2903.0 - How Australia Takes a Census, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/04/2011   
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Guarantee of the Act

The Census collects information relating to each person and household in the country, and provides data about groups within the community and the community as a whole.

The public expects that the information they provide will be kept confidential and this protection is assured by provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

All ABS officers (including temporary employees) are legally bound to secrecy under the Act never to release identifiable personal information to any person or organisation outside the ABS. Section 19 of the Act makes it an offence for any past or present ABS officer to divulge, either directly or indirectly, any confidential information collected under this Act. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to $13,200 or imprisonment for two years, or both.

Security Arrangements

Completed Census forms will be transferred from the collection centres to the Census Data Processing Centre (DPC) under secure arrangements. Full-time security personnel will be employed to prevent any unauthorised access to the processing centre.

To ensure eCensus data is delivered to the ABS securely, the strongest encryption technology that commonly used browsers will support has been used. All eCensus data sent to the ABS via the Internet cannot be read by anyone other than the ABS due to the encryption methods used. Please refer to the eCcensus section for more information.

Comprehensive security arrangements are implemented on the ABS computer system. These include the use of regularly changed passwords, access control and audit trails. In accordance with the Act, no results will be released in a way which would enable particular individuals or households to be identified.

Archiving Census Forms - The Time Capsule

Before 2001, all name-identified information from past Censuses was destroyed once statistical processing was completed. However, for the 2001 Census, the Government accepted the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs report, Saving Our Census and Preserving Our History, that saving name-identified Census information 'for future research, with appropriate safeguards, will make a valuable contribution to preserving Australia's history for future generations'. This was particularly true for the 2001 Census as it coincided with the Centenary of Federation.

In 2011 people will again have the option to have their name-identified information retained and released after 99 years. In order to ensure that the current high levels of public confidence and cooperation in the Census are maintained, and to respect the wishes of those who do not want their information retained for future release, information will only be kept for those persons who explicitly consent. For privacy reasons the name-identified information will not be available for any purpose including to courts or tribunals within a 99 year closed access period. If a person does not explicitly agree to their name-identified Census information being retained their name and address information will be destroyed once statistical processing has been completed.

Where consent has been given, the name, address and other Census information for that person will be transferred to the National Archives of Australia and kept securely, to be released after 99 years. After this transfer has been completed, the ABS will destroy all name-identified Census information it holds, including the computer images and the paper forms. As in the past, the paper forms will be pulped for recycling.

Random Adjustments

At the completion of processing, minor adjustments are made to data to protect the confidentiality of information about individuals while at the same time allowing the maximum amount of detailed Census data to be released. This is dealt with in more detail in the Quality section.