2007.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Consultation on Topics, 2021  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/04/2018   
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The 2021 Census topic review aims to optimise Census data relevance by examining where some topics can be updated, modified or removed and potentially allow for new Census topics to be introduced, subject to evaluation and testing. A major part of this review is the public consultation phase which will be open from 3 April to 30 June 2018.

This section provides details of the current topics on the Census, emerging proposals for changes to topics, and details of what is required to prepare and lodge a submission during the public consultation. If you are interested in participating in the review, we recommend making yourself familiar with the content in this paper to consider the current status of topics, and criteria to be considered when building a case for change.


An extensive consultation process for the 2016 Census identified topics for inclusion, exclusion and change. These were summarised in the submissions report (Cat. No. 2007.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Submissions Report, 2016). While it was decided that the topics to be collected in 2016 Census would remain the same as those in 2006 and 2011, the 2016 consultation influenced the need for some changes to questions and processing to allow for improvements in the Census data published. The details of topics included in the 2016 Census were published the year before the Census was conducted (Cat. No. 2008.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016).

In preparation for the 2021 Census topic review, the ABS has considered the recommendations from the 2016 consultation process. Discussions are being held with various government agencies and non-government Census data users to identify emerging data needs. Learnings from this engagement and the 2016 recommendations have been used as the basis for the discussion on topics included in this publication. These directions have been described in further detail below.

Topics have been organised into the following broad themes:
Sex and gender
Households and families
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Income and work
Unpaid work and care
Education and training
Disability and carers
Cultural diversity
Other topics.

A brief has been prepared on each theme listed above. We recommend that you review the material provided on the brief related to your topics of interest and become familiar with the initial directions to assist you in considering whether a submission is required. Within each of these briefs more information is provided on 2016 questions; standards and classifications; the use of the information collected; other sources of information; and the initial direction for 2021 Census. Reduced versions of the briefs are also available via the Downloads tab of this publication.


There are a number of topics collected on the Census which are based on a well-established need and are unlikely to be changed or removed. This includes the Census data used as the basis for the production of the estimated resident population, the official measure of the population of Australia. The variables used for this measure include place of usual residence, age and sex.

Other critical topics that are widely used by Census data users include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, labour force status and country of birth. While these topics are unlikely to be changed or removed you are encouraged to submit suggestions where you see potential for their enhancement or expansion. For example, while there is not currently demand for change of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status topic, consideration is being given to options in the Census which may encourage greater participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. More details are in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples brief.

Stakeholder consultation has revealed potential new topics and changes to current topics that are a reflection of changes in the social and economic climate. Some of the emerging data needs include the capture of diverse family structures, such as shared care arrangements and households with multiple families living together. Details pertaining to these data needs can be found in the Households and families brief. Furthermore, there is the need to better understand population impacts due to the movements of service populations, such as tourists, and Fly-in-Fly-out/Drive-in-Drive-out workers. For more information visit the Location brief.

During the 2016 consultations and more recently, the concept of long term health conditions has been flagged as an area of interest. Additionally a new emerging area of interest is the collection of a Defence Force indicator, the motivation for both of these areas is to provide insight into better service planning and delivery. Both of these data needs are further clarified in the Other topics brief.

The 2016 Census introduced changes to improve measurements of religious affiliation, and to allow options for members of the population to identify their sex using non-binary options. Both topics continue to generate interest in further refinement, and individual topic briefs have been released to help inform submissions. For more information, refer to the topic briefs for Religion and Sex and gender.

In order to incorporate new or enhanced topics to meet the emerging data needs, there are some existing topics which are considered to be of lower priority and may be removed from the 2021 Census. In these situations, consideration is made about whether the Census is the most appropriate way to collect this data. For example, information on household internet access may be more appropriately collected elsewhere. This is because the rapidly changing technology enabling individual access to the internet may render a question asked every five years irrelevant shortly after or even before it is asked. This is further explored in the Housing brief.

Another topic which has been identified as a lower priority since the 2016 consultation process is the number of motor vehicles, as this information may be accessible through administrative data and could be obtained in a more timely manner than the Census. More information is included in the Transport brief.