Research Report 6 - Electorally Engaging the Homeless: Conclusions

Updated: 30 May 2013


There are several groups of people who tend to feel disengaged from society and are known to be susceptible to civic abstention: young people; the less well educated; the socially isolated (for example, those living alone and newly arrived migrants); the homeless; and, the unemployed to name a few. 1 Any democratic literacy program should be approached as part of a broader social program of civic engagement with the ultimate aim of ending not only the political, but also the social isolation of those experiencing homelessness and other civically disenfranchised groups.

As a small percentage of the population, approximately 100 000 people were estimated to be homeless in the 2001 census 2. A more complex strategy will be required to politically engage the homeless and c ivic and education campaigns could be refined to address not only itinerant enrolment procedures but also the pertinence of civic engagement and understanding of Australia's democratic processes. These initiatives could also be further complemented by addressing other mechanical hurdles aside from lack of address that prevent civic engagement by people experiencing homelessness.

Furthermore, while the AEC can be expected to take responsibility for voter education, political parties can also contribute to civic campaigns and initiatives with disenfranchised groups such as the homeless. While some of the abstention from this group may be attributed to lack of knowledge concerning voting and registration policies and procedures, part of their non-participation might be attributed to political apathy, distrust and general feelings of disconnectedness with the politicians and the political system in general.

  1. Hill, L. (2000), 'Compulsory voting, political shyness and welfare outcomes', Journal of Sociology, Vol.36, No.1. pp.35–41
  2. Chamberlain, C. and D. Mackenzie (2003).