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8 Answers To The Census Questions You Were Too Afraid To Ask

1. What is the census?

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1. What is the census?

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The census is basically a big, national roll call to see what’s happening with everyone in Australia.

It occurs every five years, and everyone who’s in Australia on the night - whether they’re a citizen, a resident, or just visiting for the week - has to fill it out with information like their name, address, occupation, cultural heritage and personal life.

It's happening on Tuesday, August 9, and 24 million people in 10 million dwellings are expected to participate.

2. Why does the government need this info?

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The government uses the information in the census to decide how it spends money. For example, if the population is booming in one part of Victoria, then that area might need more transport, health and education services. The government uses the information from the census to decide what its priorities are.

It also provides a really good snapshot of the country and how it’s changing. For example, how is Australia’s religious makeup evolving? Are more people identifying as LGBT? Are we all heaps rich?

We’ll know about more about Australia after next week.

3. How do I do it?

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By now, you should have been sent a form with some login details. That’s because this year Aussies are being encouraged to complete the census online. On Tuesday night, head over to and get that shit done.

If you can’t access the census online, how are you reading this article?

4. Do I have to do it?

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Yes, it’s compulsory.

If you don’t do it deliberately fill in the wrong information, you could be fined up to $1800. But that doesn't happen very often. According to treasurer Scott Morrison, only 100 people were fined in 2011.

5. What if I’m not home on census night?

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You fill the form out wherever you are. So if you’re in the middle of a one-night stand, take a breather and get to know your new friend a little better by asking exactly how much they earn.

Whoever is at your place that night (say, a housemate), will fill in some info indicating that you’re ~elsewhere~.

If you’re somewhere other than a home, like a hotel or caravan park, the owners there should have made arrangements to help you fill out the census.

6. Do you have to be a practicing Jedi to mark it down as your religion?


The religion question is always interesting. Yes, there’s a blank space for you to write down your religion if you don’t fit into one of the options given on the census. And yes, you can write down Jedi if you really want to.

But the government doesn’t really care about Jedis, so they won’t pay much attention to you. You’re better off being honest about your lack of religion by marking “no religion”. In fact, Christian and atheist groups are having a bit of a fight about this issue right now.

7. What if I don’t identify with the gender binary?

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Hopefully by now you’ve requested a special form so you can fill in your own gender identity. You can read more about the process here.

8. Why is everyone freaking out about privacy when we literally do this every five years?


There are some changes this year. In previous censuses, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has thrown away your personal information (name, address, etc) after a short period, but this time they want to hold on to it for a bit longer.

They say this will help them to deliver better services, and they’ll be really careful to keep it safe. But privacy advocates fear the information could fall into the wrong hands.

The ABS is assuring people that names and addresses will be stored separately from the rest of your information and will be destroyed after 2020. Whether you trust them or not is up to you.

You can read more on the whole privacy shemozzle here.