2911.0.55.004 - Information Paper: 2011 Census Special Enumeration Strategies, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/08/2012  First Issue
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The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and one of the most important. Its objective is to accurately measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census night, and the dwellings in which they live.

Every Census, the ABS uses a range of targeted approaches to enable the best possible coverage of all groups in the Australian population. These approaches, known collectively as the Special Enumeration Strategies, recognise and address the various social, cultural and physical barriers to the effective enumeration of many people living in Australia.

This publication discusses the Special Enumeration Strategies used in the 2011 Census. It details five strategies of particular importance covering the following target groups: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups; people experiencing homelessness; people working in or associated with mining sites; and people travelling remotely.

For more information on mainstream 2011 Census operations, refer to the publication How Australia Takes a Census (cat. no. 2903.0).


Most special strategies have one or more of the following components:

Special Collectors: These were field staff employed to undertake specialist collection tasks as part of a special strategy. For example, locating hard-to-find populations, managing distribution and collection of forms in a collective establishment, or conducting interviews with respondents. A key objective when employing Special Collectors was to select them from the establishment, sector, or population group that was the target of the strategy.

Alternative Census forms: Alternative Census forms were used as part of some strategies. An Interviewer Household Form was used in nominated discrete Indigenous communities and in some urban areas. In some areas, a shortened version of the Census form was used to count rough sleepers as part of the Homeless Enumeration Strategy.

Targeted communication: Due to barriers to completing the Census, high representation in undercount rates and difficulties with enumeration, a number of population groups within the wider Australian population were identified as requiring additional or customised communication. The overarching communication objectives and key messages for the 2011 Census Communication Campaign also applied to these audiences. However, specific communication strategies and plans were developed to align with the Special Enumeration Strategies employed for these population groups, including the need to communicate special instructions to ensure the accurate completion of the Census. Communication strategies for these groups used different activities to engage the audience such as specialised printed instructional materials, advertising, translated information materials, event participation and sponsorship, the use of Census Ambassadors and other peer-to-peer communication tactics.


The following is a summary of the Special Enumeration Strategies used in the 2011 Census:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: The Indigenous Enumeration Strategy aimed to provide an accurate count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. It included special procedures used in discrete communities as well as in some urban areas to assist with form completion; the employment of local people wherever possible; and, more broadly, the use of culturally appropriate engagement to encourage participation in the Census. The strategy was employed Australia-wide and involved considerable planning and resources. More information can be found on the Indigenous Enumeration Strategy in this publication.

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups: This strategy aimed to increase participation of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In particular, with almost one-in-five Australians speaking a language other than English at home, there was a need to provide assistance to householders who had difficulties in speaking or reading English. This strategy also included awareness-raising campaigns targeted at specific cultural, ethnic and language groups. This was one of the most broad-ranging and publicly visible strategies. More information can be found on the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Enumeration Strategy in this publication.

Defence: The ABS liaised with the Department of Defence to identify defence establishments within Australia. Procedures for enumeration varied depending on whether the establishment contained private or communal dwellings. This strategy also covered defence personnel on vessels, and those who were overseas without having undergone immigration departure formalities.

Homelessness: This strategy encompassed people experiencing all levels of homelessness, including people sleeping rough, people staying at emergency or crisis accommodation, and those sleeping at friends' or relatives' homes with nowhere else to go. More information can be found on the Homeless Enumeration Strategy in this publication.

Hospitals and health: The ABS worked with the Australian Department of Health and Ageing to ensure an accurate Census count of people staying in hospitals, and residents in other care facilities such as nursing homes. In-patients and residents were given the opportunity, wherever possible, to complete Census forms in the same way as any other members of the public. Where in-patients or residents were incapable of completing forms, and no other help was available (for instance, from family members), information was obtained by interview using Special Collectors, or from administrative records.

Immigration detention centres: For the 2011 Census, detainees housed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) were enumerated using administrative data provided by the department (with the exception of those persons in community detention).

Literacy barriers: This strategy was broadly aimed at those who did not have the literacy skills required to complete a Census form unassisted. It included providing assistance to complete forms at locations such as libraries, TAFEs, and at literacy classes, and offering help at home in selected locations.

Mining: The objective of this strategy was to ensure full enumeration of persons in mining camps on Census night. The ABS liaised with the relevant state and territory government departments, and with mining and affiliated companies (such as drilling, surveying, engineering and construction companies that support the mining industry) to identify all mining camps. Strategies were then developed to ensure the people in camps, the mobile workforce (fly-in fly-out workers, exploration and survey teams), and shift workers were all counted. More information can be found on the Mining Enumeration Strategy in this publication.

Pastoral properties: The aim of this strategy was to improve coverage of this hard to reach population group through maximising Census awareness, and utilising the most efficient means of enumerating remote pastoral properties. Each state and territory Cattlemen's Association (or equivalent) was contacted to obtain locations and contact details of pastoral properties, and to help determine the best way to enumerate each property based on its specific circumstances.

Prisons: The various authorities that control prisons and corrective institutions routinely provide administrative data containing key demographic information to the ABS National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS). This information was used for the 2011 Census, avoiding the need to enumerate these establishments using field staff.

Remote travellers: This strategy was developed in recognition of the increasing number of people travelling in remote areas at Census time who were not staying in known locations or establishments (for example, caravan parks or established camping grounds). The strategy focussed on those in remote areas who were camping at small roadside stops or within remote National Parks and reserves. More information can be found on the Remote Travellers Enumeration Strategy in this publication.

Secure apartment buildings (SAB): This strategy aimed to maximise participation in the Census for people living in secure apartment buildings. It covered challenges in relation to building and apartment access, and focused on raising awareness of the Census.

Shipping, offshore and migratory: This strategy covered a range of people on Census night, including those people: travelling on overnight planes, buses, and trains; on cargo vessels and passenger liners; working on oil rigs; working in Antarctica; or travelling on long-haul road transport vehicles or overland tours. The aim of the strategy was to ensure that these people were neither missed nor counted twice (for example, at each end of a flight).

Youth: The ABS has found that young men and women are increasingly difficult to count in the Census. The 2011 Census Youth Communication Strategy aimed to raise awareness and understanding of the Census and its importance among young people aged 18 to 34 years, and to encourage maximum participation among this age group. Communication activities employed an integrated communication mix with strong use of online and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to maintain word of mouth messages spread among young people; and events and opportunities that sought to engage the youth audience where they 'live' using street marketing. Youth online and media channels were saturated in the direct lead-up to Census night to garner support and gain momentum as close as possible to when action was required. This included localised, personalised, and non-conventional marketing activities such as competitions, giveaways and special events.