2021 Census Privacy Statement

2021 Census privacy statement purpose

This Privacy Statement provides privacy information for the 2021 Census of Population and Housing (the Census). The statement supports the ABS Privacy Policy for Statistical Information which outlines in detail how the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) protects your personal information.

Authority for collection of personal information

The ABS is given the authority to collect, hold and use personal information for Census and statistical purposed as legislated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Census and Statistics Act). As an Australian Government agency, the ABS must also comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) and handle your personal information in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

What is personal information?

Personal information includes any information or opinion about you that could identify you.

Types of personal information

Personal information collected by and used for the Census can be divided into non-statistical and statistical personal information.

Personal information collected for non-statistical purposes

This includes personal information collected outside of the Census form. It is used to make communicating with you easier, including providing you with a response to any request you may make. For instance, if you call the Census Contact Centre and provide your email address or phone number, we will only use this information to assist with delivery or completion of your Census form. 

Examples of personal information collected to help the ABS run the Census include: 

  • your name
  • email address
  • residential address
  • phone number.

If you phone the Census Contact Centre and agree to have your phone call recorded for quality purposes, it will only be used to help maintain and provide a high-quality service for future enquiries. If you contact the Census Form Replacement Service we will only use your address to send you a new paper form. We will not add your personal information to any mailing lists or use it in other parts of the ABS for any other purpose.

If you are employed by the ABS to help run the Census, for example as a Field Officer, we will collect additional personal information so you can be paid and we can meet other employer obligations. ABS has contracted Adecco to coordinate the employment of Census field staff. The Adecco ABS Census Recruitment Privacy Policy describes how personal information is protected for Census field staff. 

We will keep personal information collected to support Census operations until the end of the Census collection period. This is expected to end by October 2021. 

Personal information collected for statistical purposes

Personal information collected for statistical purposes, also known as Census data, is the information you provide on the Census form covering the topics listed in the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016. 

Census data that we collect and hold includes: 

  • name
  • address
  • basic demographic information (e.g. age, sex, marital status, relationship with other household members)
  • personal characteristics (e.g. date of birth, country of birth, languages spoken, education qualifications, employment information and income).

We collect personal information in the Census for statistical activities. These activities include collection, compilation, analysis and publication of statistics about the Australian population and its dwellings. 'Compilation' includes use of Census information for data integration purposes. This involves combining data from two or more sources to create new and more valuable information.

Census data will only be used to produce statistics or for research purposes. It will not be possible for any one person or household to be identified from these statistics or research. 

Some of the Census data includes personal information which is sensitive. This includes racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs (optional) and long-term health conditions. 

For some types of dwellings, such as prisons, juvenile/youth detention centres and some aged care facilities, it may not be possible for the ABS to collect information directly. In these dwellings statistical information is gathered from third parties who are nominated to provide information on behalf of residents in the dwellings. Once collected, the ABS protects the privacy of this information in the same way - according to the same legislation and acts (i.e. laws) - as directly supplied information. 

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.

How we use your personal information

We use personal information collected from the Census form to create important statistics about Australia. We combine Census data with data from other sources in a process called data integration. Statistics and information from the Census and data integration are used to: 

  1. develop policy and plan infrastructure and services for communities
  2. show how society is changing over time when combined with data from the 2006-2016 Censuses.

We also use personal information collected outside of the Census form to help us run the Census.

Our legislation is very clear that we cannot release information in a way that would identify anyone (Census and Statistics Act 1905 s12(2)). 

We also do not use personal information for: 

  • marketing and advertising – we do not provide or sell any identifying information to companies for this
  • compliance – we do not provide identifiable Census information to the ATO, Centrelink or other government departments for compliance purposes
  • fraud prevention – we do not share Census information to identify or prevent fraud against the Government
  • national security and law enforcement – we do not provide information for policing or preventing espionage or domestic terrorism.

Is the Census compulsory?

The Census is compulsory. It is conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act. This Act (it is a law) gives the Australian Statistician the authority to request you to complete the Census form. The ABS always asks for willing cooperation, however if you refuse to participate in the Census, the Statistician may direct you to complete a form through a formal written notice. This notice is made under the authority of the Act. If you continue to refuse after being directed by the Statistician you may be fined and receive a criminal conviction.

What would happen if personal information was not collected?

If you do not provide your personal details when you contact us online or by phone through channels such as the Census Contact Centre, we may not be able to respond properly. This means we may not be able to answer your query or provide the assistance you require. 

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 you to make a statement or provide information that you know is false or misleading. If this happened, then the quality of data produced from such information could seriously affect the quality and accuracy of statistics produced.

Name and address collection

Names and addresses have been collected as part of every Census since 1911 and are a critical part of ensuring the quality and value of the Census. 

Names are collected in the Census for many reasons, including: 

  • making it easier for the person completing the form to provide the right information for each person in the household
  • enabling high quality data linking for important research for projects, such as enabling more accurate estimation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy: Indigenous Mortality Project
  • enabling the Post Census Review (previously known as the Post Enumeration Survey) to assess the quality of Census data. The Post Census Review is a short survey run in the month after the Census to determine how many people were missed or counted more than once, and to independently assess completeness of the Census.

Addresses are collected in the Census because data is also required for key characteristics about where Australians live and work. We collect addresses to:

  • release accurate data for geographic areas, such as postal areas, states and territories, capital cities, towns, remote areas and many more
  • produce accurate population estimates for regions to help with the distribution of government funds and for electoral purposes
  • help understand how and where people travel to work
  • enable the development of a higher quality ABS Address Register, which is used widely to develop better survey processes, and improve processes and systems for the next Census.

Retention periods for names and addresses

After the Census has been conducted and forms have been processed, the ABS will separate names and addresses from other information on the Census form (e.g. age, sex, occupation, level of education or income). The names and addresses are then stored securely and separately from other Census data and no one is ever able to view your name or address with your other Census data. This practice is known as the Separation Principle

We will retain names for up to 18 months and addresses for up to 36 months.

ABS statistical projects using names and addresses

The following table has examples of projects within the ABS that use name and address details. 

Project nameDetails
Address CodingAddresses provided on a Census form are allocated a geocode so that Census information can be shown for different geographic areas.
Processing method of travel to workFeeds into planning for transport networks, the development and release of residential and commercial land and place of work analysis.
Frame ReconciliationMatching Census forms received against dwelling addresses on the ABS address register dwelling frame.
MADIP - Multi-Agency Data Integration ProjectCombines data on healthcare, education, government payments, personal income tax and population demographics (including the Census) to create a comprehensive picture of Australians over time.
Australian Census and Migrants Integrated DatasetCombines data about people who have migrated to Australia under a permanent skill, family, humanitarian or other permanent stream visa.
Australian Census and Temporary Entrants Integrated DatasetCombines data to provide new insights into the social and economic characteristics of temporary residents including employment, income and housing outcomes.
Indigenous Mortality ProjectLinks almost 13 months of post-Census deaths data to Census data for the Government’s Closing the Gap initiative.
Australian Census Longitudinal DatasetUses a 5% sample of data from the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses to build a rich longitudinal picture of Australian society.
Homelessness dataCoding using addresses (includes refuges and shelters) to identify homelessness status.
Time Capsule with National Archives of AustraliaSaving Census data for future generations - for those who select this option on their Census form.

Using administrative data for the 2021 Census

Administrative data is information collected by government agencies, businesses or other organisations for various purposes, including registrations, transactions and record keeping, usually during the delivery of a service. We will use this data to enhance the efficiency and quality of the 2021 Census. It is only used for statistical and research purposes and is not released in a way that can lead to your identification. It is not used for compliance or enforcement purposes. Our Using administrative data for the 2021 Census webpage has more information.


The personal information you provide in your Census form is protected by the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act (CSA). This means ABS staff (including temporary Census employees) are required by law to protect your information and maintain its confidentiality. Under the CSA, the ABS must not release your personal information in a way that would allow you or any other person to be identified. 

Other organisations, including government departments and marketing companies, cannot have access to personal information you provide on your Census form. 

Where the ABS employs external organisations to support Census operations, such as mailing of requested paper forms or answering phone enquiries, your contact information continues to be protected by the Privacy Act. External organisations are only permitted to use the contact information to undertake their role in supporting Census operations and are bound by the same secrecy provisions as ABS staff.

Security, storage and retention of personal information

A critical feature of the Census and the online form is the high level of security it uses to protect all personal information collected. The security measures in place have been independently tested and reviewed to ensure your personal information is secure. 

The design of Census systems complies with government standards for information security (Australian Government Information Security Manual) developed by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). This is the Australian government agency responsible for protecting government systems and ensuring information security. ASD strategies are also used by the ABS to prevent targeted cyber intrusions. 

The storage and retention of your personal information is managed in accordance with Australian Government records management requirements. When no longer needed, your personal information is destroyed or deleted according to the Administrative Functions Disposal Authority and ABS records authorities (2020/000024932001/00000540 and 2007/00105946).

Saving Census data for future generations

As part of the Census, you can choose to have your Census information preserved for 99 years. If you choose this option all your Census information will be transferred to the National Archives of Australia as part of the Census Time Capsule. This information will not be made available for any purpose until 2120 and cannot be accessed, altered or retrieved before that time. For more information, read about the Census Time Capsule.

2021 Census Collection Notices

In accordance with APP5, we have two 2021 Census Collection Notices. These notices relate to data collected from the Census form and to support Census operations, including employment of Census Field Officers. The notices provide details about the types of personal information we collect, why we collect it, the laws we must obey, and what would happen if we didn’t collect certain personal information. 

The Census Collection Notices are available at www.abs.gov.au/privacy.

How to access personal information we hold about you and have it corrected

You can contact the ABS using the details provided below if you need to access or correct your personal information collected in relation to supporting Census operations. For instance, if you are employed as a Census Field Officer and you want to update your bank account details. 

It is not possible to access or change any information on a Census form that has been submitted.

How to make a privacy complaint/contact us

Please contact us if you think we may have breached your privacy rights or our privacy responsibilities or if you have any queries about the personal information the ABS holds about you or the way it is handled. 

Our Privacy Officer will answer your enquiries or assist with complaints about our compliance with the APPs. 

The Privacy Officer can be contacted by: 




National Information Referral Service on 1300 135 070. 


Privacy Officer
Policy and Legislation Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10
Belconnen ACT 2617 

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