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 2011 Mining Enumeration Strategy was developed to better manage all aspects of the enumeration of mining sites. It aimed to increase awareness and participation and to encourage correct reporting and procedures, both within mining sites and their associated construction sites.

Concerns were raised after the 2006 Census when counts from mining sites, particularly those with transient worker camps, were lower than expected. Accurate counts in mining sites enable local government authorities and businesses to anticipate the level of services needed by nearby camps. There were also concerns about whether fly-in fly-out (FIFO) or drive-in drive-out (DIDO) workers were answering the question about place of usual residence correctly (that is, reporting the camp as their usual residence if they were staying there more than six months of the year). Census usual residence data form the basis of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP), which is used to determine federal funding grants to state, territory and local governments.

Since the 2006 Census, there has been a significant increase in mining and associated construction activities in Australia, with most of this growth occurring in Western Australia and Queensland. Closely associated with this increase, the number of operations using FIFO or DIDO workforce has risen considerably.

The overall aim of the mining strategy was therefore to achieve improved reporting in the regions with significant mining activity. This strategy was intended to cover employees, mining and non-mining contractors and other personnel staying at mining sites or other accommodation facilities associated with the mining industry. The secondary objective was to improve the accuracy within the sector of answers to the usual residence question.

The enumeration of mining sites presents a number of unique challenges, such as:

  • the remoteness of some locations;
  • the limited accessibility to sites and to the communities and accommodation camps attached to them, due to security and workplace health and safety barriers; and
  • language and literacy issues.

The high incidence of FIFO and DIDO workforces, and the number of very large-scale resource projects under construction and development, exacerbates these difficulties. Some of these projects are well-documented, such as activities in the Pilbara in Western Australia. However, other projects are lesser-known.


The national Mining Enumeration Strategy was developed for the first time for the 2011 Census. It built on the approaches used in Western Australia and the Northern Territory in the 2006 Census, where a centralised process was used to contact larger mining operations, with smaller operations and exploration camps being enumerated by local field staff.

The development involved extensive consultation with a range of organisations involved in the mining industry. These included national authorities, state government agencies, local government authorities (LGAs), peak bodies, and community representatives. The consultation process aimed to collect a range of information, including:
  • identification of individual mining operations;
  • details of operations such as exact location, a contact person, estimated number of employees;
  • identification of associated accommodation villages and camps;
  • proposed mines and mines under construction; and
  • onshore and offshore petroleum operations.

ABS Local Engagement Managers (LEM) in each state and territory used their own networks to identify mining operations that may not have been identified through other means.

To raise awareness of the Census, staff attended the Mount Isa Mining Expo, an annual national industry event. In Western Australia a series of regional workshops were conducted which aimed at securing a cooperative coordinated response in terms of increasing the number of Census forms completed correctly and returned promptly. The mining industry was well represented at each workshop. LEMs provided a critical service in developing strong links with mining and exploration activities on the ground.

Data was gathered from various sources and analysed to help understand the mining sector in order to achieve a better count. Consideration was given to the different types of mining activity in Australia. For example, the Hunter Valley, La Trobe Valley, Mount Isa, Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill contain long term mining activities closely integrated with established townships. In contrast, Cloud Break in remote Western Australia and Hail Creek in Queensland are representative of a newer style of mining operation that requires a FIFO workforce. Olympic Dam in South Australia shares a number of similarities with Kambalda in Western Australia; both are reflective of evolving developments where the mine is near a town. Recent expansion in these two developments has required workers accommodation to be built nearer to the site, to accommodate a growing FIFO/DIDO workforce.


The strong cooperation of the mining industry greatly assisted the effective enumeration of mining sites. Before the Census, CMUs made contact with all identified mining operations. Information was obtained on the number of staff expected to be on site on Census night. The contacts assisted the CMUs to identify staff in the larger sites to employ as Special Collectors, who would oversee the distribution and collection of Census forms. In some instances, such as very remote sites or where a Special Collector was unable to be recruited, a Remote Area Mobile Team was employed to enumerate mining sites. For smaller mines, exploration sites and work gangs, local Census field staff managed the distribution and collection of census forms as part of the mainstream Census operations.

Communication approach

Targeted communication was an important component of the mining strategy. The communication campaign targeted mining companies, mine managers and mine site employees. The campaign included information leaflets, posters, media releases and regional radio and television broadcasts. Materials provided mine site workers with information on how the Census form should be completed, specifically in relation to the usual residence question. Campaign materials were distributed to the larger operations, as well as the smaller sites that were enumerated under the local field staff.

Mining Poster

In many cases representatives from the mining industry and local LGAs assisted with the running of the publicity campaigns, often creating their own brochures and posters promoting the importance of the Census to the mining sector and communities surrounding mining sites.

For those with language and literacy issues, support was offered to assist them to complete the form correctly.


Recruitment for positions associated with the strategy remained a challenge. This was a problem both within mining sites - identifying mining staff to work as Special Collectors - and in the surrounding regional and remote areas - employing local people to work as Census Collectors.

Despite extensive planning, local Census field staff still reported finding a large number of smaller operations and exploration camps in their local areas that had not been found through the earlier identification process. This created difficulties in locating enough Census material to cover the shortfall.

Providing better access for people to complete an eCensus return will need to be considered for the future. Paper forms were often considered more practical, due to limited internet access at some sites and the poor quality of connections. Another reason for using paper forms was that Special Collectors could not confirm whether an employee had completed a Census form if they had used the online option.

Despite the targeted information for workers, there still remained confusion amongst some who did not realise that they needed to complete a form where they resided on Census night, believing their family or house mates would list them on their form at home.