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2903.0 - How Australia Takes a Census, 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/04/2011   
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Managing the Census Field Operation



Census Field Central Office

Management of the delivery and collection operation begins with a centralised team located in ABS's Central Office in Canberra, which also undertakes the development of systems and procedures to be implemented during the Census. This team provides overall national coordination and support to the Census Management Units located in the ABS state and territory offices, as well as undertaking a range of activities to assist with the enumeration and application of the range of special enumeration strategies, including:

  • development, printing and distribution of all materials, including forms, training materials and manuals;
  • operation of the Census Inquiry Service and online census help;
  • centralised coordination of the pays and recruitment activities;
  • developing the national, and assisting with local, public relations and media activities;
  • operation of the eCensus application;
  • a range of technical support for all systems used during this stage of the operation; and
  • national issues and crisis management.

Census Management Units

Census Management Units are responsible for a range of aspects of the operation. This begins with localised planning activities and early regional engagement and awareness raising activities. They take on the management responsibility for the Census delivery and collection operation in their jurisdiction, training the first level of field staff and assisting with the recruitment of all levels of field staff. They also implement the range of special strategies and localised public relations and media activities within their jurisdiction.

Prior to the 2011 Census, a Census Management Unit was located in each ABS state and territory office, formed 12 months before or closer to the Census. For the 2011 Census, three changes were implemented with this approach;

  • Census Management Units were formed 18 months out from the Census;
  • the management of the ACT was incorporated into the NSW Census Management Unit, to provide a greater level of consistency in the management across this NSW and ACT region; and
  • the role of the Northern Territory Census Management Unit was expanded encompass Northern Australia, and is renamed the Northern Australia Census Management Unit (NA CMU).

A New Focus for 2011

The NA CMU was formed to ensure higher levels of consistency and adoption of best practice across the northern Australia region, particularly in relation to enumeration of the remote Indigenous population.

The NA CMU jurisdiction encompasses a majority of remote and discrete Indigenous communities in Australia. Broadly, the areas incorporated in this jurisdiction include:

  • Northern Territory;
  • Western Australia - the Kimberly, part of the Pilbara, part of the central desert;
  • Queensland - Mt Isa and surrounds, Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait; and
  • South Australia - APY Lands.

Field Operations

Census Management Units are responsible for the management of all field staff in their jurisdiction. The majority of the workforce, approximately 29,000 people, are the Census Collectors. Census Collectors deliver eCensus access information and a Census form to every household in their area prior to Census Night. Where contact is made on delivery, the Collector will offer the householder the eCensus and where this is acceptable to the householder, only the eCensus access information will be provided.

Area Supervisors are responsible for training and supervising the work of on average 8 Census Collectors. Their primary role is to ensure accuracy and completeness of coverage within their areas. In most states and territories, District Managers are employed to provide management at the local level in Census collection activities, and in these cases Area Supervisors will be reporting to District Managers.

For the 2011 Census, 14 Local Engagement Managers were employed a year out from the Census to start building local networks and gather information to assist the enumeration in their regions. Over 10,000 additional staff undertake a range of other roles during the collection and delivery activity. These range from collectors employed to undertake interviews in remote and discrete Indigenous communities or assist in enumerating the homeless, special area supervisors who coordinate the collection in places like hospitals, through to those employed for a few days to assist in delivery and collection of forms in hotels and motels.

In total, approximately 43,000 temporary field and collection staff will be involved in the delivery and collection of forms. These staff need to be recruited, trained, supplied with material, supervised and paid during completion of their work. The development and logistics behind the Census are enormous and require careful planning and implementation. The distribution and return of materials alone mean that trucks traverse almost the entire length and breadth of Australia.

Table showing structure and number of staff at each field organisation level


Table showing structure and number of staff at each field organisation level



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