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2001 Census of Population and Housing - Frequently Asked Questions
 
 





When will data be released - 2001 Census Release Timetable
What is the Census?
What are the benefits of having a census?
How does the ABS ensure my privacy?
How does the ABS ensure that individuals are not identified in Census data that is released?
How does the ABS ensure that all Australians are included in the Census count?
Why does it take so long from the time of collection to release the data?
Where can I find the information I need?
2001 Census and the question on religion
Unpaid Work
What is the Centenary of Federation Census Time Capsule Project?



What is the Census ?

The Census of Population and Housing is a statistical collection that aims to accurately measure the number of persons in Australia on Census Night, their key characteristics, and the dwellings in which they live. It is the largest statistical operation undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The next Census is to be conducted on August 7, 2001.

See
How Australia Takes a Census for more information.

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What are the benefits of having a census?

The Census is one of the few sources of detailed statistical information about small geographic areas and small population groups (both social - such as ethnic groups or economic - such as occupation groups). The planning of services provided by government, private and community organisations would be far more difficult without the detailed information available from the Census.

The Census provides the basis for periodic estimates of the population of each of Australia's States, Territories and Local Government Areas, primarily for electoral purposes and the distribution of government funds. The Census also provides information about the population's characteristics and its housing within small geographic areas to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities in the public and private sectors.

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How does the ABS ensure my privacy?

The Census collects information relating to each person and household in the country but it is not concerned with information about individuals as such. The Census is taken to provide information about the community as a whole and about groups within the community. The public expects that the information they provide will be kept confidential and this protection is given by provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

The Census is confidential but not "anonymous". The Census and Statistics Act requires that the householder complete the form and take responsibility for its contents. Studies have shown that an "anonymous" census leads to much poorer statistics. Names are required in some circumstances to assist in coding of complex families and to allow a quality check on census enumeration using another survey after the census. Addresses are required to ensure that forms are collected from all households. Once processing is completed all names and addresses are destroyed.

All ABS officers (including temporary employees) are legally bound to secrecy under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 never to release identifiable personal information to any person or organisation outside the ABS. Section 19 of the Act makes it an offence for any past or present ABS officer to divulge, either directly or indirectly, any confidential information collected under this Act. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.

Completed Census Forms will be transferred from the collection centres to the Census Data Processing Centre under secure arrangements. Full-time security personnel will be employed to prevent any unauthorised access to the processing centre. Comprehensive security arrangements are implemented on the ABS computer system. These include the use of regularly changed passwords, access control and audit trails. In accordance with the Act, no results will be released in a way which would enable particular individuals or households to be identified.

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How does the ABS ensure that individuals are not identified in Census data that is released?

The census collects information relating to each person and household in the country but it is not concerned with information about individuals. The census is taken to provide information about the community as a whole and about groups within the community. The public expects that the information they provide will be kept confidential and this protection is given by provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

All ABS officers (including temporary employees) are legally bound to secrecy under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 never to release identifiable personal information to any person or organisation outside the ABS. The confidentiality technique applied by the ABS to avoid identification of individuals is to randomly adjust cells with very small values. It is ABS policy not to release the detailed methodology employed by the ABS to adjust the data.

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How does the ABS ensure that all Australians are included in the Census count?

To make sure the census results in the most accurate count, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has developed strategies to maximise the effectiveness of collecting information among people in special circumstances.

Indigenous Australians

Lessons from the last census, advice from indigenous education consultants and feedback from indigenous communities across Australia have identified these areas for special consideration:
  • Counting young males, children and visitors
  • coordinating indigenous and mainstream enumeration
  • developing indigenous field management structures
  • quality assurance, validation and documentation of data collected from indigenous communities
  • employ/train local indigenous people to work with new ABS staff structures for maximum flexibility and awareness

Cultural diversity
  • ABS consults closely with migrant government and community organisations
  • staff visits to local ethnic organisations
  • case studies showing the benefits of the Census data to ethnic groups
  • strategies for problem areas such as high-rise buildings or communities where there may be reluctant to give personal information to a government agency
  • bilingual staff at community functions
  • school information kits for children from Non-English speaking households

The homeless
  • developing contacts with government and non-government agencies to prepare lists of local services for the homeless
  • seeking the cooperation of groups providing services to homeless people (e.g. meals, mailbox) to identify locations where homeless people might be found
  • engaging/training homeless people to help on Census night
  • canvassing/employing local people who know the movements and gathering places of the homeless - such as health and welfare workers and rangers
  • less intimidating question forms for homeless people with low literacy
  • a simple form to maximise cooperation and reinforce reassurances of confidentiality

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Why does it take so long from the time of collection to release the data ?

Notwithstanding advancements in technology, there is still a relatively long lead time required to release census data because of the essential activities for collection, capture, coding, and validation of over 700 million responses. A centralised processing centre will be established and staffed by about 1,000 ABS officers to capture, code and validate the responses to census questions. It is expected that these processes will begin in late August 2001 for the next Census with the total processing phase lasting approximately 12 months.


Although the data and products produced from the 1996 Census were released earlier than for the 1991 Census, with some data released earlier than originally scheduled, users can expect further improvements in timeliness and an adherence to all advertised release dates for the 2001 Census, particularly for CD-ROM products. A release schedule similar to the 1996 Census will be implemented for 2001 Census output. See
Indicative timetable.

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Where can I find the information I need ?

The
Directory of Census Statistics contains a description of the range of publications, electronic products, maps and consultancy services available from the 2001 Census. It helps you to find census information to meet your particular needs. Should you have any difficulty identifying a product or service that best meets your needs, please contact an Information Consultancy officer for assistance. For assistance with census concepts and definitions, the 2001 Census Dictionary provides a glossary of terms and lists all of the classifications used in the Census.

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2001 Census and the question on religion

The religion question is included in the census as religious organisations provide a range of services to the community, such as education, hospitals, and aged care facilities.

For example, around 30% of Australian children attend schools provided by religious organisations. Census information is important for planning these facilities. Religion is also important in separately identifying some communities for which religion is key to their identity.

For a group to be included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' classification of religion, it would have to show that there was an underlying belief system or philosophy, and that there is also some form of institutional arrangements or organisational structure. There are no strict numerical criteria.

The question on religion on the census is optional. However, people who choose to answer the question can state that they have no religion - a tick box is provided for this purpose. As well, a range of non-theistic belief systems is recognised, such as humanism and rationalism.

Most people realise the importance of the census and therefore provide accurate information. There is always a very small number of people who will want to use the census for other purposes. Because the numbers of people engaging in these activities in the past have been so small, they have not affected the overall quality of the census results.

The 2001 Census, Religion and the Jedi

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Unpaid Work

The ABS counts unpaid work in great detail via the Time Use Survey. This survey shows how much time was spent by Australian women and men on domestic work, child-care and voluntary work. It shows this detail by occupation, income level, education level, age group and even country of birth.

The ABS estimates the value of unpaid work to be around $250 billion a year, approximately half of GDP and sixty-five per cent is done by women.

The 2001 Census Questionnaire does not include a question on unpaid work due to the recent information available that is collected by the ABS. The content included in the 2001 Census was agreed by Parliament.

The 2001 Census produces an invaluable source of information about Australian families. It is the only way of finding out how many mothers with young children there are in a local area, how many are in paid employment and how many are not. A question on unpaid work is not needed to determine this. Further information on Australian families gathered through the Census includes household income levels, education levels of family members, ethnic background, proficiency in English, access to private transport and housing characteristics. This information is available at locality level across the whole of Australia and is vital for planning the provision of transport systems, preschools, schools, shops, health services and more.

The next Time Use Survey is scheduled for 2005/2006 which will be before the next census in 2006. The government has asked that a question on unpaid work be developed for inclusion in the 2006 Census.

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What is the Centenary of Federation Census Time Capsule Project?

The Census Time Capsule will disclose to people of the 22nd century a wealth of detail about those who lived in Australia at the start of the 21st century, and in the year of Australia's Centenary of Federation.

The 2001 Census offered the Australian people a choice of having their names, addresses and Census form information retained by the National Archives of Australia and released for research purposes after 99 years.

The census information which people have elected to have retained will be available to genealogists, social historians and other researchers in the 22nd Century.

Names, addresses and census information will only be retained for those householders who explicitly "opted-in". These details will be retained by the National Archives of Australia and released in 99 years.

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When will data be released ?

2001 Release Timetable

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Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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