2016 Census - Data Release Media Conference

Old Parliament House, 27 June 2017

David W. Kalisch, Australian Statistician

Thank you and welcome. I wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we're meeting on today, the Ngunnawal people. I also acknowledge their continuing culture and contribution that they make to the life of this city and this region. Also like to welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be attending today's event in person or via the live broadcast.

It's a privilege to be here today at one of Australia's national icons old Parliament House – the home of the Museum of Australian Democracy – as we release the data from the 2016 Census of population and housing, and return this vital information back to the Australian community.

The Census of population and housings is one of the key pillars of Australia's democracy providing us with valuable authoritative information about our nation so it's fitting to celebrate the release of the 2016 Census in such a historic venue.

The results of the Census are always eagerly anticipated.

The data from the 2016 Census provides invaluable insights into the make-up of our population and will be used to inform critical decisions that guide the future of our nation over coming years.

The value of the Census is what it shows about us collectively – about our local communities and regions, our states and territories, and our nation; and how we are changing over time.

Thanks to the overwhelming participation of Australians in last year's Census, and the perseverance and dedication of the ABS, I'm pleased to unveil the first round of 2016 Census data.

Reflecting the scale of our largest statistical collection the ABS today is releasing 68.9 million pieces of data. 2.8 million tables of data. 30,000 detailed community profiles and 80,000 QuickStats.

The Census is the single most current and valuable data set of our country, and complements the other 500 statistical releases produced by the ABS each and every year.

Today not only marks the release of the latest Census data but also updated Estimated Resident Population data. The Census is a critical input into the Estimated Resident Population, Australia's official population estimates.

Using the 2016 Census, together with other survey and administrative data, the latest ABS estimates show that as at 31 December 2016 Australia's population is now 24.4 million people.

The 2016 Census has once again shown the value that the Australian community places in the Census and their support for the Census. ABS estimates show that over 95 per cent of Australia's occupied households completed the Census with a net person undercount of 1 per cent.

The Census shows Australia is more culturally diverse than ever before, with almost half of Australians either born overseas or with at least one parent born overseas.

Australia is growing in particular 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.

This year 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 per cent in 2016 – an increase of more than 18 per cent in the last five years.

Australians are also living longer, with one in every six of us over the age of 65.

As you can see, there are so many insights from the 2016 Census – I will leave my colleague Sue to expand further on some of the stories from the Census a little later.

The 2016 Census marked a new way of Census taking in Australia.

Over 63 per cent of people completed the Census online, with the Australian Capital Territory achieving the highest online response of all of states and territories at 81 per cent of people.

Not only did the digital first Census make data faster and easier to process and produce a higher-quality data set; it is also more efficient and consistent with citizens' expectations of dealing with government through accessible digital means. This has saved taxpayers over $100 million dollars – money that can now be used for other worthwhile purposes.

With nearly two thirds of us choosing the online form in the 2016 Census, this approach will be continued for future Censuses.

Our special strategies to increase the coverage of specific populations also reaped significant benefits. These strategies were designed to ensure everyone could participate fully and easily in the Census, including people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as well as remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I would like to in particular highlight the higher online participation rate for some of Australia's multicultural communities. 90 per cent of people born in China and 85.4 per cent of people born in India truly embraced the digital Census and completed it online.

The addition of Norfolk Island to the Australian Census for the first time added to the ABS's logistical challenge however the residents there embraced the Census.

Following the Census collection phase, and before releasing Australia's rich chest dataset back to the nation, the ABS always undertakes extensive and rigorous data quality assurance work.

I would like to acknowledge the committed staff of our Data Operations Centre who processed 8.5 million household forms and 750,000 personal forms and undertook 23 million clerical operations and over 5 billion data transactions to translate individual and household Census returns into the statistics we're releasing today.

In our secure facility the data has been comprehensively reviewed and analysed for consistency between Censuses in geographical areas.

We have also conducted the post Enumeration Survey a large sample survey of selected households to assess the completeness of Census counts and to help identify potential improvements for future Censuses. This survey is statistically independent from the Census to ensure the evaluation is effective.

This comprehensive range of checks has confirmed the quality of the Census data.

The ABS is accountable for delivering quality Census data and that is what we have done yet again in Australia's 17th national Census.

The 2016 Census data will inform important decisions by governments, by businesses, by communities and by households.

In August 2016 I established an Independent Assurance Panel with eminent Australian and international members to provide independent advice and assurance around the quality of the 2016 Census data, alongside the ABS' existing quality assurance processes.

I would now like to invite the chair of the independent panel Professor Sandra Harding to speak about the findings of the independent assurance panel.

Thank you.

(Speech from Professor Sandra Harding)

Thank you, Sandra.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the Panel (Sandra Harding, Lisa Jackson Pulver, Peter McDonald, Peter Morrison, Dennis Trewin and Anton Voss) for their thoroughness and diligence while reviewing Census information, and for their observations for future Censuses.

Planning for the 2021 Census has already commenced, and the ABS will consider all the observations of the Independent Assurance Panel, including having an Independent Assurance Panel to assess data quality in future Censuses and options to improve identification of occupied dwellings.

Reflecting the openness and transparency of the ABS, and our processes, I am pleased to publicly release the Panel’s report today, and welcome their findings.

As the Independent Assurance Panel found, 2016 Census data is fit-for-purpose and can be used with confidence. The quality is comparable to the previous high quality Australian Censuses in 2011 and 2006. Australians can have trust and faith in 2016 Census data and the ABS. The Census data presented today belongs to the Australian people. I encourage all of you to explore the Census data and find out what it says about your local community, and about Australia and our people.

Thank you.

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