ABS Media Statement on sexual orientation and gender identity questions and the 2021 Census

Media Statement
Released
4/12/2019

In response to recent media coverage, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wishes to clarify assertions made about its recommendations to government on the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity questions in the 2021 Census. 

During the Review of the Census Topics, the ABS highlighted eight potential topics for inclusion. 

There are many considerations for inclusion of topics, including that there is limited capacity to add new topics without removing others from this important data collection. 

The ABS analysis included consideration of the policy need for the data, the cost and complexities of collecting and analysing the information, whether the Census is the appropriate vehicle to collect this data, and the overall burden placed on the community to complete the Census. 

The ABS made explicit recommendations to government on the topics with the strongest case for inclusion in the 2021 Census. 

Sexual orientation and gender identity topics were offered to the government to consider for inclusion, accompanied by information about known need, potential risk and potential data quality. 

In its advice to government on these topics, the ABS noted stakeholder interest in collecting the data, as well as limitations in collecting this information, such as people’s understanding of why the questions are being asked and the sensitive nature of the topic. 

The ABS has been collecting data on sexual orientation since 2007 when a question was included in the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Questions on sexual orientation have also been asked in the General Social Survey since 2014. The ABS remains committed to producing meaningful data for LGBTI communities through this survey program. 

The final selection of topics for inclusion in the 2021 Census is a decision for government.