Fact Sheet: Cultural diversity

The Census of Population and Housing is held every five years, taking a 'snapshot' of Australia by collecting vital information on the social, economic and housing characteristics of Australian society.

It's that time again! The next Census is to be held this year, on 8 August.

The Census collects information about our diverse range of culturally and linguistically diverse groups. This is vital when forming policy, allocating resources and providing services. It collects information for approximately 280 countries of birth, 240 languages and 120 religions across Australia.

Questions on the Census form about ancestry, religion, birthplace and languages spoken are also used by a variety of organisations for allocating and targeting services to particular cultural groups.

With almost one in five of Australians speaking a language other than English at home, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides assistance to households that have difficulties in speaking or reading English.

The Census employs Collectors with skills in languages other than English.

It also operates a Language Helpline through the Census Inquiry Service. This helpline caters for 20 of the most commonly used languages in Australia. If the caller is not conversant in any of these 20 languages, a customer service representative will connect them to an external interpreting service.

Census Management Units throughout Australia consult with Migrant Resource Centres. Presentations about the Census are given to principals, teachers and students of Adult Migrant Education Service centres.

People from a culturally or linguistically diverse background, like all Australians, can be confident that their information will remain confidential. Individuals' information is protected by law. After Census forms are processed, all names, addresses and other information that might identify individuals is removed from Census records.

All past or present ABS officers (including Census Collectors) are legally bound to secrecy under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 never to release personal information to any person or organisation outside the ABS.

Organisations such as the Australian Federal Police, Centrelink, the Department of Immigration, ASIO, the Australian Taxation Office and private marketing companies can never obtain personal information from the Census.