TableBuilder: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness

Presents detailed estimates of the prevalence of homelessness in TableBuilder from the ABS' Census of Population and Housing for 2021


Microdata for Estimating Homelessness is accessed through Census Table Builder Pro. Census TableBuilder is an online data tool in which you can create tables, graphs and maps of Census data. It is designed to help you produce data specific to your needs.

This publication provides a range of information about the release of microdata from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, including details about the methodology and how to use TableBuilder. A data item list and information on the conditions of use and the quality of the microdata are also provided.

Microdata products are the most detailed information available from a Census, survey, or administrative source and generally include confidentialised unit record level information (such as responses to individual questions on a questionnaire). They also include derived data from responses for two or more variables.

Applying for access

This product can be accessed through Census TableBuilder Pro.

Before applying for access to Census TableBuilder, users should read and familiarise themselves with the information contained in the TableBuilder, User Guide (cat. no. 1406.0.55.005).

To apply for access to Census TableBuilder, further information on access steps can be found in How to Apply for Microdata on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website.

Information about TableBuilder can be found on the Microdata Entry Page.

If you already are a registered Census TableBuilder user Login in here.

Further information

For information on the data items available, see the Data Item List, available from the Data downloads section of this publication.

Further information about this product, and other information to assist users in understanding and accessing microdata in general, is available from the Microdata Entry Page.

For information about the 2016 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness Collection, see the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0).


For further support in the use of this product, please contact Microdata Access Strategies on 02 6252 7714 or via

Data available on request

Data collected in Census but not included in TableBuilder may be available from the ABS, on request, as statistics in tabulated form.

Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, special tabulations can be produced incorporating data items, populations and geographic areas selected to meet individual requirements. These are available, on request, on a fee for service basis. Contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or for further information.


The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal information that you provide to us.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070, or email

Collection and estimation methodology

General information about Homelessness Estimates, including the key findings from the Collection, are available in the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0).

Additional detailed information, including the explanatory notes, definition of homelessness, estimation methodology, 2016 Census procedures and a quality declaration can be accessed from the Methodology page of the publication. Lists of terms and definitions can be found in the abbreviations and glossary, both available from the Methodology page of the publication. All published data cubes, in Excel spreadsheet format, can also be accessed from the Data downloads section tab of the publication.

Further information on Census Collection, Scope and Coverage can be found in Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia (cat. no. 2900.0).

File structure and content

The homelessness dataset is a file that counts persons. The dataset includes all persons enumerated on Census night, excluding overseas visitors.

Data Items are divided into the following groups: 

  • Geographical Areas;
  • Homelessness Estimates;
  • Selected Person Characteristics;
  • Education and Qualifications;
  • Employment, Income and Unpaid work;
  • Cultural and Language Diversity;
  • Disability, Need for Assistance and Carers;
  • Children and Child Care;
  • Usual Address and Internal Migration;
  • Selected Dwelling and Household Characteristics;
  • Household Income and Housing Costs; and
  • Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA).


There are two types of geography available in the dataset:

  • Place of Enumeration, the place at which the person is counted on Census night; this may not be where they usually live; and
  • Place of Usual Residence, the place where a person usually lives. This is only available at State level. This may or may not be the place where the person was counted on Census night. This field can only be cross tabulated with person related data items (e.g. Age, Sex, Marital Status).

Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) is an ABS product that ranks areas in Australia according to relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage. SEIFA 2016 has been created from Census 2016 data and consists of four indexes: The Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage (IRSD); The Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD); The Index of Education and Occupation (IEO); The Index of Economic Resources (IER). Further information on construction and use of the SEIFA variables can be found in Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2033.0.55.01).

SEIFA Indexes are derived using the demographic characteristics of persons usually resident in a given area. However, as a characteristic of the homeless population is the high proportion of persons with 'no usual residence', the Homelessness Tablebuilder links persons to the SEIFA decile of their place of enumeration (i.e where they were counted on Census night). This maximises the utility of SEIFA for the homeless population, however as the linking is performed differently to the standard Census Tablebuilder, data derived for the Australian population will differ between the databases.

Comparing to the main publication

Extensive tables of data are available from the Data downloads section of the publication Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness (cat. no. 2049.0).

When comparing to tables in the main publication it is important to note the following;

  • Tables have been generated on both 'Usual Residence' and 'Enumeration' geography bases. Please check the labels to ensure you are using the same geographic basis; and
  • Categories for some variables (e.g. Level of Highest Educational Attainment) have been collapsed in some instances, or 'not stated' categories have been excluded. Please check the cell comments for detail.

Rates are calculated by comparing the number of persons in a group of interest with the total population. All persons enumerated on Census night (excluding overseas visitors) have been included in the dataset to allow users to calculate rates. An example of how to calculate the total homelessness rate is provided below:

Rate of homeless persons per 10,000 of the population = Total homeless persons / Total number of persons in Australia, (excluding overseas visitors and usual residents of external territories, at sea, migratory and offshore regions) x 10,000

The term 'Homeless Persons' includes only persons from the operational groups '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'.

The term 'Persons in other marginal housing' includes only persons from the operational groups 'Persons living in other crowded dwellings', 'Persons in other improvised dwellings' and 'Persons who are marginally housed in caravan parks'.

Using TableBuilder

For general information relating to TableBuilder or instructions on how to use features of the TableBuilder product, please refer to the TableBuilder, User Guide (cat. no. 1406.0.55.005).

More specific information applicable to the Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness TableBuilder (cat. no. 2049.0.55.002) is outlined below. This information enables users to understand, interpret and tabulate the data.

Confidentiality features in TableBuilder

In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, all data in TableBuilder are subjected to a confidentiality process before release. This confidentiality process is undertaken to avoid releasing information that may allow the identification of particular individuals, families, households, dwellings or businesses.

Steps to confidentialise microdata are taken in such a way as to maximise the usefulness of the content while maintaining the confidentiality of respondents. As a result it may not be possible to exactly reconcile all the statistics produced from the microdata with other published statistics. Further information about the steps taken to confidentialise the microdata is available here: TableBuilder, User Guide: Confidentiality (cat no. 1406.0.55.005).

Processes used in TableBuilder to confidentialise records include the following: 

  • perturbation of data, and
  • field exclusion rules.

Perturbation effects

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 adjustments 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.

The introduction of these adjustments result in tables not adding up. As a result, randomly adjusted individual cells will be consistent across tables, but the totals in any table will not be the sum of the individual cell values. The size of the difference between summed cells and the relevant total will generally be very small.

Please be aware that the effects of perturbing the data may result in components being larger than their totals. This includes determining proportions.

System restrictions

System restrictions have been implemented which prevent the cross-tabulation of certain data items within the following 2016 Census Pro datasets:

  • 2016 Census - Counting Persons, Place of Enumeration
  • 2016 Census - Counting Families, Place of Enumeration
  • 2016 Census - Counting Persons, Estimating Homelessness

These restrictions have been applied to:

  • maintain the confidentiality of respondents
  • ensure the output of quality data
  • assist users by not allowing combinations of data items that statistically should not be combined.

When the restriction is triggered the following error message will be displayed: "These variables cannot be used together". Other similar data items may be available. For example, if you are using Geographical Areas from Mesh Block (MBs), you may be able to use another Geographical Area data item instead, such as Main Statistical Area Structure (Main ASGS).

Data item list

A complete list of data items available in the Estimating Homelessness TableBuilder product are provided in the 'TableBuilder Data Item List' Excel workbook that can be accessed from the Data downloads section of this publication.

Conditions of use

User responsibilities

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 includes a legislative guarantee to respondents that their confidentiality will be protected. This is fundamental to the trust the Australian public has in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and that trust is in turn fundamental to the excellent quality of ABS information. Without that trust, survey respondents may be less forthcoming or truthful in answering our questionnaires. For more information, see "Security', "Restricting use of information to statistical purposes', 'Avoiding inadvertent disclosure in published statistics', 'Microdata' and 'Making sure security is working' on the ABS web page: Survey Participant Information - How The ABS Keeps Your Information Confidential.

The release of microdata must satisfy the ABS legislative obligation to release information in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. Therefore, in accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, confidentiality processes are applied to the data in TableBuilder to avoid releasing information that may lead to the identification of individuals, families, households, dwellings or businesses.

Prior to being granted access to TableBuilder users must agree to the following ABS Terms and Conditions for Microdata and TableBuilder.

The TableBuilder, User Guide (cat. no. 1406.0.55.005) provides additional information to assist users.

Conditions of sale

All ABS products and services are provided subject to the ABS Conditions of Sale. Any queries relating to these Conditions of Sale should be emailed to

Australian universities

The ABS/Universities Australia Agreement provides participating Universities with access to a range of ABS products and services. This includes access to microdata. For further information, University clients should refer to the ABS/Universities Australia Agreement web page.

Further information

The Microdata Entry Page contains links to microdata related information to assist users in understanding and accessing microdata. For further information users should email or telephone (02) 6252 7714.


The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal information that you provide to us.

Data downloads

TableBuilder data item list

History of changes

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Replacement content release - this replacement content contains revision to the Using TableBuilder chapter and the Data Item List datacube. These changes reflect additional system restrictions implemented in TableBuilder to maintain the confidentiality of respondents while ensuring the output of quality data.


Replacement content release - this replacement content contains additional Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) information in the File structure and content chapter.


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Terms and definitions applicable to the Homelessness Estimates Collection can be located in the Glossary section, available from the Methodology page of the publication: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016 (cat. no. 2049.0) and the Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0). Additional information on data items is also available in the associated cell comment within the TableBuilder Data Item list. The TableBuilder Data Item list is available from the Data downloads section of this publication.


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ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ASGSAustralian Statistical Geography Standard
ASCCEGAustralian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups
ASCEDAustralian Standard Classification of Education
ASCLAustralian Standard Classification of Languages
ASCRGAustralian Standard Classification of Religious Groups
ANZSCOAustralian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations
ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
cat. no.catalogue number
CNOSCanadian National Occupancy Standard
ENPlace of Enumeration
GCCSAsGreater Capital City Statistical Areas
IEOIndex of Education and Occupation
IERIndex of Economic Resources
IRSADIndex of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage and Disadvantage
IRSDIndex of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage
Main ASGSMain Australian Statistical Geography Standard
necnot elsewhere classified
OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
RARemoteness Area
SA1Statistical Area Level 1
SA2Statistical Area Level 2
SA3Statistical Area Level 3
SA4Statistical Area Level 4
SACCStandard Australian Classification of Countries
SEIFASocio-Economic Indexes for Areas
TAFETechnical and further education
URPlace of Usual Residence
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