YWCA Australia and UNSW City Futures Research Centre have today released a research report Gender, Housing Insecurity and Homelessness in Australia: Data Insights that sheds light on the complex landscape of homelessness in Australia, particularly the unique challenges faced by women, First Nations women, and young people.
YWCA Australia commissioned UNSW City Futures Research Centre to explore the gendered pathways of housing insecurity and homelessness and identify gaps in data to inform and improve future policy design.
Michelle Phillips, CEO of YWCA Australia said the findings revealed the need for more targeted interventions to tackle housing insecurity and homelessness for women in Australia.
“The research tells us the housing landscape is complex, but our message is clear: we need an approach that reflects the unique and diverse experiences of women and gender diverse people to solve Australia’s housing challenges. This is non-negotiable if we are to create a better housing future for women and gender diverse people in Australia,” Ms Phillips said.
“Our research also reveals a critical data gap in understanding housing insecurity for women and gender diverse people in Australia. To shape effective policies, we urgently need detailed, gendered, and intersectional data on homelessness, considering factors like gender, race, socioeconomic status, age, and disability.”
Dr Mathew Ng, one of the lead authors, stated that the study on housing problems and homelessness was limited in its ability to provide a holistic picture of how homelessness is represented across Australia due to large gaps in data.
“Our research shows that we need better and more detailed information to understand why people are vulnerable to housing insecurity and experiences of homelessness in order to provide the best information to inform proactive policy responses,” Dr Ng stated.
“Our analysis also revealed the necessity for distinct solutions tailored to various groups affected by homelessness. We identified a range of underlying causes, such as affordability and family and domestic violence, which each impact different demographics uniquely.”
Summary of Key Findings
Women and First Nations Homelessness
- While homelessness rates and numbers for men have decreased, women, on the other hand, experienced an increase in both estimated numbers and rates of homelessness at the 2021 Census.
- First Nations populations witnessed a 6 per cent rise in experiences of homelessness, and First Nations women constituted nearly 23 per cent of all women experiencing homelessness in 2021.
- Women single parents experiencing homelessness outnumbered their male counterparts in every state.
Homelessness and Young People
- Young people are significantly impacted by the housing and rental affordability crisis, comprising almost half of the population experiencing homelessness in 2021.
- Around 49 per cent of the total number of people experiencing homelessness are young people and 57 per cent of people in inadequate housing are young people.
Homelessness Varies by State/Territory
- Tasmania experienced substantial increases in rates of homelessness, while New South Wales, Northern Territory, and Queensland showed overall declines.
- Women experienced increased rates of homelessness in Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia by around 16 per cent.
- In the Northern Territory, homelessness rates are 10 per cent higher for women than men.
Reasons for Seeking Services Unchanged for Women
- Women make up the majority of all users of specialist homelessness services (SHS) at 60 per cent.
- Family and domestic violence remains one of the leading factors (35 per cent) driving women to seek SHS assistance.
- Housing, including access and affordability, was the predominant reason for people with a disability accessing SHS.
The Change We Need: A Gendered and Intersectional Policy Approach
YWCA recognises that safe, secure, and affordable housing is fundamental to achieving gender equality in Australia.
Phillips states, “A gendered and intersectional approach, one that responds to the unique and diverse experiences of homelessness, will better address the wide-ranging structural inequalities women and gender diverse people face in accessing safe, secure, and affordable housing.”
The report advocates for targeted policy interventions, including tailored support services, domestic violence intervention, improved service system integration, policies for rural and regional areas, and youth-focused initiatives. Strategic investments in affordable housing and specialised services, mental health support, and innovative economic strategies are critical to achieving more equal housing outcomes.
“This research aims to elevate the dialogue on these critical issues and foster a greater understanding of the systems that produce homelessness, emphasising the role of intersectional inequalities,” says Phillips.
The hope is for a re-think of policy and service design to ensure better housing outcomes for women and gender diverse people as part of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan and beyond.
YWCA Australia will continue to advocate for gender responsive solutions and is ready to collaborate with all levels of government to address the drivers outlined in this research.