Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.02 Overcrowding in housing

Page last updated: 26 May 2011

Why is it important?:

The effects of overcrowding in housing include inadequate access to facilities, which may increase the risk of infectious diseases such as meningitis, acute rheumatic fever, tuberculosis, and skin and respiratory infections (AIHW 2005b). However, the impact of overcrowding occurs in combination with other environmental health factors such as water quality and sanitation. One example is the contribution of overcrowding in housing to failure of sewerage systems. Septic tanks, used in many remote Indigenous communities, can leak or overflow if they are used by more people than they are designed for.

Overcrowding can potentially affect health in different ways. It is a risk factor for diseases such as acute rheumatic fever and its possible progress to rheumatic heart disease (measure 1.06). Overcrowding may increase psychological stress resulting in increased physical or verbal abuse. It may also adversely affect study opportunities for students in the household and impact adversely on educational attainment (measure 2.05). However, the pres­ence of more people may decrease social isolation, which may have a positive impact on health (Booth & Carroll 2005). Other factors may assist in reducing the health impacts of overcrowding such as good nutrition to improve immunity and vaccination against communicable diseases.

Findings:

In 2008, there were around 81,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 15 years and over living in overcrowded households, that is, households requiring one or more additional bedrooms according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness. This represented 25% of all Indigenous persons aged 15 years and over. According to the same standard, 4% of other Australians aged 15 years and over were living in overcrowded households in 2007–08.

Overcrowding is more common in remote areas than in other parts of Australia. In 2008, more than half (58%) of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over were living in very remote areas, followed by 33% in remote areas, 23% in outer regional areas, 18% in inner regional areas and 13% in major cities. As a reflection of this, proportions also varied by jurisdiction. The Northern Territory had the highest proportion (58%), followed by Western Australia (29%) and Queensland (26%).

The 2006 census recorded approximately 20,700 Indigenous households (14%) that were overcrowded according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard—a slightly smaller proportion than in 2001. Household overcrowding varies by tenure type. In 2006, approximately 40% of Indigenous households in cooperative/community/church group housing, 16% of state/territory housing authority households, 11% of private and other renter households and 7% of home owners or purchaser households were overcrowded.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey confirms the association between overcrowding and socioeconomic status. In 2008, Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over were more likely to be living in overcrowded households if their household income was in the lowest income quintile rather than the highest income quintile (30% compared with 8%); if the highest year of school they completed was Year 9 or below than if Year 12 was the highest year of school completed (29% compared with 19%); and if they were unemployed or not in the labour force than if they were employed (27% and 31% compared with 20%).

Implications:

Addressing the higher rate of overcrowding among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and its negative impact on health is complex. Living with extended family groupings may be culturally desirable for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Long et al. 2007). This requires innovation in the provision of appropriate housing (AIHW 2005b). Housing affordability is another issue affecting housing choices.

As discussed in measure 2.01 there are a range of housing initiatives designed to improve housing for Indigenous Australians. The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing will facilitate the building of up to 4,200 new houses and the refurbishment of up to 4,800 existing houses in remote Indigenous com­munities over ten years. Improvements to the current poor standard of housing will be supported by the imple­menta­tion of a standardised property and tenancy management framework. Rent collection, regular repairs and mainte­nance, tenant support and governance arrangements consistent with public housing standards will be central to the reform.

Figure 70 – Proportion of people aged 18 years and over living in overcrowded households, by Indigenous status, 2002 , 2008 Indigenous Australians, 2001 , 2006 Other Australians


Figure 70 – Proportion of people aged 18 years and over living in overcrowded households, by Indigenous status, 2002 , 2008 Indigenous Australians, 2001 , 2006 Other Australians
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2002 and 2008 NATSISS and the 2001 and 2006 Census
Text description of figure 70 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 71 – Proportion of persons 15 years and over living in overcrowded households, based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2008


Figure 71 – Proportion of persons 15 years and over living in overcrowded households, based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2008
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS, non-Indigenous data from Survey of Income and Housing 2007–08
Text description of figure 71 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 72 – Proportion of persons aged 15 years and over living in overcrowded households according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, by Indigenous status and state/territory, 2008


Figure 72 – Proportion of persons aged 15 years and over living in overcrowded households according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, by Indigenous status and state/territory, 2008
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS, non-Indigenous data from Survey of Income and Housing 2007–08
Text description of figure 72 (TXT 1KB)

Table 39 –Proportion of overcrowded Indigenous households, using the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, by tenure type and by state and territory, 2006

Tenure type
NSW & ACT
Vic
Qld
WA
SA
Tas
NT
Aust
Home owner/purchaser 6.6 6.0 7.9 7.2 6.1 4.8 11.6 6.9
Renter:
Mainstream public housing 11.4 12.3 21.5 20.5 14.5 10.7 24.9 15.9
Housing co-operative/ community/ church 17.9 15.6 33.0 41.7 36.9 8.7 60.8 39.9
Private 11.0 10.1 12.8 9.5 9.1 9.2 16.4 11.4
Landlord type not stated 14.9 13.3 24.1 17.9 14.5 7.7 43.3 19.0
Other tenure types 11.2 11.4 20.7 19.4 14.6 11.4 39.9 18.1
Total 9.8 9.0 14.8 16.0 11.8 7.2 38.5 13.6
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2006 Census data

Document download

This publication is available as a downloadable document.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010(PDF 4380 KB)

Document help

When accessing large documents (over 500 KB in size), it is recommended that the following procedure be used:

  1. Click the link with the RIGHT mouse button
  2. Choose "Save Target As.../Save Link As..." depending on your browser
  3. Select an appropriate folder on a local drive to place the downloaded file

Attempting to open large documents within the browser window (by left-clicking) may inhibit your ability to continue browsing while the document is opening and/or lead to system problems.

To view PDF (Portable Document Format) documents, you will need to have a PDF reader installed on your computer. A number of PDF readers are available through the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Web Guide website.