2016 Census of Population and Housing submission guidelines

Below are the submission guidelines that were used for the 2016 Census Topic Consultation.

Submissions closed on 31 May 2013.

Name and contact details
Authorisation question
Criteria for Census topics
Public information seminars
What happens after submissions close?
Further information

Name and contact details

The submission form includes questions asking for the name and contact details of the person or organisation making the submission. These details must be completed.

Anonymous submissions were not considered.

Authorisation question

The ABS may make public the views put forward in your submission. The information provided in the submission would mainly be used to summarise the case for or against a topic, or to answer questions from members of Parliament about the number and nature of submissions received.

However, the ABS will not publish the names of persons or organisations making submissions without first obtaining their permission to do so. The submission form includes a question that asks whether the person or organisation agrees to the ABS making public their name or organisation name in relation to their submission.

Criteria for Census topics

The following set of criteria will be used to judge the suitability of topics for the 2016 Census. The questions included in the submission form relate to these criteria, which are:
  • The topic is of current national importance.
  • There is a current need for data on the topic for small groups in the population and/or for small geographic areas.
  • There are no other alternate data sources available for the topic.
  • The topic is suitable for inclusion in the Census.
  • There is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic in the following Census.

Topic is of current national importance

Topics selected for a Census must relate to an issue that is of current national importance. There must be a demonstrated need for the Census data for policy development, planning and program monitoring, or for the provision of data on this topic as an electoral or legislative requirement.

Submissions proposing the inclusion of new topics should clearly indicate the value of the information by showing the uses to which it will be put. Submissions should also spell out the implications of the topic not being included in the Census.

Current need for data for small population groups or small geographic areas

As the Census covers all households, it can produce information at the small geographic area level or about small population groups, and enables cross-classification with other characteristics collected in the Census.

Submissions proposing the inclusion of new topics or supporting existing topics should clearly show why this information is currently needed at the small area level or for small population groups.

Information required for broad geographic areas only (e.g. at the state or national level) may be better obtained by other means (e.g. sample surveys) depending on the detail of the cross-classification required. If the need is restricted to information about a few specific small areas, other collections or methods could be more appropriate.

Availability of alternative data sources

Consideration should be given to whether data are available from other sources. For example: similar or surrogate data may be collected by another organisation; there may have been surveys already conducted by the ABS; or the data may be available from administrative records.

The ABS produces an extensive range of information from economic censuses and surveys, administrative sources, and a comprehensive program of household surveys. While the ABS household surveys are not able to collect the detailed information that can be obtained from the Census for small groups or small areas, there are other advantages associated with interviewers collecting the data rather than the self-enumeration method used in the Census.

Topic is suitable for inclusion in the Census

In the Census, information is collected by 'self-enumeration' with each household being required to fill in a Census form. Self-enumeration, and the need to ensure the large Census operation is conducted as efficiently and effectively as possible, impose certain constraints on the type of topics included. It is vital to minimise the reporting burden on households and control Census costs. Questions asked on the Census form need to be readily understood by all householders.

Topics that require detailed explanation to ensure accurate answers are unlikely to be answered correctly. Research has shown that people often do not read the explanations that accompany questions. Questions that are controversial or could cause adverse reactions may also not be answered correctly. Such questions could also affect the quality of other responses. Information about these types of topics may require interviewer based collection methods.

Likelihood of continuing data need in the next Census

The need for time-series data has traditionally been an implicit component of the assessment criteria. There should be an appropriate balance between the two needs of relevance and time-series. If both are considered to be fulfilled (i.e. the topic is currently relevant and likely to remain relevant for future Censuses) then there will be a good case for retaining or including the topic. However, if one of these is not assessed as being fulfilled (i.e. while there is comparable time series data from previous Censuses the topic is no longer relevant in modern society, or while the topic is very relevant for the current times it is unlikely to remain relevant in the future) the topic is unlikely to be recommended.

Public information seminars

The ABS held public seminars in all capital cities throughout November 2012 and:
  • explained the consultation process for the 2016 Census
  • outlined initial ABS views on content and procedures of the 2016 Census
  • facilitated the understanding of the requirements for new topics in the 2016 Census
  • detailed how submissions can be raised and lodged with the ABS.

Interested parties can view a public information webinar which was held in April 2013.

What happens after submissions close?

Following assessment of all submissions, final recommendations on the nature and content of the 2016 Census were discussed with the Australian Statistics Advisory Council in late 2013. The ABS will then make a submission to the Government, outlining recommendations on the nature and content of the 2016 Census. The content of the 2016 Census is expected to be known by the end of 2014. People who have provided submissions will be advised of the outcome at this time.


For information on all data published by the ABS, users should refer to the ABS home page.

Further information

If you have questions about the submission process for the 2016 Census, or require further information, please contact the ABS National and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or email 2016census@abs.gov.au