2021 Census overview

Australia’s next national Census will be held on Tuesday 10 August 2021.

Visit the 2021 Census website for information about the next Census.

The Census is a snapshot of who we are and tells the story of how we are changing.

Census data is used to inform important decisions about transport, schools, health care, infrastructure and business. It also helps plan local services for individuals, families and communities.

Your participation is important

The Census provides data on important topics such as populations, rents, mortgages, incomes, religion, languages, housing and more. It helps governments, businesses, researchers, not for profit and community organisations make informed decisions. For example: 

  • the Royal Flying Doctor Service uses Census population data to determine what health services are required in rural and remote areas
  • the Council of the Ageing (COTA) uses Census data to help understand issues affecting older Australians
  • Crime Stoppers uses Census data to deliver prevention campaigns that help keep communities safe
  • the Wheatbelt Business Network uses Census data to guide how it supports women in business. These services help develop enterprise, support towns and contribute to the economic growth of metro and rural regions.

See more ways Census data is used.

Census planning

The Census is a massive undertaking, and is the largest peacetime logistical effort in Australia. It includes around 10 million households and 25 million people.

In fact, planning for the next Census begins even before all activities for the last Census has ended. You can read more about how we will run the 2021 Census, including how we protect the privacy of the information you provide, in Planning the Census.

Features of the 2021 Census

  • Flexibility: For the first time in Australia’s Census history, there will be a window of time to complete the Census, rather than a single night, so you can fill in your form at a time that best suits you.
  • New topics: There will be new questions in the 2021 Census, the first significant changes to questions collected in the Census since 2006. The new questions are on long-term health conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, and on defence force participation.
  • Variety of completion options: You will be able to complete your Census online, on your mobile device, on paper, or with help from us.
  • Variety of assistance options: Help will be available online, by phone, and in person for those who need it. There will also be translated information available in a number of languages.
  • Community engagement: Extra staff will be in places where people might need help to participate. We will work with community groups to make sure that everyone is counted.
  • Ongoing commitment to privacy: Privacy is considered at every step of our planning, design, management and operation of the Census to ensure people’s information is safe, secure and protected.
  • Investing in data security and integrity: Data security and integrity is an integral part of everything we do. We continue to implement our cyber security strategy and we work closely with private and public sector experts.
  • Rigorous testing: Testing is an important part of planning the Census. It helps us make sure we collect high quality information, and that our processes and systems are smooth and efficient. We also undertake extensive independent testing of our digital service to ensure the online form is secure and stable.
  • A safe workforce: Our highest priority is making sure our staff and the community are safe, and that we are following COVID-19 guidelines. We have a comprehensive Work Health and Safety plan that will help us ensure our staff are well prepared for working in the field. During the 2020 Census Test we will trial various field and staff preparedness approaches so that we are ready for a range of possible scenarios that may be required for the 2021 Census.

Key dates

Note: may be adjusted as required

8 June 2021Field managers begin contacting establishments e.g. hotels, hospitals, nursing homes
Early July 2021Advertisements for the Census commences
Late July 2021Census staff begin visiting households
Early August 2021Households will start receiving their Census instructions. Online Census form opens. People can complete their Census as soon as they receive their instructions
10 August 2021Census night
Mid-August 2021Reminder letters delivered to households that have not responded
Late August 2021Field staff start visiting households that have not responded
June 2022 onwardsRelease of 2021 Census data starts

Other Census related publications

Census Privacy Impact Assessments
The ABS has released the findings, and ABS responses, of two independent Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) looking at the way the 2021 Census will be run.

Value of the Australian Census
Lateral Economics released an independent valuation of the Australian Census, which found that for every $1 invested in the Census, $6 of value was generated to the Australian economy.

Administrative Data Research
The ABS is researching how administrative data could improve the Australian Census.

Audit Report: Planning for the 2021
The ANAO has released an Audit Report on the ABS’ planning for the 2021 Census. The Report made seven recommendations relating to program oversight and assurance, data quality, privacy and security. The ABS has accepted all recommendations and is in the process of implementing them in full before the 2021 Census.

Sign up for Census updates

Receive information on our Census plans by subscribing to our email updates.

Get the latest statistics from ABS by following us on Twitter and Facebook at @ABSstats and LinkedIn at Australian Bureau of Statistics.