ABS develops a new view of records across successive Censuses, Aug 2005

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August 18, 2005
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

ABS develops a new view of records across successive Censuses

The Australian Census will be made more useful to future researchers with a decision, announced today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to establish a Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset based on a five per cent sample of the Census.

No names and addresses will be involved, continuing the ABS's long-standing policy of destroying names and addresses from Census forms after processing. The five per cent sample will be brought together from each successive Census, starting in 2006, using statistical matching. Past census data will not be included.

The decision follows a period of public consultation on an earlier proposal that was to include a longitudinal view of the full population. Concerns about this proposal were raised by some in terms of its comprehensive nature and the possibility that future changes to legislation might reduce the protection of the data. It was wrongly claimed by some that this opened the way for a national database.

The ABS has always maintained the strictest standards of privacy, and is required by law to protect the confidentiality of data it collects. It would have provided a safe and secure environment for the holding of such data for statistical purposes.

However recognising that there were some public concerns, the ABS will proceed with a modified proposal that will deliver many, although certainly not all, of the benefits of the original proposal.

The five per cent sample will still provide a rich dataset for addressing issues affecting mainstream Australia. However the sample will make it difficult to understand issues affecting small areas and groups, for example environmentally related health issues.

Additional datasets may be used in conjunction with the five per cent sample. For example information from a disease register, where this is available within the ABS, might be used with the longitudinal information from the Census.

The first longitudinal view of the five per cent sample containing information from successive censuses, will not be available until after the 2011 Census has been processed.

Further information on this proposal can be obtained from Census Data Enhancement