2016 Census Privacy Statement

Purpose of the 2016 Census Privacy Statement

This privacy statement explains how the personal information you provide to the ABS as part of the 2016 Census was collected, used and disclosed. This policy is consistent with the ABS Privacy Policy.

Protecting your privacy and confidentiality is critical to the ABS. As an Australian Government agency, we comply with our obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) and manage personal information in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles.

Authority and purposes for which the ABS collects, holds and uses your personal information in the Census

We collect, hold, and use personal information in the Census for statistical and non-statistical purposes in order to carry out the functions of the ABS as legislated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (ABS Act), and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Census and Statistics Act).

These functions include collecting, compiling, analysing, and disseminating statistics about Australia, its population and economy. ‘Compilation’ includes use of Census information for data integration purposes, which involves combining data from two or more sources to create new statistics.

Types of information collected in the Census

The Census collects information relating to each person and household in Australia to provide statistics about our community.

During the Census you will be asked to provide certain personal information. The types of personal information being collected can be categorised into two groups:

  1. Statistical information supplied on the Census form
  2. Information collected outside the Census form, to support the operations of the Census.

1. Statistical information

Information you provide on the Census form covering the topics prescribed by the Census and Statistics (Census) Regulation 2015, including name, dwelling addresses and workplace addresses. Statistical information provided to the ABS will be used to produce statistics. No information will be released in a way that would enable the identification of any particular individual or household.

In a small proportion of dwellings (such as correctional institutions), where it is not practical to collect information directly, statistical information is provided by third parties. Once collected, the ABS treats this information with the same practices and protection as directly supplied information.

2. Information to support operations

Information that is collected outside the Census form and includes contact information such as your name, email address, address or telephone number. This personal information is used to make communicating with you easier, including providing you with a response to any request you may make. It may also be used to contact you to follow up submission of your Census form in compliance with the Census and Statistics Act. Contact information for operational purposes may be collected in the process of conducting the Census, including when you contact the Census Inquiry Service, submit an online form, write to us or are contacted by an ABS Officer.

Contact information provided for operational purposes will only be used or disclosed for purposes which are related to our functions as described under the ABS Act and the Census and Statistics Act. If you provide your email address or telephone number, we will only use it to assist with completion of your Census form and will not add it to any mailing lists unless you request us to do so. If you phone the Census Inquiry Service and agree to have your phone call recorded for quality purposes, it will only be used to assist in providing a high quality Census Inquiry Service.

Information to support the operations of the Census may be collected from publicly available sources and third parties. This includes collecting:

  • name and contact details to contact people to assist with access to apartment buildings or with collecting Census forms in dwellings such as aged care accommodation
  • names and addresses to assist with following up non-return of Census forms
  • data to assist with operational planning for the Census and validation of Census data.

Census is compulsory

The Census is conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act. This empowers the Statistician to request persons to complete forms. The ABS always seeks willing cooperation, however if a person refuses, the Statistician may, by notice in writing, direct a person to complete a form.


The personal information you provide in your Census form is protected by the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act. These provisions legally bind all ABS staff (including temporary employees working during the Census) to protect your information.

Under the Census and Statistics Act, the ABS must not disclose your personal information in a way that will enable you, or any other person, to be identified. Other organisations, including government departments and direct marketing companies, cannot have access to personal information you provide on your Census form. It is an offence for any past or present ABS officer to divulge, either directly or indirectly, any information collected under the Census and Statistics Act. The Act provides for heavy penalties (fines of up to $25,200 or imprisonment for up to 2 years or both) for anybody convicted of breaching this obligation

All personal information provided outside of the Census form to support Census operations is subject to protections of the Privacy Act and will not be disclosed to any person or organisation unless

  • you have consented
  • you would reasonably expect, or have been told, that we usually disclose information of this kind
  • the disclosure is otherwise required or authorised by Australian law.

Where the ABS engages third party organisations to support Census operations, such as mailing of requested paper forms or answering phone inquiries, your contact information continues to be protected by the Privacy Act and the third party organisations are only permitted to use the information to undertake their role in supporting Census operations.

Security and retention of personal information

All personal information collected in the Census is collected and stored securely. Electronic and paper records containing your personal information are protected in accordance with the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework. We manage your personal information in accordance with the Australian Government records management regime. When no longer required, your personal information is destroyed or deleted according to the Administrative Functions Disposal Authority and our records authorities (2001/00000540 and 2007/00105946.)

After data collection and processing, the ABS will remove names and addresses from other personal and household information. Names and addresses will be stored securely and separate from one another. No one working with Census data will be able to view your personal information (name or address) at the same time as your other Census responses (such as age, sex, occupation, level of education or income).

Stored separately and securely, individuals names will also be substituted with a linkage key, a computer generated random set of numbers and letters, completely anonymising the personal information. Only these anonymous linkage keys will be used by the ABS to bring data sets together.

As an accredited data integrating authority, the ABS complies with a set of key principles for any project that combines Census data with other data, including assessing every project to ensure that the project provides a significant public benefit and safeguards privacy.

The ABS will retain and use the names and addresses collected on Census forms as long as there is a significant benefit for the community to do so. Consistent with the Australian Privacy Principles, the information should and will be destroyed once this need no longer exists.

For the 2016 Census, the ABS will destroy names and addresses when there is no longer any community benefit to their retention or four years after collection (i.e. August 2020), whichever is earliest.

The ABS has and will always ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the information it collects in the Census, including names and addresses.

Further information is contained in the Retention of names and addresses collected in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing and Privacy, Confidentiality and Security of Census data documents.

Consequences for you or your community if personal information is not collected

Information to support operations

If you do not provide your personal details when you contact us online or by phone through the Census Inquiry Service, we may not be able to respond. This means we may not be able to fulfil your request, to send you a receipt number or answer your query.

Statistical information

If you do not provide the information requested on the Census form, penalties under the Census and Statistics Act may apply. It is also an offence for a person to make a statement or provide information that they know is false or misleading.

Another consequence of not providing information requested on the Census form is that the accuracy of statistics produced for your community could be undermined. Though the statistics compiled from Census data do not contain information which could identify individuals, collecting personal information increases the quality of the statistics that are produced.

How to access personal information we hold about you and seek its correction

In accordance with the Privacy Act, the ABS may provide you with access to your personal information, or correct your personal information, where it is reasonable and practicable to do so.

If you elect to have your complete Census information transferred to National Archives, this information will not be made available for any purpose until 2115 and cannot be accessed, altered or retrieved before that time. For more information, read about the Census Time Capsule.

To request access to or correction of personal information collected about you in relation to Census processes, contact us using the details provided below.

ABS websites:

For information about privacy and security of ABS websites and alternatives to our websites, see the ABS Privacy Policy.

How to make a privacy complaint

We are committed to protecting your privacy. In the unlikely event of any accidental or unauthorised disclosure of your personal information, we will treat it seriously and will deal with it promptly.

If you think we may have breached your privacy rights or our privacy responsibilities, you may contact us using the details provided below.

We will acknowledge the receipt of your complaint within five business days of receiving it. In most cases, we will complete our investigation into your complaint and respond to you within 30 days. If the matter is more complex and our investigation may take longer, we will let you know when we expect to be able to provide our response.

A complaint should first be made to us and we should be given 30 days to respond. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of, or our response to your complaint, you may refer your complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

How to contact us

Please contact us if you have any queries about the personal information that the ABS holds about you or the way that we handle that personal information. Our Privacy Officer will deal with your inquiries or complaints about our compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles.

The Privacy Officer can be contacted:

By email:


By phone:

02 6252 7203

By post:

ABS Privacy Officer
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10
Belconnen ACT 2617

Availability of this policy

If you wish to access this policy in an alternative format (e.g. hard copy), please contact us using the details provided above.

For information about how the Census holds and uses personal information of employees, see the ABS Privacy Policy.

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