2902.0 - Census Update (Newsletter), Aug 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/11/2002   
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Census Corner

Speech by The Australian Statistician,
Dennis Trewin
2001 Census data launch, ABS Data Processing Centre,
Ultimo, Monday 17 June 2002

Good morning and welcome to the launch of the 2001 Census data. I would like to extend a special welcome to Hugh Mackay, celebrated author and social researcher who has kindly agreed to speak at today’s launch and thank you all for being here today.

Today is the culmination of six years of planning and nine months of processing.

It is no surprise that we have chosen the ABS Census Data Processing Centre as the venue for today’s launch. A lot has happened to your Census form since you handed it back to a Census Collector in August last year.

And much has happened here in this building. Over 850 staff have spent nine months registering, scanning, transcribing and running checks and balances on millions of Census forms to ensure the quality of the information we are releasing this morning.

The biggest thank you should, of course, be reserved for the Australian public.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you that the level of co-operation from households across Australia has once again been outstanding.

This excellent level of co-operation, coupled with successful field operations, processing and product development, means that the Australian Census will continue to be regarded as one of the best in the world and a great investment in Australia’s future.

The Census is a very large but important task. It is the largest and most wide-ranging collection undertaken by the ABS and I am told that it is the largest peacetime operation in Australia. It involves the recruitment and training of over 30,000 Census Collectors who drop-off and pick-up forms from every household in Australia.

This Census processing has been ahead of schedule and within budget. No doubt, I’m sure due to some of the new technological innovations used, including the imaging of the Census forms and the use of special software to automatically read the hand-printed responses on the form. But the contribution of the staff at this centre should not be underestimated. It has been a fine team effort and a big thank you must go to them.

The Census is being released in two stages, allowing for the bulk of data to get to planning authorities, businesses and the wider community as quickly as possible. Second stage data is still being analysed and worked on by processing staff in this building, right at this very moment.

The development of Census products for first stage data has also been completed well ahead of schedule and has enabled today’s early release. Over 50,000 spreadsheets, publications and CD-ROMs containing the key results from across Australia have been released today for access and a big thank you goes to all staff involved.

For most of the population, filling in the Census form is routine, it comes around every five years. Like time-lapsed photography, the Census has captured our national journey throughout the 20th Century and now into the new millennium.

The snapshot of the nation in 2001, which we release today, gives us an insight into Australia during the Centenary of Federation, and at the start of the new millennium. I look forward to Hugh Mackay’s thoughts on what he makes of it all.

In celebration of the Centenary of Federation the “Census Time Capsule” project was conducted as part of the 2001 Census. People could choose to have their personally-identified Census information kept on microfilm at the National Archives of Australia for 99 years.The number of Australians who opted to take part in the Time Capsule Project” will be revealed on Thursday in a joint announcement between the ABS and the National Archives of Australia.

The Census is a great national project underpinning our democracy, and plays a role in the setting of electoral boundaries, determining the number of seats in the house of representatives and in the allocation of grants from the Commonwealth to States and Territories.

Those are all very official ways that the Census benefits every Australian.

But it benefits their community too by giving them useable information that can help them build a better Australia.

There are many different uses and users of census data.

The Census shows us how people commute and where they go. Transport planners can then use Census information to work out better solutions for moving millions of people through our cities.

Census information reveals trends in Australian life. Strategic planners in both public and private sectors see the needs of present Australians and can forecast the probable needs of future Australians.

Where do people need breast cancer screening clinics, hospitals, schools and sports grounds? Where will retirees be living in 2010? Where are the best locations for retail outlets, manufacturing establishments and entertainment facilities? The Census can tell you all of this.

As we would all recognise, a great deal of the usefulness and value of this information is directly dependent upon access to the data.

Census data is available to the public through the ABS web site at www.abs.gov.au, where you can access Census Snapshots and Basic Community Profiles to the level of Statistical Local Areas, and Indigenous Profiles to the level of Indigenous Areas, free of charge.

You can also access Census information through a co-operative arrangement the ABS has with over 500 national, state, tertiary and public libraries throughout Australia.

At today’s event you will have the opportunity to see many of the products and services available through the ABS.You will also receive a copy of the summary publication.

At the close of today’s proceedings I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to have a closer look at the data and how the ABS will deliver the 2001 Census information as a planning tool and benchmark for informed decision-making.

It gives me great pleasure to officially launch the first results from the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

Thank you.