1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2017   
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The Census of Population and Housing (the Census) is the single most current and valuable data set of our nation, and complements the other 500 statistical releases the ABS produces each and every year.

Australia’s 17th national Census in 2016 was achieved thanks to the millions of Australians whose participation informs our understanding of our local communities and regions, our states and territories, and our nation, and how we are changing over time.

The delivery of a census is a collaborative effort made possible through the hard work of dedicated ABS staff, our suppliers and the support of many agencies and community groups.

Information from the Census provides invaluable insights into the make-up of our population. It is used to estimate Australia’s population, and inform critical decisions for our future, including where to build new infrastructure such as schools, roads, hospitals, childcare centres and aged care facilities.

The 2016 Census data will inform important decisions by governments, businesses, communities and households over the coming years, until the next Census is undertaken in 2021.

2016 Census Operations

The 2016 Census has once again shown the value that the Australian community places in the Census. Thanks to the overwhelming participation of Australians in last year’s Census, and the perseverance and dedication of the ABS, the 2016 Census counted almost 10 million dwellings, and 23.4 million people, across Australia. For the first time, in 2016 Norfolk Island was included in the Australian Census and the residents there embraced the opportunity to participate in the national count.

The Census was completed by 95% of Australia’s occupied households with a net person undercount of 1% meaning the quality is comparable to both the 2011 and 2006 Australian Censuses, and censuses in other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The 2016 Census marked a new way of Census taking in Australia, with the ABS deploying a digital-first approach for many facets of the Census from recruiting and training the Census workforce, encouraging greater use of the online form, and processing the data.


The 2016 Census achieved an online completion rate of 63%. The digital-first Census made it faster and easier to process data, and produced a higher-quality data set. It also saved taxpayers over $100 million.

The higher online participation rate for some of Australia’s multicultural communities was also a significant achievement. 90% of people born in China and 85% of people born in India completed the Census online.

With nearly two-thirds of us choosing the online form in the 2016 Census, this approach will be continued for future censuses, consistent with public expectations of interacting with government through digital means.

National Address Register

A central element of the new approach to the 2016 Census was the development of a national Address Register. The Address Register is Australia’s most accurate and comprehensive national listing of addresses and the residential dwellings at each address. The Address Register enabled the use of mail outs and flexible household level approaches and monitoring.

Online, connected workforce

The 2016 Census employed a large casual workforce of 38,000 staff through a digital-first approach. The staff were recruited, trained and managed through online processes, and used a mobile application on their own devices to optimise workflow and data collection in real time.

Tasks were dynamically allocated to field staff, ensuring an even spread of work nationally. Progress was monitored at a household level and an adaptive approach used to ensure a good response across local areas and thus higher quality Census data.

Safest Census

The work of Census field staff includes inherent risks. There are many challenges associated with having a large temporary workforce, employed for a short period, geographically dispersed across the country, including in remote areas with difficult access and communications. The ABS introduced a number of measures to protect personal safety such as increasing work health and safety training and communications and providing real time connections through technology, such as access to counselling services.

Through these innovations, the 2016 Census achieved greater safety awareness, safer practices and consequently fewer injuries and Comcare cases with a reduction of over 80% in accepted workers’ compensation claims compared to the previous Census.

Reaching all Australians

The 2016 Census implemented inclusive strategies to increase the coverage of specific populations, enabling broad and easy participation in the Census. Different strategies were used to include people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The online form was designed to enable people with disability to access and complete the form, including use of screen readers and other assistive technologies. The accessibility of the online form and Census website content was verified and certified independently.

The Census Post-Enumeration Survey

The Census Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) is conducted after every Census to measure Census quality and produce high quality population estimates. For the 2016 Census PES, the ABS significantly increased the sample size to more than 40,000 households. The results of the 2016 Census PES showed a Census net undercount rate of 1% (equivalent to 226,407 persons). This result, along with other data quality checks and investigations, confirmed the quality of 2016 Census data.

Data quality independently assured

The Australian Statistician established an Independent Assurance Panel (IAP), consisting of eminent Australian and international experts to provide extra assurance and transparency of Census data quality. The IAP concluded that the quality of 2016 Census data is comparable to the previous high quality Australian Censuses in 2011 and 2006, and Census data can be used with confidence. The 2016 Census IAP report is available on the ABS website.

Online security

On Census night, the ABS took decisive action to close the online form to protect the privacy of the Australian public following a series of outages due to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) reported that the DDoS attacks did not result in any unauthorised access to, or extraction of, any personal information.

The ABS acknowledges the issues experienced on Census night caused a great deal of frustration to the Australian public, and apologises for the inconvenience caused. Since the events of Census night, the ABS has made a number of improvements including engaging an independent security consultant to provide advice on storing and collecting Census data, implementing new practices for the handling of personal information including independently conducted Privacy Impact Assessments, and developing more robust frameworks and guidelines for outsourced ICT suppliers.

Census 2016 Results

Early release - 11 April 2017

For the first time, an early preview of the 2016 Census results was released on 11 April 2017, providing insights into what makes the ‘typical’ Australian at the national and state and territory level, and showing what has changed over time.

Who was the ‘typical’ Australian in 2016?

2016 Census results show that the ‘typical’ Australian is a 38 year old female. A decade ago, the ‘typical’ Australian would have been a year younger.

Australia’s population has changed a lot over the past 105 years. In 1911, when the first Census was taken, the ‘typical’ Australian was a 24 year old male, but women have outnumbered men since 1979.

The ‘typical’ Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is also female, but is younger at 23 years old.

Looking across the country, the ‘typical’ Australian male or female was born in Australia, has English ancestry and parents also born in Australia. However, there are plenty of local differences. For example, a ‘typical’ person from New South Wales, Victoria or Western Australia has at least one parent who was born overseas.

The ‘typical’ Australian is also married with two children, completed Year 12 and lives in a three bedroom house with two motor vehicles.

All ‘typical’ Australia profiles, including for states and territories are available from the ABS website.

First comprehensive release - 27 June 2017

The first comprehensive Census data was released on 27 June 2017 including national, state and territory and capital city data for selected key person, family and dwelling characteristics including age, sex, religion, language and income.

The first release demonstrated as a nation, there are more of us, we’re living longer, becoming more urbanised, more diverse, less religious, living closer together, earning more and forming the same type of family unit.

The 2016 Census counted 23.4 million people living in Australia, an increase of 8.8% since the 2011 Census. Australia’s population has more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1966 Census, which counted 11.6 million people.

Australia is growing, particularly in our capital cities, where more than two-thirds of Australians live. Sydney is still the largest city in Australia; however Melbourne is continuing to catch up.

2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the referendum that led to the full inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Census. The proportion of the population reporting as having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin increased to 2.8% in 2016 - an increase of more than 18% in the last five years.

The median age of all Australians increased to 38 years in 2016, after remaining at 37 years since the 2006 Census, reflecting Australia’s ageing population. This is also highlighted by the increase in the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over, from 14% in 2011 to 16% in 2016.

Australia has a rich mix of cultural backgrounds and heritage, with the number of people living in Australia who were born overseas continuing to increase. The number of people born overseas increased by almost one million people between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses, rising from 25% of the population in 2011 to 26% in 2016.

As at 30 June 2017, the ABS had released 68.9 million pieces of data and 2.8 million tables of data through a range of free and easy to use Census data products, including QuickStats, Community Profiles, Analytical Articles, TableBuilder, DataPacks and infographics. To produce these data products, Census staff processed 8.5 million household forms and 750,000 personal forms and undertook 23 million clerical operations and over 5 billion data transactions.

Image: 2016 Census Data in pictures infographic

Future Census releases

October 2017

Detailed Census data on employment, qualifications and population mobility, including journey to work and internal migration will be released in October 2017.

February 2018

A third data point will be added to the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD), bringing together 5% samples from the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses. This dataset is a statistical research tool for exploring how Australian society is changing over time. The updated ACLD is expected to be released in February 2018.

Homelessness Estimates, Census Microdata and Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) will also be progressively released throughout 2018.

Lessons learned

The ABS is building on our learnings from the 2016 Census experience (including findings from the MacGibbon Review, the Senate Inquiry and the IAP) to deliver a 2021 Census which is an easy experience for the general public, provides security of information and produces high data quality.