Big News for Australia’s 2016 Census

Australia’s seventeenth national Census of Population and Housing will be held on Tuesday, 9 August 2016. The first national census was held in 1911 and since 1961 they have been conducted every five years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is preparing to count close to 10 million dwellings and approximately 24 million people in Australia on Census night.

Australian’s who have completed censuses over the past 15 years will be familiar with “question 60” of the Census. That’s the one that says:

“Question 60. Does each person in this household agree to his/her name and address and other information on this form being kept by the National Archives of Australia and then made publicly available after 99 years?”

question 60 from the 2011 Australian census

question 60 from the 2011 Australian census

Since 2001 there has been a big push to educate people in the importance of answering “Yes” to that question. In 2001 53% answered yes, with 56% in 2006. I haven’t found the statistics for 2011, but I do hope it is more. So for those three censuses, only those that answered yes will have their records  retained with the rest be destroyed. The statistics of the others will be kept, but the original records will be destroyed. Sad, but true. But at least some are being kept.

Now the big, big news that I’ve just come across. Are you sitting down? In 2016, for the very first time in Australia’s history, ALL of the census will be retained. There is no question 60. There is no option. It will be retained, and will be made public after 99 years. Not just the statistics … the whole complete census! How cool is that?

While you will expect that this will cause concern for some people, for historians and genealogists this is certainly good news. This is what we’ve been pushing for. The information won’t be available to any of us in our lifetime (unless you do what I do, and keep a copy of it for your own reference before sending it back), but it will be for future generations, and that’s a good thing. We all know how valuable the censuses have been for our own research (UK, US or other countries), so hopefully here in Australia our future generations will be able to use these records for theirs.

Australian 2016 Census
Tuesday, 9 August 2016

For more details about the Australian 2016 Census you can read it on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and here.

Australia 2016 Census - logo


6 thoughts on “Big News for Australia’s 2016 Census

  1. Yolande James says:

    Wow, at long last a “good” census. I have been doing the same and keeping a copy of our returns for future generations. Also do put “Christian” at least in the religion question.

  2. Liesl Harrold says:

    I think there is a misunderstanding. The ABS website specifically states that Question 60 would be retained for 2016 (with a screen shot of the question). As with the last census, permission to retain personal information must be given or it will be destroyed. Please see
    What the ABS have recently announced (Dec 2015) is that all names and addresses will be automatically retained by the ABS so they can use them internally to cross check the census with other surveys they conduct and in improving survey design. The additional information from responses to the census will specifically be separated from this information. They can not release this information to other government agencies (including the national archives) as per the Census and Statistics act and Privacy act. Please see
    I hope this helps.

  3. They finally hired someone with brains that work.

  4. Diane O., Western Australia says:

    Someone at Goulds has definitely got their wires crossed. On the ABS website dated yesterday (excerpts):

    (1) The 2016 Census will include a question asking whether people agree to have their information retained by the National Archives of Australia as part of the Census Time Capsule. This question is not related to a Census topic as such and was made possible by an amendment to the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Thus Question 60 remains.

    (2) ABS made the decision in December 2015, to retain names and addresses from the 2016 Census.

    (3) Consistent with the Australian Privacy Principles, the ABS will destroy names and addresses from the 2016 Census when there is no longer any community benefit to their retention or four years after collection (i.e. August 2020), whichever is earliest.

    Incidentally, there was nothing in the Census and Statistics Act 1905 that addressed destruction or retention of the Census. However, before adding the Question 60 option(s) – made possible by the 1997 Inquiry into the treatment of name-identified census forms – the Act was changed because it related to matters of privacy and release.

    People seem to have confused the concepts of retention and release. They are clearly not the same thing.

    Interesting topic though, which has sparked a lot of nonsense about privacy. Let’s face it, in today’s world we ain’t got none!

  5. The 2016 Census will not only keep your name, it will data match with Centerlink, ATO, Medicare etc. Your information will no longer be private. The 2016 Census may well be the last as a result of these privacy concerns with a huge number of people either refusing to complete the form or giving inaccurate answers thus rendering the data useless. There is already a massive amount of web sites, blogs and social media sites informing and warning people of these privacy concerns and promoting civil disobedience.

  6. Trust me I’m here from the Government – [yeah right]. I promise you your information will be confidential [fingers crossed]. It will not be [knowingly] shared with another party unless a future government changes the rules and makes us do so. Guess what, despite what we say now, we will have to share your info then won’t we? You have no say in the matter [sheeple].
    Just thought I would fill in a few blanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *