Ten Things To Remember When Doing The Census Online

Census night is Tuesday August 9, but you can save yourself a lot of hassle by completing the online eCensus version instead ahead of time — no working through questions you don't need to look at on the 18-page paper form. Most of the online process is fairly self-explanatory, but here are 10 issues to bear in mind.

Yes, you have to participate in the census. Participation in the census is compulsory for all Australians. As the data is used to help determine allocation of government funds, it's also an important part of participating in a democracy. Individual data from the census is not made public. (There's a question where you can opt-in to have individual forms made publically available 99 years from now. Future family historians will be grateful if you do, but the choice is yours.)

You can't simply go online and fill out the form. In order to use the eCensus, you'll need both an eCensus number and a census form number, which are supplied by your local census collector. If you're home when the collector drops in, you can simply get the envelope; if you're out (as I was), your collector will leave both a paper form with a number and an eCensus envelope.

You can get extra numbers for extra people. Up to 10 people can fill in one census form for a dwelling. However, you can ask to have your own form to submit so your details remain private. This could be useful in a share house, especially if you don't want your housemates knowing your approximate income.

You need a suitable browser. Any modern browser — Chrome, Firefox, IE or Safari — should be fine, but if you have a very old version you might need to update. You also need to make sure JavaScript is enabled (this will be the case on most systems, but if you have turned it off for security or performance reasons you'll need to re-enable it). The ABS technical help page has extra information.

Use the information buttons if you're not sure about a question. Each question includes an information button (a blue letter i) which provides more background. Click on it to read the background, and again to go back to the question.

You'll automatically skip past irrelevant questions. One big advantage of the online census is you don't have to read through every question on the paper form. Options that aren't relevant to you will be automatically skipped over.

Think carefully about the religion question. The question about religion isn't compulsory; if you do answer, you can choose from a list of common religions, specify your own, or answer 'No religion'. You should answer the question in a way that reflects your beliefs honestly, not enter "Jedi" as a joke or pick a particular religion that reflects your upbringing rather than your current belief. As Gizmodo has pointed out, data from this question is used to fund public services, so it should accurately reflect modern Australia.

The process isn't too time-consuming. I did the entire form in about 15 minutes. I'm a fairly fast reader, but I was also stopping to take notes and screenshots.

The internet usage question is disappointing for geeks. There are only four choices on offer: broadband, dialup, mobile or none. Many Lifehacker readers probably have multiple options from this list, but this is not the time to boast about how you alternate between Next G and ADSL2+.

You can submit before August 9. While the census form should reflect who is in your household on the night of August 9, the system will let you submit ahead of time. Given that the servers are likely to be overloaded on the night, there's a lot to be said for getting in before that.



    Yep, did mine a few nights ago. Easy and fast. SO much better than doing it manually.

    What is the obsession with 1300 numbers?

    They cost about $1,000,000 per second on my tightass TPG phone. Phooey to that.

      Perhaps getting a phone provider that isn't a rip off might help?

        TPG are fantastic value for money compared to other service providers. I'd rather pay 9.5c/minute with TPG rather than 70c/minute with Vodafone or Telstra. Yes they charge a lot for 13/1300 numbers, but it's a matter of perspective, and their overall charges are much cheaper than "big" providers.

      Mmmmmm. Agreed fully 1000%. They should (especially government department) list local or mobile numbers to call along side any 1300/1800 numbers.

      The regular phone number is on the ABS site under contact us "International callers +61 2 9268 4909"

      Just need to look harder if your phone provider gives you cheaper local or STD rates than 13/1300 numbers. It's not terribly difficult.

    What's wrong with putting Jedi as a religion? I'm more than happy to do what it takes to divert money away from religious institutions. God should provide for them, not the government with my tax money.

      If you want to divert money away from religious institutions, choose "no religion". Choosing "Jedi" adds fuel to the "most Australians have religious belief" argument that gets them funding.

        Have you any idea how much your taxes would increase if parents stopped paying private (religious) school fees AS WELL AS their own tax bill? Or if you were taxed so the Government could provide charitable services now being supplied by 'religions'?
        It might even be more expensive than the "carbon tax" which won't stop global warming one little bit.

          Given that private schools also get generous dollops of government funding, there's no reason whatsoever to assume taxes would rise if they disappeared.

            Yes they get funding, but that's from the federal government. state schools get it from the state government.

            religion on a census has nothing to do with schools.

      When you put down 'Jedi' it gets officially marked down as 'no response' as opposed to 'no religion'.

        In the 2001 census they marked them as "not defined" along with any other religions which didn't have an official code. So, it looked like all those people were part of a fringe religion. :( http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3110124.NSF/0/86429d11c45d4e73ca256a400006af80?OpenDocument

      If you want money diverted from religious institutions then put "no religion". Putting a joke religion is regarded as no response, so it will put the percentage of Christians up, thereby more money going to religious institutions.

      @ Jose

      Clearly you have no idea how the Census data work, how the government works, how religion works, how belief works or how God works.

      Perhaps you know alot about yourself though? at least enough to think only about yourself i am sure.

        I know God works in mysterious ways. All religions being good examples of this; it's almost like He doesn't *want* us to believe in Him.

        Why do you use a capital when talking about the Christian god? If you want to be specific about what god you are talking about use their name, don't just assume that your god is the only one and therefore permitted to take the name God. Ignorant oppressor...

    Why is there a 'No Internet Connection' answer to Q59 (Can the internet be accessed at this dwelling?) if you're doing it online?

      You could be at a library or at work, need to think before you type.

        Your answers are specific to your dwelling on Tuesday 9th August..
        Since you can do the survey online ahead of time (as well as doing it on paper if you so wish), you may be able to access the internet at work.

      I would assume because the questions online are exactly the same as those in the paper version.

      Who says you have to fill out the form "AT YOUR DWELLING" you could be submitting from work representing your house

      Those who do not have internet can complete the eCensus using internet connections often available at their local public library or the like.

      (I work with someone who is also delivering the census, and this is what they recommend)

      Because it's possible to fill in your census online, but not at home, perhaps?

      You might have popped over to a friend's place to do your census, or have logged in at the library? It's just aligning the questions with the paper copy.

      Seeing as you are allowed to fill it out ahead of time, there is no reason why you couldn't do your census at the library, or family member's home, or at work, etc.

      I doubt that there'd be many (if any) people filling out an eCensus form without an internet connection at home, but they must provide for the possibility.

      I do believe also that the answer choices are identical in both the online and offline versions of the census.

      As silly as it sounds, they can't have different questions online compared with the paper questionnaire.

      ..if you're accessing the Internet outside of your home?

      Because you could be doing the online census from another dwelling :)

      You could be doing it while at work.

      I actually work with a couple of people who do not have the internet at home. They even refuse to have a computer.
      And no, they're not luddites, just a conscious choice that I can't understand, but am in no position to judge.

      Do you have to fill out the form from your dwelling Phil, or can you use your work's or neighbour's internet connection?

      I also wondered that, doesn't basically everywhere with a mobile phone signal have internet access?

      You can complete it at work or at a friends or at an internet cafe etc...

      Perhaps you're doing the census at your local library or McDonalds with free wifi?

      You might be doing it from someone else's connection, I guess, since you can do it ahead of time...

        Hmm, that's odd. When I opened the page all these million comments didn't exist. Now I look like a me-tooer. Bah!

    Still haven't got my Census form delivered.
    Should I keep waiting or make a call?

      It's ok they probably don't think you exist.

      You should wait a little while longer then make a call. Call them on August 10th, and be prepared to leave a message. They should get back to you in five years time.

      if you haven't got your form by Sunday, August 7th (yesterday) you should ring up and ask.

    Have yet to receive the form yet. Embleton, WA.

    i just rang them to let them know i will be overseas buy Tuesday and that the old, non-english speaking people at home can't fill in the form...

    the response: that's ok, they can fill in the form for you

    you'd think the dude on the phone would actually understand what i was trying to tell him seeing as he couldn't speak english

    When the guy handing them out at my place was finished giving me the relevant docs, he was ready to walk off when I asked him about eCensus! He looked quite surprised and said I was the first to ask about it! Doesn't look like many people will use it if they aren't given the option! #}

      Yeah - people don't normally ask for things they haven't heard of....

      The census workers have to collect the paper forms which will probably get him paid more....

        Actually Census workers are paid a flat fee, have between 350-520 houses to deliver to and collect from, and if they have to spend more time out there effectively their hourly rate goes down. (Just like those tricky vote counts on election night- the longer you are there, the less you get paid per hour.) They don't get paid more if their area has more houses (than the other areas).

        The census worker I know has actively encouraged people to do the e-census. (500+ houses) You can fill in the paper form and use it to help you do the e-census if you're of the demographic that isn't comfy with computers.

        When people fill in the e-census your census worker gets a text saying not to go back to that house, because the census has been completed.

        The ABS are aiming for 30% e-census completion.

    What if we don't fill out the Census form at all? Is there a fine or something?

      Yes, they can fine you up to $110 per day.

        haha that means my ignorant lazy ass neighbour should be fined about $3000 i hope so, he said he couldn't be bothered to do the form serve him right :D

    I'm not Australian. So I don't have to do it, yes? Just thought I'd clarify.

      If you're staying at a residential address on the 9th then yes, you do have to complete it. My family will be overseas then, so they don't, it kinda balances out.

      It would be un-Australian not to fill it out!

      Yes you do

    There's an accessible version of the form which should run without requiring javascript

      The paper version doesn't need JavaScript. Or electricity :P

    Please tick the authorisation for the records to be released in a 100 years. Future historians will thank you. Down side is that if your off spring lead the revolution the Terminators may find you too. Your choice

      You win the internet.

    Your article says that I should have received by census mail already, but I haven't. I'm near central Perth.

    I rang the census hotline, and the recorded voice said the census people are still out delivering forms, so I just hung up.

    Does anyone else not have their forms ? Do I really need to talk to someone on the hotline to get my forms?

    Angus, you might want to make a correction to this article - everyone who is in Australia on Census night has to complete a Census form, whether they are Australian or not.

    I'm a little concerned with this census.. especially since it's being run and backed by Lockheed Martin, hardly a humanitarian society by any means.

      Err, it's being run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as it always is.

      Dude... where the hell did you see that?
      Tell me you were joking,... please! #

        Apparently this is some scandal to do with the UK census. A completely separate event, please do not confuse it with the Australian census.

      How are Lockheed Martin supposed to know how much to overcharge us for the F35 strike fighters if they don't know how many of us there are and how much we earn? Really, some people just need to get a clue!

    For question 59, can you count your neighbour's Wi-Fi if they don't have a password (or are still using WEP) ? :)

    Yes, the census is compulsory, but not all the questions are.

    If you read the Census and Statistics Act of 1905, section 9-2 to be precise, you will see
    its purely for housing/population statistics. The rest of the questions are tacked on so people believe they have to answer them too.

    (2) The Statistician shall collect such statistical information as is necessary for the purposes of the compilation and analysis, under section 12, of statistics of the number of the people of each State as on the last day of March, June, September and December in each year, but nothing in this subsection shall be taken to limit the generality of subsection (1).

    The rest of the Act craps on about what happens if you dont answer the questions.

    If you visit www.abs.gov.au/census it even says at the top of the page "Census of Population and Housing".

      Questions that aren't compulsory are clearly marked as such. But "population" covers demographic information about the population, which is why most questions aren't optional.

    I really hate invasion of privacy requirements like this. Frankly I dont want the government to know me, or my personal information. Wish they would mind their own business.

    On second though, who says I have to provide accurate information? I think I'll be a 55 year old business executive, of Mexican descent, earning over $150,000. Oh and Jedi. =)

      They don't record who you are. There isn't a provision for your name. I've never supplied my name from memory. So what does it matter?

        They do. They ask for your name, address, employment, salary, shoe size, everything.

        OK, I'm joking about the shoe size. :) If the census was anonymous, I wouldn't have a problem. But it's not.

      And then you'll be the first to complain about lack of services... It's all about living in a democracy.

      That and the bit where it says all over the form that they will not supply this information to anyone - *including* other government departments. They know that if people are worried about centrelink or the ATO realising their shenanigans they'll provide inaccurate information.

    I am not overly a fan of "compulsory" govt. surveys...however, as it is used for the intent of providing data for provision of services and future planning etc. answering honestly does kind of make sense. If it was voluntary responses then everthing would be skewed (bit like the argument for/against voluntary voting).

    Wish they would use the opportunity to add some "hot topic" questions to the survey...like NBN, Illegal Immigrants, Carbon Tax, GST on Internet purchases from O/S under $1K etc. etc. The results would of course provide data to answer how public money/resources should be spent/focussed.....


    First I have heard of it...

    finally had some free time to browse lifehacker overseas (i have been holidaying for 3 months)

    and lucky i saw this article...

    is there a procedure for people not in australia at the time of the census, a punishment, etc?

      The census is a snapshot of the people in the country on that day. If you're overseas on holiday, you don't have to fill it in.

    Privacy, Privacy, Privacy..... is the Number 1 reason that people will not answer census before or on Ausust 9th.

    Why? Because how can you trust a government that first said "there will not be a Carbon Tax" then later changes it's mind to try to force a Tax on the very people it said it was not going to do.

    Secondly, most people are honest and want to do the right thing, But, are worried that the answers they give could be used against them by "OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES" ie. Child Support or Centrelink. With the government already pre-filling taxation returns about inderviduals with the information that they have already cross referenced without you prior knowledge, what will the government do with Census Data? The world we live in is a very dangerous place, we as citizions of Australia would love our government in POWER to listern to All area's of the community. AND not just ignor us and do what THEY THINK IS BEST FOR THE COUNTRY. If someone is of a religion of something other than the NORM it should not be discounted, as these people are also members of our community too. I would love for a CENSUS aimed with questions DIRECTED at our Sitting and Non-Sitting Members of ALL 3 levels of parliment. With questions like "What do you believe your position is worth to the community?" "What are your big IDEA's to get AUSTRALIA through the next 50 years?" "Is a 4 year term to short and means that you can't get your plans into a place where the people can benefit?" And I am sure people could come up with MORE!!!

    Census, detail is good but there is more money wasted on trying to promote that a CARBON PRICE will be great for this country. If the same effort was put into promoting the reasons we should all put the right information in our CENSUS and garantees that there would be NO ACCESS FROM other GOVERNMENT departments that include our department of "HUMAN SERVICES" Then people will fill out it properly, but until this time, you will still find that the majority of Australian's don't trust where THEIR personal information will end up. I am sure I also speak for many of my fellow Australians. (Please Post)

      Wow, man - are you in some kind of militia group?

    "Participation in the census is compulsory for all Australians. As the data is used to help determine allocation of government funds, it’s also an important part of participating in a democracy.".

    I can't get my head round the word compulsory? If you are in a democracy you should have the choice to say "no" to the census.
    Or is that wrong?
    Being told what to do is a dictatorship, isn't it.

      Democracy gives everyone the opportunity to participate in the political process. If you choose to opt out of the process, there's not much grounds for complaining about the outcome.

        I agree that people should participate in census. I don't agree that non participation looses grounds to complain. What if what I wish to complain about is the lack of an ability to participate in a way that actually has an impact. Or complain about the lack of an ability to not participate.

        I don't think census should be compulsory, but I do think people should complete it so I think the government should have a system of positive incentives for make people want to complete the census on their own accord.

      Do you think you also opt-out of paying taxes?

    I'm not an aussie, but just a resident. Does this mean I have to fill out the form as well?

    nvm have to do it as well.

    If you live in Australia, you have to do it. It doesnt matter if you're a visitor, an international student etc etc

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