2903.0 - How Australia Takes a Census, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/04/2011   
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Uses of Census Data

A Wide Variety of Uses

    The basis of other ABS statistics

    Census data form the basis of many of the ABS' most widely used products and services. One is the official population estimates which are updated each quarter. Census data are also used in compiling the monthly employment and unemployment statistics and the national accounts. The Census counts of the number of people in each geographic area are also used in the framework for selecting the samples used in ABS household surveys.

    Public inquiries

    There were 1.69 million hits recorded on the ABS website in the three hours from 9am-12pm following the launch of Census data on 27 June 2007. This equated to over 9400 hits per minute.

    The ABS itself has recorded over half a million requests for data from the 2006 Census. In addition, there are many inquiries made to libraries and other organisations that disseminate Census data. A greater level of demand is expected from the 2011 Census.

    Allocation of funds and federal seats

    The official population estimates are used to allocate Commonwealth funds to state and local governments, and to determine the number of seats each state and territory has in the House of Representatives.

    Planning and administration

    The Census provides the characteristics of the population and its housing to support the planning, administration and policy development activities of governments, business and other users. For example, these characteristics have been used to study the social and economic circumstances of particular population groups.

    While some of this information is available from other sources, only a Census can provide the information for the country as a whole and for small geographic areas and small population groups.

Some Specific Examples

To give an idea of the uses to which Census data can be put, described below are some of the ways in which they have been used in the past, both commercially and for community projects.

    Communities using Census data

    Communities NSW was formed in July 2009 and brings together a range of agencies, institutions and services to deliver better community services for NSW. Arts NSW and New South Wales Sport and Recreation (NSWSR) are two such agencies.

    Arts NSW recently used Census data to identify rates of use of a range of services and to inform decisions for future programs and need for change. The data was also used to examine the participation rate in arts and cultural activities by community groups such as youth, adults, senior citizens, Indigenous, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, people with disabilities for people in Western Sydney and regional NSW.

    This analysis, in conjunction with other available data sources, has been vital in informing decision making processes and implementing changes to programs to better target client needs.

    NSWSR used ABS data to establish that people from CALD backgrounds were under-represented in sport and physical activity. From this, they were able to identify that Muslim women were not participating in swimming lessons as the classes NSWSR ran were for both males and females together.

    By utilising Census data, NSWSR identified where the greatest proportions of Muslim women lived and established specific swimming classes for Muslim women with no males present. These classes continue.

    Bringing together data and information to improve community health and wellbeing

    Maribyrnong City Council has created a central resource, The Maribyrnong Story, which builds linkages across Council to assist in developing community policies and projects and determining priorities.

    'The Maribyrnong Story' is a web-based resource for planning, partnerships and advocacy. It brings together information about the main factors affecting health and wellbeing in the local community and provides demographic data, updated lists on council services and other initiatives designed to improve the community's health and wellbeing. It is linked to Maribyrnong City Council's primary objective to protect and promote the wellbeing of our community.

    The resource is used by Council staff, community organisations and residents to assist with developing proposals for funding, advocacy campaigns, and ensuring programs and services are well targeted for the community.

    Census of Population and Housing data is used in 'The Maribyrnong Story' to assist in understanding the characteristics of the local community.

    Improving delivery of home nursing care

    The Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) Victoria is a community organisation providing home and community nursing and health care services throughout Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. RDNS wanted to profile a number of areas in order to better target the delivery of their services. RDNS partnered with the National Centre for Social Applications of Geographic Information Systems, University of Adelaide (GISCA) to assist them with this objective. GISCA undertake high quality basic and applied research of social and demographic data using GIS technology.

    Together, RDNS and GISCA were able to develop, access and analyse data and establish a spatial information system. Over 26,000 de-identified RDNS client records were geocoded and integrated with a range of databases. To support the development of the RDNS service plan, GISCA mapped services to clients in each Statistical Local Area and made comparisons with 2006 Census data provided in the Basic and Expanded Community Profiles Census Data Packs.

    RDNS has now been able to better identify and modify its service delivery to meet the needs of the ageing population in local catchment areas through the development of data analysis and population maps.

    Building better shopping centres using Census data

    Large retail organisations often use Census and other ABS data to assess or justify the need for new developments or project work on existing shopping centres. Such organisations often use secondary providers to provide the data necessary for such analysis.

    A licensed secondary provider of confidentialised ABS unit record data, MDS Market Data Systems, merged ABS Household Expenditure data and Census data to create new datasets in their product MarketInfo.

    These licensed data sets provide detailed information and are used by retail researchers and shopping centre owners to assist with the planning and application process for shopping centres, and inform decisions to buy, sell or upgrade shopping centres.

    Use of Census data by the Catholic community

    The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Research Office provides services to approximately 1350 Catholic parishes and 28 dioceses (regions) across Australia, as well as to national Catholic agencies.

    Since 1991, the office has designed and purchased customised Census tables in order to provide demographic information about the Catholic population from local parish up to national level. Using data from the 2006 Census, comprehensive profiles, complete with tables, graphs and maps, were created for each of these parishes and dioceses.

    These profiles enable parishes to become better informed, for example, about the age profile of the Catholic population, its ethnic composition and level of education, and the number of Catholics heading one-parent families, living alone or needing assistance with core activities such as self-care and mobility.

    For 2011, the office will enhance its capacity to deliver Census data to the Catholic community by constructing an interactive online thematic mapping facility for use by personnel in parishes, schools and other Catholic agencies.

    Attracting and retaining skilled workers to the Northern Territory

    Attracting the right sort of skilled workers is a priority for any government, however in the Northern Territory (NT) traditional models of recruitment do not seem to apply as they do in other states due to differences in internal migration.

    The most common source of workers in other parts of Australia tends to be the larger urban centres, and particularly the capital city. The capital city (and other large centres) are the most common locations for university and technical education. Regional areas often rely on excess labour (especially those people who have previously lived in rural or regional areas) to disperse from the capital cities. In the Northern Territory, labour shortages in Darwin are as acute as they are in regional and remote areas, and few people move from Darwin to work in regional areas. Knowing where to go to look for labour that might be attracted to the NT is therefore a significant problem for government and industry.

    The Census collects information on migration patterns of people by collecting data from place of usual residence 1 year and 5 years ago. The Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University has analysed the migration patterns of people employed in various sectors using ABS TableBuilder data.

    Through the use of Census data, the Northern Institute analysed skilled migration flows throughout Australia and identified the major source regions for the Northern Territory across various industries.

    This and other research has been used by the NT government to design a new suite of labour recruitment strategies including developing a list of 'target regions' for specific skills and tailoring recruitment pitches to those regions. The research has also highlighted the need to re-think strategies to increase the production of local labour through better education and training for unskilled residents.