Census and Statistics Act
This is the Act of Federal Parliament which requires the Australian Statistician to conduct a Census on a regular basis and also enables the Statistician to conduct a range of other surveys and statistical functions.
In 1905, the Census and Statistics Act was passed in Federal Parliament, which gave authority to the Governor-General to appoint a Commonwealth Statistician whose duties included the taking of the Census.
The Act originally stipulated that a Census was to be taken in 1911 and every tenth year thereafter. The Act also stipulated a number of topics which were to be asked in each Census. The stipulated topics included: name, age, sex, relationship, marital status, duration of marriage, birthplace, nationality, period of residence, religion, occupation, material of outer walls and number of rooms in the dwellings. It also allowed for other topics to be included as prescribed.
In 1930 the Act was amended to allow the Census to be held at any such time as prescribed. Censuses have since been conducted in 1933, 1947, 1954, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2001.
Since 1961, a Census has been held every five years because of the increasing awareness of the value of obtaining statistical benchmarks of the Australian population at regular intervals. In 1977, an amendment was made to the Act to require that Censuses are carried out on a five-yearly basis from 1981, and at other times as prescribed.
The Census and Statistics Amendment Act (No 2), 1981 proclaimed on 1 March 1983, removed the provision of the original Act requiring that certain topics be included in the Census. Since that amendment Census topics have been determined specifically for each Census and these are prescribed in the Census regulations.
For more information see How Australia Takes a Census (cat. no. 2903.0) and the Information Paper, 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Nature and Content (cat. no. 2008.0).
See also Census regulations, Confidentiality.