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