Urgent call for action on Indigenous homelessness

New AHURI report outlines how to close the gap

Urgent call for action on Indigenous homelessness


By Mina Martin

A new AHURI Brief has outlined the importance of culturally appropriate housing and self-determination in reducing homelessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The report, authored by Nicola Brackertz, Renee Lane (pictured above left and right), and Paula Coghill, highlighted the alarming rate of homelessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, noting that 20% of all Australians experiencing homelessness in the 2021 Census were from these communities, who only constitute 3.2% of the nation’s population.

“Homelessness amongst Aboriginal people is extremely, and inexcusably, high,” Brackertz, Lane, and Coghill said.

The foundation of cultural safety

The AHURI report authors underscored cultural safety as essential for effective homelessness services, defined as an environment where there is no “assault, challenge or denial” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ identity and experience.

They outlined six critical elements of cultural safety, including recognising the importance of culture, self-determination, workforce development, whole-of-organization approach, leadership and partnership, and research, monitoring, and evaluation.

“To fully embrace cultural safety, organisations, such as homeless service providers, need to reform themselves and to embed cultural safety values within their organisational structures and practices,” the authors said.

Highlighting self-determination as a cornerstone of cultural safety, the report authors stressed that Aboriginal people must be involved in designing and delivering policies, programs, and services that affect them.

“Self-determination is… about choice: the choice to engage… and the choice to have a say in all services and service delivery,” they said.

Success through self-determination and localised approaches

Discussing successful Aboriginal homelessness programs, the authors pointed to the importance of working with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and tailoring responses to meet unique needs.

They showcased examples like the culturally adapted Housing First models and stressed local approaches and Aboriginal concepts of wellbeing.

“A critical component is the engagement with local communities and Aboriginal-led services in the design and implementation of a Housing First program to ensure housing and support services are provided in a culturally appropriate and safe way,” the report authors said.

Key principles for appropriately responding to Aboriginal people’s needs emphasise localised approaches delivered by Aboriginal people, fostering relationships and partnerships with local communities, incorporating Aboriginal understandings and practices about home, and leveraging Aboriginal concepts of wellbeing for focused support, the AHURI report said.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of these responses is bolstered by strong Aboriginal leadership and governance, alongside community support and engagement.

Towards long-lasting solutions

Brackertz, Lane, and Coghill concluded that addressing Aboriginal homelessness requires more than just building homes; it necessitates a sustained commitment to self-determination, long-term funding, and meaningful partnerships with local communities.

“Such commitment and action are required to support the delivery of services based on Aboriginal understandings and practices around home and wellbeing that are critical in disrupting pathways into homelessness – and ultimately to closing the gap,” they said.

Get the hottest and freshest mortgage news delivered right into your inbox. Subscribe now to our FREE daily newsletter.

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!