'When you sleep on a park bench, you sleep with your ears open and one eye open': Australian Aboriginal peoples' experiences of homelessness in an urban setting
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are ten times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be homeless, which is an indicator of the level of health and social disparity that exists between the two groups. This paper presents the experiences of homelessness for a group of ten Aboriginal people located in Adelaide. Using Bourdieu's theoretical approach, we explore how these individuals interact with their environment, notably in the context of historical institutional disadvantage, and explore how this affects health and wellbeing. We highlight the subjective nature of homelessness, which is influenced by factors such as culture, age, and poor mental and physical health. We demonstrate the complex, diverse needs and heterogeneous nature of homelessness for Aboriginal people, which occur in the context of an enduring, specific historical experience of disadvantage, where the pathways into homelessness may vary and where homelessness may not always be perceived as negative. All participants experienced racism and reported resultant ill effects. Our study indicates the need for effective responses to homelessness to take account of the historical context of dispossession in developing culturally sensitive responses that reflect the nuances and diversity among homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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