2021 Census of Population and Housing Australian Privacy Principle 5 Census Data Collection Notice

This Collection Notice explains the collection of personal information in the 2021 Census.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects personal information for different purposes. The ABS Privacy Policy for Statistical Information and the 2021 Census Privacy Statement provide more details about how personal information is protected. These are available on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au/privacy.

Who is collecting your personal information?

Your personal information is being collected by the ABS.

How is your personal information collected?

Personal information is collected from the Census form, which you can complete online or on a paper form. One person in each household usually completes the form for everyone at home on Census night, 10 August 2021. If you have privacy concerns, or want to keep your information private from others in your household or group house, you can request a separate online or paper form on the Census website.

What personal information is collected?

For the Census we collect and hold different kinds of personal information about you, including: 

  • name
  • address
  • basic demographics (e.g. age, sex, marital status)
  • personal characteristics (e.g. date of birth, country of birth, languages spoken, education qualification, employment information and income)
  • sensitive personal information including racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs (optional) and long-term health conditions.

We collect personal information such as phone numbers and emails to provide services to help us run the Census.

Why does the ABS collect your personal information?

We collect personal information to create statistics about Australia. These statistics inform important decisions on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters. ABS activities which use personal information include:

  1. Core statistics: used by businesses, the community and government to plan, make decisions, develop services and build infrastructure.
  2. Integrating Census data: used to create new and more valuable datasets by combining Census data with data from other sources. For more information see the data integration page on the ABS website. Information about you is not identifiable from this process.
  3. Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset: used to show how society is changing over time by combining 2021 Census data with a 5% sample of data from the 2006-2016 Censuses.

We also use personal information collected outside of the Census form to help us run the Census. This personal information is used to make communicating with you easier, including responding to questions and requests. For instance, if you ask for a separate Census form we will need your name and address for sending the form.

How long do we keep personal information?

  • We will keep names for up to 18 months.
  • We will keep addresses for up to 36 months.
  • Information we collect to run the Census will not be kept past the Census collection period, which usually ends by October 2021.

Who will the ABS share your personal information with?

We share data in a safe way with researchers but private organisations, such as direct marketing companies, cannot access the personal information you provide to us. We do not share data with other government agencies for compliance or regulation activities. Our legislation is clear that we cannot share information in a way that would identify anyone. Our Privacy Policy outlines the penalties for ABS employees who fail to protect your data.

What would happen if the ABS did not collect your personal information?

If we did not collect your personal information we would not be able to create useful statistics to inform and support decision making and research by government, businesses, non-government organisations and the public.

We collect personal information such as phone numbers and addresses to supply new Census forms and record details about dwellings. Personal information collected to support Census operations saves us time and money. For example, if we know a dwelling is empty we do not need to visit it multiple times to chase up a Census form.

What happens if you refuse to complete your Census form?

The Census is conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. It is compulsory. If you refuse to complete your Census form, the Australian Statistician has the power to direct you to do so. We seek your willing participation first, but if you continue to refuse after receiving a notice of direction from the Statistician, you may have to go to Court. You could be fined and get a criminal conviction.

Authority for collection of personal information

We collect personal information from the Census form and for processes that help us run the Census. The authority for these activities comes from the ABS Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

Census Time Capsule

You can decide to have your Census information transferred to the National Archives of Australia. If you choose to have this done, your information will not be made available for any purpose until 2120. It cannot be accessed for any reason before that time. You can read more about the Census Time Capsule on our website.

Overseas disclosure of your personal information

The ABS will not disclose your personal information overseas. When personal information used to help run the Census is stored in the cloud, it is kept in Australia.

How to access and correct your personal information

Contact the ABS Privacy Officer using the details provided below if you need to access or correct personal information collected about you in relation to supporting Census operations. It is not possible to access or change information on a Census form that has been submitted. If the personal information you provided in the Census has changed you do not need to correct it. The Census captures information at a point in time.

Privacy complaints

The ABS Privacy Policy for Statistical Information has information about how you can complain if you feel we have not adequately protected your privacy. The Policy describes how we will respond to your complaint, and what you can do if you are not satisfied with our response.

You can contact the ABS Privacy Officer (details below) who will respond to your enquiries or assist with complaints.

ABS Privacy Officer contact details

By email: privacy@abs.gov.au
By post: ABS Privacy Officer, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Locked Bag 10, Belconnen ACT 2617

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