2008.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/08/2015   
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Data collected on this topic records the person's religious affiliation. The question is optional.

Religion is a basic variable used in socio-demographic research and is a dimension of cultural diversity. Information gathered from this question is used by religious organisations and government agencies to plan activities and community services.


A question on a person’s religion has been included in all Australian Censuses. Answering this question has always been optional, as is specified in the Census and Statistics Act 1905 . Despite the optional nature of the question, approximately 90% of respondents provided an answer in the 2011 Census.

Some changes to the Religious affiliation question need to be taken into account when looking at historical data. In 1933, the optional nature of the question was made explicit, leading to an increase in non-response in following Censuses. In 1971, the instruction 'If no religion, write "None"' was added, leading to an increase in the proportion of people in the No religion category. In 1991, No religion was introduced as a mark box underneath the Other please specify box.

During the 2016 Census topic review process, many submissions recommended changes to the Religious affiliation question due to perceived bias in the question format and consequent potential underestimates of the number of people who stated they had no religion. After user consultation and testing, the ABS has decided to move the No religion response category to be the first response category in the question, so it will be more consistent with other questions and the order of their response categories. This approach is consistent with that of a number of other countries.


The following question is from the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.