Overview of the 2026 Census topic review

Information about the 2026 Census topic review process.

The 2026 Census topic review: Phase two directions publication is now available. This provides outcomes from the second phase of consultation, including topics that progressed to the development and testing stage. Outcomes from testing will inform the final list of topics recommended to the Australian Government for their decision.

Phase two submissions, where consent was provided, are available to view on the ABS Consultation Hub.

This now concludes the public consultation phase of the 2026 Census topic review process.

You can subscribe to receive updates about the 2026 Census topic review process at www.subscribe.abs.gov.au/2026Census.


The Census of Population and Housing provides a snapshot of Australia. It shows how our nation changes over time, helps estimate our population and informs critical decisions that guide our future. The 2021 Census collected data on a range of topics. The next Census will take place in 2026.

A successful Census relies on strong community support. This support is achieved through collecting data of national importance while also ensuring the Census is easy to complete and not seen as being too intrusive.

The Australian Government determines what information is collected in the Census. Every Census, the ABS undertakes a review to inform our recommendation to the Government on the topics that could be included in the Census.

The review is undertaken to ensure information collected in the Census remains relevant as Australia changes and maintains strong support for the Census. 

The review of topics includes extensive public consultation, stakeholder engagement and testing. 

2026 Census topic review timeline

Timeline of the 2026 Census topic review process

This diagram shows the timeline of the 2026 Census topic review. Phase one of public consultation was open from 28 February 2023 to 28 April 2023. The ABS asked about information needs not currently met by the ABS. Phase two consultation was open from 27 July 2023 to 8 September 2023. During this phase the ABS prioritised information needs and asked for feedback on proposed changes to Census topics.

In late 2023, consultation outcomes were published and shared on the ABS website, including the Census topics progressing to testing. In late 2023 the ABS also began testing proposed new Census topics and questions through focus groups, interviews and a large-scale test.

In the middle of 2024, the ABS will recommend 2026 Census topics to the Australian Government for decision. In late 2025 changes to the Census will be tabled in Parliament. The final decision on topics will be published on the ABS website.

The ABS undertook a two-phase public consultation process to inform our recommendation on topics for the 2026 Census:

  • Phase one: 28 February to 28 April 2023 - understanding what information the public would like the ABS to collect on the Census. 
  • Phase two: 27 July to 8 September 2023 - consultation on topics being considered for inclusion, change or removal from the 2026 Census. This considered public input from phase one. 

On 12 December 2023, the ABS published outcomes from the second phase of consultation, including the topics that progressed to the next stage of the review process. Potential topic changes are being tested using focus groups, cognitive interviews and a large-scale test. The ABS will review testing outcomes and develop a final list of topics to recommend to the Australian Government in mid-2024.

Following Government decision on the 2026 Census topics, Treasury will coordinate an amendment to the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016. This will be tabled in both houses of the Australian Parliament.

Outcomes and topics for the 2026 Census will be published on the ABS website in late 2025.

The Census is just one way that the ABS can meet the data needs of the Australian community. The ABS also considers if other ABS surveys or administrative data could be used to meet data needs.

Consultation outcomes

Phase one

Phase two

Assessment criteria for topics in the Census

The ABS considers requests for new or changed topics for the Census against a set of criteria. 2021 Census topics are also reviewed against the same criteria. This process identifies if the topic should be recommended to the Australian Government for inclusion in the 2026 Census. These criteria have been informed by the United Nations Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses.

The first step in this process is to assess the public value of collecting data on the topic. To do this we collate the evidence provided in the submissions by topic and then consider whether: 

  1. The topic is of current national importance.
  2. There is a need for data at the national level, and either the local level or for small population groups.
  3. There is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic following the Census.  

The ABS further assesses topics that rate strongly against the public value criteria. This assessment helps to determine if the Census is the most appropriate way to provide data on the topic. The criteria are:

  1. There are no other suitable alternative data sources or solutions that could meet the topic need.
  2. Data on the topic can be collected efficiently.
  3. A representative of the household would be willing and able to answer questions on the topic for each member of the household.

In addition to assessing the topics individually, the ABS considers if the combination of topics will maintain a high level of public support for the Census. This includes the overall size and complexity of the Census form, and if collecting data on a topic will impact how the public answers questions on other topics.

See the detailed assessment criteria for our considerations for each criterion. 

Subscribe for updates

You can subscribe to receive updates about the 2026 Census topic review at www.subscribe.abs.gov.au/2026Census.

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