Don't shoot the messenger (Northern Territory News- 21/2/03)

To: The Editor
Northern Territory News
Printer's Place
Darwin NT 0800

21 February, 2003

Dear Sir


I would like to make a few points about the resident population estimates of the Northern Territory which are the subject of current discussion and your editorial today.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) understands how important population numbers are for governments and the wider community. It is for that very reason we strive to ensure our estimates are as accurate as possible at any point in time.

When new information becomes available, whether from the five-yearly population census or other sources (such as the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages or Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs), it is taken into account and the population estimates are adjusted accordingly.

In relation to your comments about the accuracy of the population census, please note:

  1. The ABS uses local collectors who know their areas and communities.
  2. The ABS puts a lot of effort into creating awareness of the census across the whole community, and the high level of support shown by the community for the census is a key reason for its success.
  3. We also take account of the few forms that are not collected, and those who are away from home on census night.
  4. We recognise the unique nature of the NT population, including remote Indigenous communities, and account for this in our enumeration and estimation processes.

At the end of the day the ABS stands by its numbers, even though in this case they may have led to an unpopular outcome. This is the appropriate role of an independent and objective statistical agency.

Robyn Elliott
Regional Director
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Northern Territory