THE CENSUS ON ICE
The census aims to count all people in Australia on Census night, with the exception of foreign diplomats and their families. Also included are those people outside Australia who are not required to undertake migration formalities, such as those on oil and gas rigs or on Australian Antarctic bases.
When determining the date of the census, the ABS aims to select a date which minimises the number of people who will be away from their usual residence. School holidays on or close to the date of the census increase collection difficulties and lowers the quality of data.
For this reason, the last few censuses have been held in early August. However, holding the census in winter makes it extremely difficult to enumerate those in Antarctica.
Census forms are shipped from Tasmania to Antarctica months in advance to make sure the residents of Antarctic bases receive their Census forms before the ice closes in and they become cut-off for the winter. Together with the rest of Australia, they fill in their forms on Census night. However unlike the vast majority of people who live in private dwellings and fill in household forms, they receive personal forms so as not to compromise their privacy.
Two months after the census, the ice finally thaws enough to allow the forms to be despatched on the first ship to Australia. They are collated by staff in the ABS' Tasmanian office before being sent to the Data Processing Centre for processing.
For 2006, it is anticipated many of the difficulties with collection in Antarctica will be solved through use of the internet. Rather than providing paper forms and having them collected some months later, people in Antarctic bases will simply complete and submit their census form over the internet. Not only will this allow considerable cost savings, it will also allow the results of the census to be processed more quickly.