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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During the Census Operation
Key Challenges


The Post Enumeration Survey conducted after the 2006 Census found that net undercount rates were very high for people born in non-English speaking countries. The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Enumeration Strategy was aimed at gaining support from the many community groups and nationalities that exist throughout Australia, facilitating and encouraging increased participation in the 2011 Census.

Experiences from the 2006 Census found that many people born overseas, especially recent arrivals and refugees, needed additional assistance with understanding and participating in the Census. The 2011 CALD Enumeration Strategy was developed in recognition of these challenges, building on the successes of the 2006 strategy. In addition, it addressed changes in the make-up of recent arrivals since the previous Census, including:

  • significant increases in the proportions of migrant and refugee settlers placed in regional and rural centres;
  • increasing numbers of international students, who may not see a need to participate in the Census; and
  • the emergence of short-term migrant workers who are brought in to work in roles such as fruit pickers or abattoir workers.

The strategy also recognised the challenges some established migrants may have in completing the Census form, with evidence that increasing numbers of the established elderly migrant population are experiencing language difficulties.

The overall aims of the 2011 strategy were to:
  • improve the coverage of CALD groups in the 2011 Census;
  • identify and support CALD groups likely to be missed or undercounted;
  • raise awareness by explaining the purpose of the Census and encouraging cooperation; and
  • provide appropriate assistance to those people who may need it, particularly those who had been undercounted in previous Censuses and those who were likely to need assistance in completing a Census form.


Prior to developing the strategy, extensive engagement and consultation was conducted with federal, state and local government; peak bodies and service provides; and community organisations.

Formal support was garnered from the Community Liaison Officer network under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), which has well-established links to thousands of organisations and individuals connected with CALD communities, to assist in engaging with various community leaders, raising awareness about the Census, and encouraging full participation.

A CALD communication strategy was also developed, which aligned with the overarching mainstream Census campaign, but was localised for particular area and audience characteristics and communication requirements. State-based communication plans were also developed to help achieve this outcome. This strategy aimed to increase CALD community participation in the Census, and the identification of ancestry, languages spoken, and birthplace, by raising awareness of the Census among CALD communities, when it was taking place, its importance and how to participate. It also aimed to gain the support of CALD stakeholders and intermediaries to provide assistance to improve CALD Census participation.

A consultant was engaged to provide specialist expertise, analysis and advice on the Census communication campaign in relation to CALD communities. Specifically, the consultant helped to develop and implement elements of the strategy by the provision of:
  • advice to the mainstream creative agency on the effectiveness and appropriateness of the creative concept for CALD audiences;
  • strategic advice on the proposed tactics and activities to ensure they were culturally appropriate; and
  • written translation services.


Field staff were recruited from CALD communities where possible, in particular in locations where having skills in languages other than English was desirable.

‘Fill-in the form’ sessions were run with the assistance of community organisations, Migrant Resource Centres, Ethnic Community Councils, religious services, libraries, TAFEs and other education providers. These sessions enabled people with difficulties in understanding the Census form to get advice and assistance to complete it.

Communication approach

The 2011 Census CALD Communication Strategy employed an integrated communication mix with a strong use of grass-roots and peer-to-peer communication, and event participation and sponsorship. It garnered the support of well-known CALD personalities and organisations, at both a national and local level.

Community, media and business leaders were recruited as Census Ambassadors. These 25 Census Ambassadors had extensive networks and ties to their communities, and held considerable influence in their respective communities and professions. They helped to spread Census messages throughout the national, state and local chapters of their networks and organisations at a grass-roots level.

Communication activities also targeted print, radio and online media in line with CALD audience communication preferences, with a special focus on proactive media relations with CALD media outlets. Two national CALD media events were hosted in the lead up to Census night, to foster media and community support for the Census.

Advertising in key CALD media was undertaken, and included press advertising in 36 languages and radio advertising in 68 languages.

A range of multilingual information and support materials were produced in more than 60 languages. The materials included fact sheets, brochures, posters, signage, postcards and video content, both online and in DVD format.

The multilingual video, produced in conjunction with SBS television, was made available through the ABS website and also distributed in DVD format to Migrant Resource Centres, libraries, ethnic organisations and community service providers. The video provided general information and assistance on the Census in 16 languages. (Endnote 1)

Other communication activities included event participation and sponsorship, media partnerships, a retail distribution strategy and promotion via online and social media.

In-language assistance was offered through the Census Inquiry Service and Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) National for the duration of the Census enumeration and collection. This service was advertised on the ABS website and in the Census guide brochure. The brochure was delivered to all households in Australia, and covered 10 of the most commonly spoken languages in Australia after English.

Independent research commissioned by the ABS determined CALD audience awareness levels of the Census were high, increasing from 54 per cent prior to the campaign to 85 per cent post-Census night.

Multi-lingual Poster Multi-lingual Poster


Although Special Collectors were engaged in areas with high levels of CALD groups to provide additional assistance, finding enough staff with the required skills was a challenge. The ability of each CMU to access a register of field staff by languages spoken was useful.

Some aspects of the CALD Enumeration Strategy for the 2011 Census were targeted at new and emerging groups within Australia’s CALD community. While this was vital in improving coverage, evidence suggests there are also large numbers of older established immigrants that have limited literacy and language skills and lack the support networks and service support of some of the emerging groups.

Raising awareness of the compulsory nature of the Census amongst international students will be an ongoing challenge. Frequently, field staff found that people from this group believed the Census only applied to citizens or to those who had been in Australia for over 12 months.


1. The multilingual video, Information about the 2011 Census, was available in the following languages: English, Arabic, Auslan, Burmese, Cantonese, Dari, Dinka, Farsi, Karen, Khmer, Kirundi, Korean, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese.