Institutional environmentFor information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
RelevanceThe Australian Census of Population and Housing is the official count of population and dwellings and collects details of age, sex and other characteristics of the population.
The Census aims to measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census Night. All people in Australia on Census Night are in scope, except foreign diplomats and their families. Visitors to Australia are counted regardless of how long they have been in the country or how long they plan to stay. Australian residents not in the country on Census Night are out of scope of the Census.
Topics collected by the Census change from time to time. There must be a demonstrated national need for Census data for policy development, planning and program monitoring. Details on the changing content of Censuses from 1911 to 2011 can be found in Appendix 4 of How Australia Takes a Census (cat. no. 2903.0). A copy of the 2011 Census Household Form is included in the Appendix to the Census Dictionary, 2011 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Minimal changes were made to the 2011 Census questions, however there were some major changes in some of the classifications used. The largest of these is the change around geographical units used to output Census data. The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) will be used for the 2011 Census for the first time. Other revised classifications have been used for the coding of occupation, industry, cultural and ethnic groups, language, religion and countries. For more detail see the 2011 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0) entry What's new for 2011?
TimelinessThe Census and Statistics Act 1905 requires the Australian Statistician to conduct a Census on a regular basis. Since 1961, a Census has been held every 5 years. The 2011 Census was the 16th national Census, and marked the centenary of national Censuses in Australia. It was held on 9 August 2011.
For the 2011 Census, first release data was available on the ABS website on 21 June 2012, second release data on 30 October 2012 and third release data on 28 March 2013, with products released progressively until the end of 2013.
AccuracyThe ABS aims to produce high quality data from the Census. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into Census form design, collection procedures and processing. There are four principal sources of error in Census data which quality management aims to reduce as much as possible; they are respondent error, processing error, partial or non-response and undercount. For more detail, see 2011 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0) entry Managing Census Quality.
The Census is self-enumerated, and respondents sometimes do not return a Census form or fail to answer every applicable question. Persons are imputed into dwellings for which no form was returned, together with some demographic characteristics for these people. These same demographic characteristics are imputed if not provided by respondents on a returned form. However, the majority of output classifications include a 'Not Stated' category to record the level of non-response for that data item. Data quality statements are produced for each Census data item and include the non-response rate for each variable and a brief outline of any known data quality problems, as well as a comparison with the non-response rate for the 2006 Census. These can be accessed through the Data quality statements.
CoherenceIt is important for Census data to be comparable and compatible with previous Censuses and also with other data produced by the ABS and wider community. The ABS, and the Census, uses Australian standard classifications, where available and appropriate, to provide data comparability across statistical collections. These include, for example, standards for occupation and geographic areas. For more details regarding classifications used in the Census, see the Census Dictionary, 2011 (cat. no. 2901.0) entry About Census Classifications, and the relevant entries for each classification.
InterpretabilityThe Census provides a wealth of data about the Australian community through a suite of standard products, and data customised for individual requirements. The Census Dictionary, 2011 (cat. no. 2901.0) is a comprehensive reference guide designed to assist users to determine and specify their data requirements, and to understand the concepts underlying the data. It provides details of classifications used and a glossary of definitions of Census terms.
A number of other resources can be accessed from the Data quality page, including data quality statements, non-response rates and fact sheets.
AccessibilityAn extensive range of online products are available on the Data & Analysis page.
If the Census information you require is not available as a standard product or service, then ABS Consultancy Services can help you with customised services to suit your needs. Contact 1300 135 070 from within Australia or +61 2 9268 4909 from overseas for all your Census and other information needs. Alternatively, please email email@example.com.