Census 2021: Everything you need to know

·News Reporter
·5-min read

Next Tuesday, August 10, is the 2021 Census – the day when the government politely requests a peek into your household.

The Census is the largest gathering of data in the country, counting every person in the nation and providing detailed information about Australian households including: how we live and work, the languages we speak, the religions we practise and even our sexual orientation.

This important event takes place every five years, and, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the government agency tasked with managing it, “the goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.”

A crowd of people seen from above. Source: Getty Images
Australians have been warned that they must participate in the 2021 Census or face fines. Source: Getty Images

Why does the government collect census information?

The information and data gathered through the census provide the government, as well as other key organisations, a snapshot of where the nation is at and likely to be within the next five years, in terms of age, wealth and lifestyle.

This data is used to create government policy and plan for the services we all need, such as schools, hospitals and roads.

How does the census work?

On Tuesday, August 10, every household will be asked to fill out a census form.

Earlier this month, you should have received instructions on how to take part in the census by post.

You can do this online by going on to the ABS Census website and filling out all the information.

You can also request paper Census form here or by calling the 24-hour automated service on 1800 130 250.

A laptop screen shows the census website. Source: ABS
Many people will find it easier to fill in their census information online, but you can also request a paper form. Source: ABS

When do I fill in the census form?

This year you will also be able to complete your census form early, as soon as you receive your instructions, if you know who will be home on census night.

Everyone staying in your household on August 10 must be included, including children and visitors.

A census worker delivers census information. Source: ABS
Aussies should have received their instructions on filling out their census information earlier this month. Source: ABS

If you’re unable to fill the form out online or on paper or choose not to, a Census field officer will arrange to contact you to complete it over the phone.

If you’re in a rural or regional area of Australia, staff working in these areas can also do face to face interviews, if required.

Who needs to complete the census form?

The census is compulsory and everyone who is staying in you home needs to be mentioned in the form including visitors and young children.

The census includes everyone in Australia, Norfolk Island, the Territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.

International visitors and students must also be included in the form.

Australian citizens and residents who are out of the country on census night do not need to be included and neither do foreign diplomats and their family members currently living in Australia.

What if I’m not at home on census night?

Wherever you are on August 10, whether it be your usual household or another place, you will need to included in the form being filled out there.

If you’re away from home and staying in another household, you can be included in the form your host fills out.

A couple completes their census form. Source: ABS
You need to fill out your form based on where you will be on census night. Source: ABS

If you’re travelling, or in transit somewhere in the country, you can complete the form with the address of where you stayed on census night.

If you happen to be overseas on census night, you don’t need to complete the form.

What if I miss the census date?

If you haven’t filled out your census form or it’s incomplete, you’ll receive a reminder letter and then be contacted by census staff who will help you complete the form over the phone.

Those who have not completed their online form by August 12 will be contacted by letter or in person.

If you still haven’t responded by the end of August, you may get a visit from a census officer who will help you complete the job.

All the data collected through the 2021 Census is released from June 2022, onwards.

Will I be fined if I refuse to complete the census?

By law, everyone must participate in the Commonwealth Census and you can be prosecuted or fined up to $222 per day for not completing the form, or submitting an incomplete one.

Similarly, providing false answers or joking around on your census form could land you in trouble.

Deliberately providing false or misleading information on the census form can trigger fines of up to $2,220.

If you accidentally make a mistake on your form, however, you won’t be penalised.

ABS offices pictured. Source: AAP
Census information can be submitted before census night this year. Source: AAP

Is the information I provide confidential?

The information you provide on your census form is completely secure and confidential.

The ABS cannot access your personal information and its staff are legally bound to protect that information, risking prosecution and hefty fines if they fail to do so.

Information collected through the census, including names and addresses, is also destroyed after a period of three years.

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