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Service Charter

The relationship between the ABS and the Australian public

This Charter sets out the relationship between the ABS and members of the Australian public who provide us with information about themselves and their household for the purposes of the Census of Population and Housing (‘the Census’).

Our purpose

The ABS purpose is to inform Australia's important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted and objective data, statistics and insights.

What we do

We collect, compile, analyse and disseminate information on a wide range of social and economic matters. Our statistics are used by governments, business, industry organisations, academics and others seeking to understand Australian society and the economy.

We also have an important leadership and coordination function with respect to the statistical activities of other official bodies, both in Australia and overseas.

The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS and one of the most important. The aims of the Census are to:
  • accurately measure the number and certain key characteristics of people in Australia on Census Night and the dwellings in which they live
  • provide timely, high quality and relevant data for small geographic areas and small population groups, to complement the rich but broad level data provided by ABS surveys.

The Census is held every five years, and counts all people in Australia, excluding foreign diplomats and their families. Everyone needs to complete, or be included on, a Census form.

All information provided to us is protected by strict legal confidentiality provisions. When we release statistics the law requires us to do so in a manner that protects the identification of any particular person or organisation. Our long-standing record for maintaining the privacy of information provided to us is widely acknowledged and respected.

What you can expect from us

In our dealings with you we will:
  • be professional and courteous
  • explain clearly what information we need and how the statistics compiled from this information will be used
  • work with you to resolve any difficulties caused by our requests for information
  • listen and respond quickly and fairly to any issues you may have
  • protect the secrecy of the information you provide, as required by statistics legislation.

ABS Census field staff

The ABS conducts the Census using a team of approximately 40,000 trained field staff in order to deliver Census forms to every person in Australia.

ABS Census Field Staff are authorised under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to call at dwellings and speak with the occupants for the purpose of collecting the Census information.

As with all ABS employees, Census Field Staff have a legal obligation to keep the information they collect confidential and are bound by the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which provides for penalties of up to $26,400 or imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both, if confidentiality is broken. The ABS also uses a set of standard procedures designed to ensure delivery and collection are conducted in a professional manner.

What you can expect from ABS Census field staff

Census Field Staff will:
  • be professional and courteous
  • confine their relations with you to the collection of statistical information
  • be presentable and neat
  • identify themselves with an official identification card in any personal visit
  • protect the confidentiality of the information you provide.

Census Field Staff will not:
  • call (in person or by phone) households or persons for any purpose other than the delivery and collection of the Census form
  • call (in person or by phone) asking you about the answers you’ve provided on the Census form
  • provide literature, brochures or promotional material other than for the purpose of the Census
  • discuss government policies
  • enter your home without permission; generally, Census Field Staff will not need to enter your home
  • be accompanied by anyone not authorised by the ABS.

How can you help us

We ask the general public for their cooperation, and most people provide information willingly. If you do not complete the Census form, the Australian Statistician has the power to direct you in writing to provide the information. The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides for penalties of up to $222 a day for failure to complete and return a form.

To help us produce high quality statistics, we ask that you:
  • accept the materials being handed out when the Collector or other Census Field Staff call in person during delivery
  • complete your Census form online or provide the completed paper Census form to your collector during collection
  • complete the questions on the Census form as accurately as possible.

Minimising cost to the community

We work to minimise costs to the community by:
  • seeking information in a way that reduces the time spent completing the Census form
  • notifying you in advance of the upcoming Census
  • providing an option to allow you to complete your Census form electronically
  • thoroughly testing our questions before running the Census
  • ensuring that communication options are clearly advertised.

Questions about the Census

If you have any questions about the Census, please ring the contact number on the form you received or the brochure enclosed with that form.

The ABS website also provides answers to frequently asked questions about the Census.

For general inquiries about statistics, you can contact us by letter, email or by telephone. Contact details for the ABS can be found on the Contact Us page. ABS offices are located in all states and territories.

Resolving complaints

We acknowledge that from time to time we may not meet your expectations. Your complaints, compliments and comments can help us to improve our service.

If you experience any problems with the Census, please contact the National Information and Referral Service.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you can request a review of the decision by writing to:

ABS Complaints Review Officer
Risk, Planning and Policy Branch
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10
Belconnen ACT 2616

If the review outcome is unsatisfactory, you may lodge a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

More about us

For information on all data published by the ABS, please refer to the ABS website.

Service Charter

We ask the general public for their cooperation, and most people provide information willingly

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