On Tuesday 9th August 2016, a member from each dwelling in Australia will be filling out the census.
What is the Census?
The Census of Population and Housing, is a descriptive count of everyone who is in Australia on one night, and of their dwellings. Participation in the census is compulsory. The count is taken every five years and is managed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Why Do we Have a Census?
The census provides the ABS with a snapshot of every household and everyone in that household on that night.
The information from the census will be used to determine where money from taxes should be spent to provide services for the Australian people.
What will the census ask?
The census will ask personal information including as marriage status, religion, racial background, how much they earn, and their relationship with other people in their household on census night.
What should I look out for?
There have been a lot of social media posts and articles telling people how to fill in the religious section of the census. This year the “No Religion’ checkbox will be the first answer option. If you actively practice a certain religion or faith, ensure you fill this section accordingly with the faith you actively participate in. Previous responses on the census like ‘Jedi Knight’ or ‘Pastafarian’ do not count towards the ‘No Religion’ total. If your faith is not represented in the check boxes listed, write it down in the other section. (eg Pentecostal). The religion section is not a compulsory section of the census, but filling it in will help the ABS understand the religion/s that represent Australia nationally.
How do I fill the census in?
Most households would have received a letter from the ABS addressed ‘To the Resident’. Each letter has a 12 digit login code specific to the household and includes instructions on how to fill the form in. It is anticipated that most households will fill the census in online.
If you prefer to fill the census by hand, paper forms are available to those who wish to access them. Call the ABS and give them your 12-digit number to request your paper form. All paper forms must be completed immediately and sent in the reply paid envelope.
What happens if I’m away from home on census night or I have guests staying over?
If you’re not home on census night, you will be included on the census form in the dwelling you’re at on that night. If you have family and friends staying over on census night, you will need to include them on your census form.
Places of accommodation (hotels, motels, hostel, serviced apartments and caravan parks) will provide a form on the night of your arrival.
Remote areas and locations like caravan parks and truck stops will have an ABS field officer to provide a census form or information on how to fill the census online.
Must I fill in the census?
Yes, it is compulsory for all households and dwellings to fill in the census on Tuesday 9th August 2016. If a person fails to fill in their census form and return it, the ABS will notify the person of their legal obligation and can face a fine of $180 per day, until the form is filled in and returned. The fines are a last resort if there is refusal in filling in the census.
What has changed this year?
The ABS will retain people’s names and addresses from census forms for longer this year as in previous years this information was held for 18 months. Names and addresses will now be held for four years. The change was made to create a “richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia”.
Isn’t the new change against privacy?
The ABS has been criticized over the change to retain names and addresses for longer. Former Australian statistician Bill McLennan said, “without doubt the most significant invasion of privacy ever perpetrated on Australians by the ABS”.
But the ABS have responded saying they are “committed to the protection of the privacy and confidentiality of everyone who completes the census”.
Systems have been put in place to ensure names are stored separately and “anonymised” for projects that will require approval from senior-level committee members.
The ABS has said the level of risk to personal privacy is very low. The names and addresses will be destroyed in August 2020.