2001 Census Field Operations a success!
By Paul Williams, Director Census Development and Field Organisation
The enumeration phase of the 2001 Census has been highly successful. While there were substantial changes to field systems and procedures since the 1996 Census, a further range of improvements are also being identified for the 2006 Census.
Special enumeration procedures – how did they go?
Homeless enumeration procedures, including pilot procedures trialed in 1996, were used nationally for the 2001 Census and included the use of a short form for the absolutely homeless. High level support from organisations dealing with the absolutely homeless, contributed to the excellent response to the census from homeless people. A special procedure to identify houses which were part of the Supported Accommodation Program (e.g. Women's Refuges) during this census was also established, resulting in widespread endorsement by the relevant peak bodies.
An extensive and successful Public Relations campaign ensured the high level support provided by ethnic community leaders for past censuses continued for the 2001 Census. Indigenous enumeration procedures generally worked well. As a result of issues raised concerning counts of Indigenous people from past censuses, special evaluation studies are planned over the next 18 months. Observations by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) of the count within three communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory will be analysed. A further study will also be undertaken comparing administrative data sources with census counts.
For the 1996 Census, a demographic analysis of the components of change in the Indigenous population as measured by the census was undertaken. Results were published in Population Issues, Indigenous Australians, ABS Occasional Paper, ABS Cat. No. 4708.0. This will be repeated for the 2001 Census.
Census Inquiry Service
The Census Inquiry Service (CIS) handled some 620,000 calls over the census period, well in excess of the 1996 figure. The increased ability to handle callers was due to the extensive use of automated messages and common questions being answered via recorded responses. The Census PR web site was widely used with approximately 46,000 user sessions. Two of the key target groups, the media and schools, were amongst the major users. Thorough evaluation of all aspects of the field operation, including the different organisational models used by Regional Offices is underway.
Field operations were supported by a highly successful PR campaign. At the recent Public Relations Industry Awards for the ACT, the census campaign won the Marketing Communications Award for the set of media resources developed for the campaign, and the multimedia award for the educational CD-ROM ‘A Tale of Two Worlds’.
The success of the PR campaign is evident when an independent analysis undertaken post-Census revealed the following interesting results:
- 82% of persons aged 18+ saw, heard or read something about Census in the two weeks prior to census (apart from delivery of Census forms) (68% in 1996);
- 71% agreed that all the information given in the Census would remain confidential (61% in 1996)
- 91% agreed that the information gained from the Census is necessary for government planning (87% in 1996).
- 85% are “for” the Census (79% in 1996); and
- 96% said a census form had been completed for their household (95% in 1996).