The Australian Census of Population and Housing is an official count of population and dwellings, and collects details of age, sex, and other characteristics of that population. The 2006 Census is the 15th national Census for Australia.
From 1933 to 1986, Australian Censuses were held on the 30th of June. Since 1991 Censuses have been conducted during August, as a result of changing school holiday dates in the majority of states and territories. Traditionally, school holiday times are periods of high mobility for the population and the data collected would not be representative of the usual situation.
Census statistics are used as the basis for estimating the population at the national, state and local government levels, for electoral purposes and the distribution of government funds. They are used by individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors, for planning, administration, research, and decision making.
One of the important features of the Census is that it allows different characteristics of an individual, family or household to be related. While information on some characteristics is available from other sources, only a Census can provide information on a standard basis for the country as a whole, as well as for small geographic areas and small population groups.
Population counts in Australia were initially just head counts called 'musters'. These were important as a means of determining requirements for food and other supplies. The first muster was taken in 1788. The first regular Census was taken in New South Wales in 1828. With Federation, Census taking became the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
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). These papers are also available on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au>.