2903.0 - How Australia Takes a Census, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/04/2011   
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The production of accurate maps for use by Census Collectors is important to the collection of the Census. They make it possible for Census Collectors to deliver and collect forms from every household in Australia. For the 2011 Census, a computer-based mapping system has once again been used to produce high quality maps. This system builds on experience gained last Census in use of computer based mapping. The main benefit of this mapping system is that it will provide more detailed and appropriately scaled maps for use by Census Collectors, leading to better coverage of the population.

Considerable effort has been made to evaluate Census Collector comments regarding the map content of 2006 maps and where possible, to take these into account in maps produced for 2011. The ABS has also been working with the Public Sector Mapping Authority to incorporate updated and more detailed mapping information into the Census maps. The presentation of maps for 2011 has been enhanced using a system that provides more detailed and appropriately scaled maps for use by Census Collectors.

Census collectors will be provided with a hard copy of their map and, for 2011, have access to an online version of their workload map so they can gain a greater understanding of their workload.

Collection Workloads

A Census Collector will be responsible for the Census enumeration in a clearly bounded local area, to be known as a collector workload. Collector workloads will cover Australia without overlap or omission. The design and mapping of these areas is an important preliminary task of the Census as these areas represent the basic unit of collection.

For the 2011 Census, the ABS will use computer-based mapping systems similar to those used for the 2006 Census, for the design of collector workloads and for the production of maps used by Census Collectors.

Form Printing and Other Materials

Once the design of the Census forms is completed, work begins on the typesetting and printing of the forms. For the 2011 Census, the ABS will produce 11.8 million Household Forms and 2.9 million Personal Forms.

In addition, large amounts of material are required for field operations, such as administrative documents, cartons for transport purposes, training material and manuals.

Please refer to the 2011 Household Form to see the 2011 Census questions and Form layout.

Census Awareness and Public Relations

As part of each Census, the ABS conducts a comprehensive public relations campaign. The 2011 Census campaign includes strategies to:

  • ensure high levels of awareness of the Census and its benefit to the community among all Australians, including a number of special audience segments;
  • ensure high levels of awareness of the Census recruitment campaign (ABS needs to recruit approximately 43,000 Census field staff around Australia in 2011);
  • ensure high levels of participation in the Census;
  • ensure high levels of awareness of the option to complete the Census form online via eCensus; and
  • ensure high levels of confidence in the privacy and confidentiality of information provided in the Census.

The public relations campaign includes paid media advertising and a range of activities, including online communication and the use of social media, stakeholder communication and engagement, events and sponsorship, and activities specifically targeting population groups such as young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people experiencing homelessness, travellers and international students. There is also a comprehensive program of media content to inform journalists and commentators about the Census and to encourage accurate, timely coverage of relevant issues.

An important aspect of the public relations strategy is to raise awareness of available help for respondents, especially for people who may be disadvantaged in obtaining information about the Census or completing their form due to language or other difficulties. As part of this strategy there will be a Census information website containing information on how to complete the Census form (CensusHelp), which will be operational during the Census campaign. In addition, a Census Guide produced for every household in Australia.

Delivery and Collection of Forms

An efficient collection operation is essential to the success of the Census. As in previous Censuses, the 2011 Census is self-enumerated. This means that each household is asked to fill in the details required on the Census form. Assistance is available from the Collector and the Census Inquiry Service, and via online help. In a small number of urban workloads, interviews will be offered to collect the data.

As for the 2006 Census, the 2011 Census will be available to be completed on-line. Further information about the eCensus is available in the eCensus section.

Where a household returns the form for all people present via eCensus, the Collector will not need to return. When the householder elects to use the paper Census form, or only includes some household members on the eCensus, the Collector arranges with the householder a convenient time to return and collect the form after Census Night. Where a Collector is not initially successful in collecting a Census form, he/she is required to return to the household up to five times in the twenty day period following Census Night to attempt to collect the form. Collectors are also required to scan questions 1-8 of each form to ensure these have been completed.

A hierarchical structure of temporary staff is used to deliver and collect Census forms. All staff are appointed under the Census and Statistics Act and are subject to the strict confidentiality provisions of the Act. Further information on managing field operations is available in the Managing the Census Field Operation section.

Census Inquiry Service

To ensure that public inquiries concerning the 2011 Census are dealt with accurately and efficiently, the ABS operates an outsourced telephone and email inquiry service.

The Census Inquiry Service answers public inquiries relating to the Census, advises how to complete the form and enables householders to request assistance from their Census Collector. This process is made possible by the use of SMS messaging which enables Census Collectors to receive information relating to householders in their Collector Workloads.

This method of communication in the field enhances procedures for Collectors and will ensure the Census Collector's workload becomes more manageable.

Technical assistance is also provided for the eCensus by email or telephone.

The Census Inquiry Service includes a telephone interpreter service and a service for persons with hearing impairments through the National Relay Service. Information for respondents with low vision or a vision impairment will also be available through Vision Australia.

The Census Inquiry Service will be supported by the Census website which will provide details about Census questions and topics as well as a range of other general information.

Non-Private Dwellings

For the enumeration of non-private dwellings such as hotels and hospitals, staff of these establishments are recruited as Special Collectors and distribute a personal form and a privacy envelope to each person spending Census Night in that dwelling. Special Collectors are required to collect the completed forms as soon as possible after Census Night. Completing the eCensus is also an option for non-private dwellings.

Personal forms are also provided to people on board ships in or between Australian ports, or on long distance trains or buses on Census Night.

Private Dwelling Establishments

For the 2011 Census all households in caravan parks, marinas, manufactured home estates and self-care accommodation for the aged will be provided with household forms. Use of these forms enables statistics to be produced on the families living in this type of accommodation. This also includes persons living in apartment complexes which provide long term accommodation. However, short term accommodation in apartment complexes will be classified as non-private dwellings and each person spending Census Night in these dwellings will receive a personal form. Completing the eCensus is also an option for private dwelling establishments.

Privacy Envelopes

Privacy envelopes are provided for anyone who does not wish to have their completed form seen by their Census Collector or members of the household and for people enumerated in non-private dwellings. Members of the public are informed of the availability of privacy envelopes through the public awareness campaign, the Census Guide and the Census form.

Special Procedures

    For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

    In consultation with a range of organisations and government departments at all levels, the ABS has developed an Indigenous Enumeration Strategy for this Census. This strategy describes procedures which allow for potential barriers, caused by cultural factors, to the effective enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be addressed.

    The strategy provides procedures to cover the enumeration of:

    • nominated discrete Indigenous communities; and
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in urban and rural areas.

    Part of this strategy is the employment of local people to assist in the enumeration of the nominated Indigenous communities, with local managers or in some areas, teams of staff to manage the enumeration. In urban areas with high Indigenous populations, Collectors will provide greater levels of support than in the past by offering to conduct an interview, with Special Collectors available to assist in other areas.

    The communication aspects of the strategy include paid media advertising, a program of consultation with community leaders, briefings for representatives of Indigenous media outlets, use of posters and leaflets specifically designed for Indigenous communities, and the dissemination of information about the Census.

    For Culturally and Linguistically Diverse groups

    With almost one in five Australians speaking a language other than English at home, there is a need to provide assistance to households that have difficulties in speaking or reading English. A strategy has been developed by the ABS to ensure that the best possible enumeration of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse groups is achieved. The communications elements of this strategy include paid media advertising, providing information to community leaders and to relevant journalists and commentators, translating brochures into other languages, and providing information to migrant education units and community groups.

    The Census also employs Collectors with skills in languages other than English, and operates a Language Helpline through the Census Inquiry Service. The Language Helpline caters for 10 of the most commonly used languages in Australia. If the caller is not conversant in any of the 10 languages offered by the Census Inquiry Service, a customer service representative will connect them to an external interpreting service which caters for over 100 languages, and set up a 3-way conference between the Census Inquiry Service, the caller, and the interpreter provided by the external service.

    For the homeless

    There are two groups of people whose housing, or lack of, poses particular issues for collecting Census data. The first group are people who do not have a conventional roof over their heads and who live in places such as on the streets, in parks, under bridges or in squats. The second group comprises people without a usual address and staying temporarily in accommodation such as boarding houses, refuges, hostels, hotels/motels, caravan parks or within the homes of relatives/friends (couch-surfers).

    In the lead-up to the 2011 Census, the ABS is liaising with state/territory organisations in order to gain their assistance in correctly identifying accommodation likely to cater for the homeless. Prior to Census Night, ABS staff from regional offices will contact groups providing services for the homeless to identify possible sites where homeless people are likely to be located. Where possible, members of the homeless community will be engaged to enumerate 'difficult' areas where significant numbers of homeless people are likely to spend Census Night.


    A range of people will be travelling across the Census period, from those people catching a plane or bus on Census night through to people visiting other parts of the country or visiting from overseas.

    Each type of traveller will be able to participate in the Census, such as by being provided a form when they get onto an inter or intrastate plane or bus, or by completing a form at the hotel, motel or camp they are staying at.

    Some people will be driving themselves and may not be staying anywhere specific on Census night. For these people, information will be available on the ABS website or through the Census Inquiry Service on where they can drop in to collect a form that they can then send back. They will also receive information on how to use the eCensus to complete their form online.

    For others

    Where requested, Census Collectors are able to provide assistance to people who need help with reading the questions and recording answers. A telephone service for the hearing impaired will also be available through the National Relay Service. An information DVD will be produced in Auslan and will be available on the ABS website as well as through peak bodies. Vision Australia will also be assisting the ABS to produce suitable material for people with low vision or a vision impairment. This will include an audio version of the Census form and guide in MP3 format as well as versions in large print and Braille.

    Census television advertisements will have subtitling for encoder viewing. The eCensus has also been designed to be accessible for people with visual impairments or limited motor skills through the use of assistive technologies such as screen readers.