Research Report 6 - Electorally Engaging the Homeless: Summary

Updated: 30 May 2013


Homelessness is a complicated social problem with few studies that examine its impact on voting and civic engagement. In the 2003 Report of the Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) indicated its interest in the issue of homeless voters by recommending the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC):

  • Amend existing itinerant elector provisions to make their applicability to homeless persons clear;
  • Continue its efforts to simplify the itinerant elector application form and ensure its applicability to homeless persons is made apparent; and
  • Target homeless persons in its next public awareness campaign, informing them about itinerant elector enrolment.

In response to the JSCEM recommendations, the AEC has identified several areas which can be explored to engage this population to overcome the impediments to enrolment and voting which perpetuate a sense of disconnectedness to government and society. While a certain percentage of Australia's homeless population may prefer to be disengaged from any political processes or civic involvement, a significant percentage of people experiencing homelessness are interested in participation and could be engaged through civic awareness programs, a better understanding of itinerant voter procedures, and the availability of resources that neutralize hurdles that prevent them from participating in the electoral process.