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 consultation to review the 2021 Census topics is seeking input from the community to inform the topics to be collected in the 2021 Census. This will be used by the ABS to make recommendations to the Australian Government on whether the Census requires new topics, changes to existing topics or the removal of existing topics.

The review will include consultation with interested parties and a public submission process. From 3 April to 30 June 2018 you can share your views via the ABS Consultation Hub at consult.abs.gov.au. Submissions should be made on the online form. If you are unable to complete the online form for any reason, there is also an option to download the form via the Downloads tab, and to provide your submission by mail or email.


When assessing the submissions received, the ABS will need to consider characteristics of the Census which impact on the overall complexity and acceptability of the form, and the complete set of topics contained within. These characteristics are a primary consideration in the design and testing of the Census form and are heavily influenced by best practice procedures in questionnaire design from experts nationally and internationally. They include the following:

  • The Census needs to be available in an online and paper form mode. While there has been a continued increase in the number of households responding online, there is still likely to be a significant number of households where the paper form is the preferred or only accessible option. Smart design of the online form can make it easier for respondents to be presented with relevant questions only, and can allow for checks and edits which improve the quality of response and make the form easier to complete. However, the requirement for comparability between responses given on the paper form with those on the online form needs to be further explored.
  • The Census is collected from every person in Australia; there is a need to consider the respondent burden in terms of the number and complexity of questions asked. Research has shown that the quality of responses can be impacted if the forms become too long and or too complex.
  • Information is collected by a person or people within a household answering the questions themselves, through what is termed ‘self-enumeration’ or ‘self-completion’. This is different to answering questions with the assistance of an interviewer. Topics that require detailed explanation to ensure accurate answers are unlikely to be answered correctly. Questions that are controversial or could cause adverse reactions may also not be answered correctly. Such questions could also adversely affect the quality of other responses.
  • The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others. This can impact a person’s willingness to disclose personal details about themselves, or may result in a person completing the form making assumptions on behalf of another householder rather than asking them directly. This impact can be heightened for questions that may be considered controversial or intrusive.

Some of the above characteristics are reflected in the assessment criteria, while some are unique to how the Census is packaged together as a whole. While the ABS will endeavour to be transparent in how these characteristics impact on recommendations being made for change, it is also worth considering their impact when preparing a submission.


Suggestions for 2021 Census topics will be considered using criteria to identify if the Census can best meet data needs and to establish the relative priority of topic changes suggested.

It is important to note that in determining your proposal on changes to Census topics, some of the data collected in the Census is critical to retain for key decision making as well as to provide an understanding of changes to the population over time. This needs to be considered before identifying topics for change or removal. That said, submissions are not required in support of retaining topics collected in Census unless changes have been flagged in the briefs. It is also important to ensure a balance between adding new topics and not creating an additional burden on the Australian community to provide this information.

When making a submission via the ABS Consultation Hub you will be required to consider and address the following assessment criteria:
  • the topic is of current national importance 
  • there is a need for data from a Census of the whole population 
  • the topic can be accurately collected in a form which the household completes themselves 
  • the topic would be acceptable to Census respondents 
  • the topic can be collected efficiently 
  • there is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic in the following Census 
  • there are no other suitable alternative data sources or solutions that could meet the topic need.

Before completing your submission, it is recommended that you consider the topic information contained in this publication. Further detail of the assessment criteria, and prompts to help build a stronger submission, are included on the Downloads tab. There are also step by step instructions on lodging a submission and frequently asked questions available on the Explanatory Notes tab.


The ABS appreciates the work required to produce high quality submissions and will carefully consider submissions based on the demonstrated evidence provided. Therefore it’s best to provide one, high quality submission rather than encourage multiple submissions on the same topic.

Communities and organisations may want to work together to discuss their data needs and provide a consolidated submission to strengthen the evidence for their position.