean Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion
FaHCSIAAustralian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
GCCSAGreater Capital City Statistical Areas
G-NAFGeocoded National Address File
GSSGeneral Social Survey
HOSDHousing Suitability
HSRGHomelessness Statistics Reference Group
IHFInterviewer Household Form
IRSDIndex of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage
LGALocal Government Area
nanot available
NATSISSNational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social survey
no.number
NPDsNon-private dwellings
NSONational Statistical Office
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
PESPost Enumeration Survey
PSSPersonal Safety Survey
PTAPersons Temporarily Absent
QldQueensland
RADLRemote Access Data Laboratory
RARemoteness Area
SASouth Australia
SA1Statistical Area Level 1
SA2Statistical Area Level 2
SA3Statistical Area Level 3
SA4Statistical Area Level 4
SAAPSupported Accommodation Assistance Program
SHSSpecialist Homelessness Services
Tas.Tasmania
THMTransitional Housing Management
Vic.Victoria
WAWestern Australia