News National Pandemic snapshot: This is why Australia’s 2021 Census is so important

Pandemic snapshot: This is why Australia’s 2021 Census is so important

2021 census
It's time to do the 2021 Census. This is why it matters. Photo: Twitter
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The 2021 Census is an incredible opportunity to collect a snapshot of the nation during one of its most historic moments and help inform how Australia bounces back from the pandemic.

That is the message from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and demographers around the nation who are urging Australians to log into the system and fill out the form on or before August 10.

The Census, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) runs every five years, is compulsory and offers the country an opportunity to see itself in its economic, social and cultural make-up.

It tells us how old we are, if we go to church,  where we come from and what type of jobs we do.

It informs policy decisions on everything from transport to healthcare, schools, roads and buildings.

And this year is more significant than ever, said demographer Liz Allen, from the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods.

“It’s important that we understand Australia in 2021, that we take stock of the impact of COVID,” Dr Allen said.

“Understanding Australia during a pandemic will help us highlight matters of inequality across the country. And help us recover post-pandemic because policy and practice will be informed by what we see within the data.”

So far, over one million Australians have already filled their forms out. 

Census boss Andrew Henderson said the ABS was “delighted with the participation we have received at this early stage.”

“It’s a great reminder that people can complete their Census as soon as they receive their instructions if they know where they’ll be on 10 August,” Mr Henderson said.

What will the new questions be?

For the first time, this year’s census will ask if respondents have any long-term health conditions – giving them a list to choose from including cancer, depression, anxiety, dementia and asthma.

It will also ask if they have served in the Australian Defence Force.

Sex beyond the binary of male/female will be also collected, but sexuality will not be, as the government chose not to include it from a shortlist of proposed changes.

2016 #censusfail

In 2016, the ABS website suffered a mass outage on Census night, leading to a huge controversy that was labelled #censusfail and a $24 million budget blowout.

Dr Allen said the ABS had addressed the issues that lead to the “cluster bomb of 2016”.

“We’ve been relying on 2016 data and that means as a nation we’re flying a little bit blind,” Dr Allen said.

“We know that over the last 18 months, Australia’s population has changed drastically, so gauging that means we can better understand the nation’s needs and how to meet them.”

The first batch of data from the census will be released next June.

You can fill out your Census form here.

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