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 Categories of Indigenous homeless people

Categories of Indigenous homeless people and good practice responses to their needs

Principal AERC Staff:
Assoc Prof Paul Memmott, Stephen Long, Catherine Chambers and Frederick Spring

[Refer to the 'Who We Are - Staff Proiles' section of this website for more details about the people listed above.]

Project Brief/Description:
This research, funded by the Australian Housing and Research Institute (AHURI), focused on the phenomenon of small groups of Indigenous people living in public settings, despite in many cases the advent of formal Town Camps and a range of urban Indigenous housing options having been established in many regional centres throughout the late 20th century (esp. post 1970). Although these people are often categorised as 'homeless', a reading of the literature clearly demonstrates the difficulties of conceptualising either mainstream 'homelessness' or Indigenous 'homelessness'. A number of Indigenous itinerant people see themselves as being both 'placed' and 'homed', and prefer to refer to themselves with such labels as 'parkies', 'goomies', 'long grassers', or 'river campers'.

Indigenous homeless people can be further characterised as people who do not pay for accommodation, have a visible public profile (socialise, shelter, drink, argue and fight in public), have low incomes of which a substantial part is spent on alcohol, have generally few possessions (eg clothes and bedding), and usually conform to a 'beat' of camping and socialising places located in public or semi-public areas.

State and Local government, Indigenous, and charitable groups in most capital cities and regional centres of Australia are having to find ways of appropriately responding to Indigenous people who reside in public and semi-public places and often behave in an anti-social manner, abuse substances, and have poor health and short life expectancy. This is becoming an increasing and complex social problem. Yet there is very little published research on the subject, neither profiling these people nor providing strategies in response to their needs. Nevertheless many local groups have attempted to respond with a range of strategies, which are often described in unpublished (and often confidential) documents. The two aims of this project were (i) to carry out an analysis of categories of Indigenous homeless people from the literature, and (ii) to profile a number of good practice responses to such needs categories in the field.

Reports and Publications:
Memmott, P., Long, S. & Chambers, C. 2003 Categories of Indigenous 'Homeless' People and Good Practice Responses to their Needs - Positioning Paper. Brisbane: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Queensland Research Centre. [This report can be viewed at the AHURI website - It will be necessary to search through their publications database. The report was posted in July 2003 and its number is 20168.]

Memmott, P., Long, S., Chambers, C. & Spring, F. 2003 Final Report: Categories of Indigenous 'Homeless' People and Good Practice Responses to Their Needs. Brisbane: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Queensland Research Centre. [The report was published in August 2003 and can be found by searching the list provided at]