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The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing, conducted on 7 August 2001, was the most successful Census undertaken by the ABS with first results released in June 2002 - under budget and one month ahead of schedule, the earliest Census results ever. Conducting the Census was a major logistical achievement with some 40,000 temporary staff employed and approximately 7.8 million households visited.
Australian Statistician Dennis Trewin at the launch of the first results, released in June 2002,
of the five-yearly 2001 Census of Population and Housing.
This Census was unique in a number of ways. The Centenary of Federation Time Capsule Project provided Australians with the option of having copies of their name-identified 2001 Census records stored by the National Archives of Australia for public release after 99 years. Over 50 per cent of Australians agreed to have their Census forms retained until the year 2100. The Census processing systems were streamlined using leading edge technology and for the first time intelligent character recognition was used to capture information from Census forms. A major aspect of the 2001 Census output strategy is the large amount of information available free of charge on the ABS web site. All Australians can access information about their statistical local area for free. Since launching the results on 17 June 2002, web access to Census data has been as high as 568,000 hits on the day of release, compared with around 71,000 hits normally. Additionally, as a result of ABS’s membership of the Interdepartmental Committee on Commonwealth Spatial Data Access and Pricing Policy, the ABS will provide low cost Australian Standard Geographical Classification boundaries on CD-ROM.
Launching the 2001 Census results, Mr Hugh Mackay, well known social commentator and analyst, praised the ABS as providing one of the world’s leading statistical services. Mr Mackay’s major observations related to Australia’s ageing population and shrinking household size. One hundred years ago 4 per cent of the population was over 65 years of age, compared to 13 per cent now. While in the past 30 years the average size of Australian households has fallen from 3.3 persons to 2.6 persons. In introducing Mr Mackay, the Australian Statistician acknowledged with gratitude the special effort of the Australian people to the success of the Census.
The Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello, MP, speaking in Parliament, also thanked the people of Australia for taking part in the Census, and observed that the ABS leads the world in relation to the collection of statistics. Mr Costello stated that the Census will provide the Government with the basis for the development of policy and long-term planning for the future of Australia.