INTRODUCTION FROM THE AUSTRALIAN STATISTICIAN
Following the successful releases of quality data from the 2016 Census, our focus shifts to how we can inform Australia’s important decisions post the next Australian Census of Population and Housing in August 2021. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is starting public consultation on the 2021 Census topics in order to inform ABS’ recommendations for decision by the Commonwealth Government.
More than 95% of Australian households participated in the 2016 Census - testament to the community’s appreciation for the unbiased, impartial statistics, data and insights produced from the Census. While we had a range of process issues and learnings from the 2016 Census, ABS maintained its unblemished record of data security and privacy. An independent assurance panel confirmed the high quality of the data, which has been released progressively since mid-2017.
The Census is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS. The Census creates a rich national statistical backbone for the country alongside a significant work program of surveys, longitudinal studies, administrative data research and data integration. Every Census requires a significant public investment with the return being priceless. For example, data collected in the Census underpins decisions about the allocation of billions of dollars of Government funding to states, territories and local governments. It is critical to the setting of federal, state and territory electoral boundaries and feeds into decisions related to schools; childcare centres; roads; healthcare facilities; and senior centres. With increasing availability and ease of access, Census data is used by individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors to make decisions that lead to better targeting of investment, increased jobs, expanded service provision and more.
Since the first National Census in 1911, topics have been added, removed and changed to ensure Census data remains relevant and valuable. New questions add time to Census processes and costs. Many Census topics are considered essential to retain to support key decisions and provide an understanding of change over time. The topic review is a critical stage in planning for the next Census. It’s important to ensure the Census investment continues to extract the most value and produces data which will continue to have meaning and benefit long after its release.
Recommendations to the Government for changes to Census topics are informed by the public consultation process, stakeholder engagement, testing and research of international practices. The ABS will ensure there is evidence and a demonstrated need to support new information being added to the Census. Being mindful of the burden on the population to complete the Census, we would also appreciate views on topics that could be removed or modified.
While the public consultation is open, we encourage data users and interested community members to share your views in a submission about what topics should be included in the next Census. This publication has full details on how to prepare your submission and frequently asked questions about this process. We appreciate your input and continued interest in the Census. And we thank you in advance for your time and effort in making your submission.
Finally, the ABS has been undertaking a comprehensive review of what went well in the operation of 2016 Census and has identified areas of improvement for 2021 as part of its planning process. ABS will communicate more about plans for the 2021 Census in future as this work progresses.
David W. Kalisch – Australian Statistician
3 April 2018