How To Keep Your Name Off The Census Without Getting Fined

How To Keep Your Name Off The Census Without Getting Fined

Census night is tomorrow. This year’s Census will be the first one to retain name and address information from respondents. If you’re still against filling out the lengthy and probing survey due to privacy concerns, you may be able to get away with leaving key information out without being slapped a hefty fine. Here’s how.

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Census 2016 has been marred with controversy since it was revealed that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will be retaining the name and address of participants for up to four years. Privacy experts and critics have lambasted the move, forcing the Prime Minister to come out to reassure the public that personally identifiable data will be kept safe.[related title=”More Stories on Census 2016″ tag=”census” items=”5″]

But the question is: How much do you trust the Government? For some, not much at all. Based on events in recent history, you don’t have to be wearing tinfoil hats to mistrust the Government and there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable attaching their names to their Census responses. The ABS has also had a number of data breaches in the past.

Given the Census is compulsory for anybody that is in Australia on August 9, if you don’t complete the survey, or if you provide false information, you could be fined.

But according to Western Australia Census director David Weymouth, if you complete the survey and don’t provide your name, you won’t be fined. ABC Drive Perth radio host Jane Marwick spoke to him late last week about this:

Marwic: “If everything is filled out correctly, except the name, will I be fined?”   Weymouth: “I think the bottom line answer to that is no.”

Yes, I know this was only the Western Australia Census director saying this, but why would the situation be any different in other states?

You might not be able to get away with this on the online version of Census (assuming you can’t progress on the digital form unless you fill in your name) but there’s still time to get your hands on the paper version.

You can either:

  • A) Call up the Census hotline to request a paper form, or
  • B) Call up the Census hotline to find out where your nearest dedicated form pick-up location

If you’re worried you won’t get a Census paper form in time and that you’ll cop a fine if you don’t do it all by tomorrow night; don’t panic. According to the ABS Census and Statistical Network Division general manager Chris Libreri, while it is preferred that the forms are all filled out by August 9, realistically, people have until September 23 to complete it.

He told

“No one has ever been fined for being late with their Census form, the fines are only if you eyes-open refuse to a Census collector.”

Overall, completing the Census is a good thing considering the information that is collected will be used to provide the Government guidance for future policies and funding decisions. Just don’t put your name on it.

Will you be completing the Census tomorrow night? Let us know in the comments.

More On Census 2016:


  • Even if the government holds their promise of not doing anything untoward with the information, the idea of it “being safe” is laughable. Websites and databases with much higher security than what I expect these people to put around our information are hacked every other day. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get hacked day 1 as an act of protest to show what a terrible idea it is.

    • Not to mention the whole problem with governments databasing this kind of thing is not about what they can legally do with it /now/, it’s about what might become illegal /in the future/.

      If the Hanson and Krugers of the world get their way, 20th century history makes me genuinely concerned for people who link their names and addresses to identifying as a Muslim. Or whose gender identity changes between censuses. Or . Of course the current government wouldn’t act on any of that now cause it’s illegal. But if they’re the ones that can change the laws, there needs to be some other safeguard like.. I don’t know.. not retaining personally identifying census data??

    • Hacked or not … there is a much more bigger problem.

      ★ Bureaucracies are stultifying workplaces.

      ★ Stultifying workplaces create disgruntled employees just as surely as US foreign policy creates ‘terrrrrrrrrists’.

      ★ Disgruntled employees with access to ‘secure’ data tend not to care much about datasec.

      ★ The ABS is a bureaucracy.

      Connect those four dots.

      Here’s something else you can write down and sticky-tape to your fridge. There is a small network of data-savvy people who are going to put ‘barium meals’ in the data they furnish on the census: if the barium gets traced to the wild, they are going to drop a very large trove of material that will reflect badly on both major political parties in ways that even A Current Affair will have to cover (so it will be worse than John Howard signing Australia up for the non-airworthy, non-stealth, obsolete-at-launch F35 – without cabinet consultation or defence department input).

      As to the probability that the system is hacked: it will be hacked if it has economic value. Government’s approach to data security is to pay 5x market rates to have a political crony’s nephew install mySQL and save passwords using password(), which will withstand about 45 seconds of pen-testing. There is no incentive for any senior bureaucrat to bother with datasec, since they don’t understand it and there is literally zero accountability if your personal data ends up on Pastebin.

      Want to know how good is at tech? Three letters suffice – ‘NBN’… which was always going to cost 4x initial estimates, take 3x planned rollout time, and be obsolete at launch. So every household pays $6500 – almost 8 years of full-whack TPG ADSL including unlimited calls – before a single byte of data is received.

  • But according to Western Australia Census director David Weymouth, if you complete the survey and don’t provide your name, you won’t be fine.

    So which is it? I will or won’t be fine?

  • it wont matter if you dont put your name on it will it? if we log in with the unique code provided, they already have our name on file and are just updating all the other details.
    to stay safe you are probably better off fudging answers then you are not putting your name on it.

    • I don’t have it in front of me, but pretty certain the access codes are addressed to an address only, not a person.

      • It’s “To the Resident”.

        They wouldn’t include the actual name even if they had a list, because if you had only moved in the previous day it would be addressed to the previous resident and you would have no reason to fill it in. They REALLY want somebody at each residence to fill it in.

        (Although I think they would have more luck with that if they were not collecting and retaining names. Previous censuses have been pretty noncontroversial and there haven’t been the mass calls for civil disobedience that we have this time. The two obvious reasons for this are the collection of names, and the fact that most people will be filling it in online.)

  • This doesn’t put me at ease tbh.

    Can I count on the legal support of Lui and Lifehacker if I do get fined?

  • “The bottom line answer to that is no”.

    But with your address and DOB on there. They will either contact you and ask you to supply it, or data match it and fill it in themselves.

    He didn’t say “People are ok to leave their name off”, just that a fine wouldn’t be levied.

  • not if you’re in a household with multiple people. They know the address as that’s linked to the code – but they don’t easily know who is at that address that particular night. If you want to scramble them further, stay (really or pretend) at a friend’s place and have your details entered into their census form (with false name of course)

  • I used “Sensus” instead of “Census” to make it more obvious what I write.

    The documents can be downloaded from:

    What should be kept in mind is that one only has to fill in a “Census” when one is residing at any particular place at that night, and so those who are on the road, attending to overnight street parties, etc, simply are not included. If however you have say overnight wedding party then as host you have to fill in all the details of your guest. What kind of “privacy” is this? You can spend the entire night filling in the details of others! Attending to a store like Kmart, 7Eleven, McDonalds also might just get you off the hook from being on any Census form, this as technically you are not residing then anywhere. Say if everyone goes onto the road on Census night then let the government who owns the road fill in the details, if they can obtain that. The nonsense to send out Census envelops addressed to the “Resident” means it is “junk mail” as it is not personally addressed. As I indicated in the past it is unconstitutional to request details about any religion (s116 of the constitution) and so an unlawful demand. And how on earth can anyone fill in a Census form ahead of Census night not knowing if someone unexpectedly visits that night, if just to avoid having themselves to fill in a Census form?

      “What if I will be away from home on Census night?
      Everyone who is in Australia on Census night needs to participate in the Census, no matter where you are. Whether you are an international visitor, travelling to remote areas, simply travelling interstate or staying away from home due to a natural disaster or other reason, arrangements have been made for you to complete the Census.”

  • Why do i need to put my name on it, if they’re just going to go get my name to fine me anyway… clearly they already have my name….

  • I considered changing my name for a day for the census, but it turns out you can’t change your name if you’ve changed it in the past year.

    I’ll probably just fill it in as first name “Not”, surname “Supplied,” although it’s a little tempting to just pull an all-nighter at work.

    • Then Daffy Duck will have filled out his census on census night, not knifeyspoony. Knifeyspoony may get a fine and so may Daffy for filling out 1,000+ census forms. So will Darth Vader, Captain Kirk, Jabba the Hutt, Inspector Gadget, Doctor Who, Freddy Krueger, Batman…ect.

  • My post to others within the ABS/Census website:
    What login or paper form? (I’ve mentioned this in other posts!)
    Curiously enough, I was walking in as the Postie was riding past and personally delivered my mail today….My daughter was thrilled to get her actual license (and her unsmiling face photo really looked good), plus one unaddressed and one “to the householder” bits of junk mail which went straight into the recycle bin.
    I thank the god of your choice that the ABS’s own Census website (to which this comment is linked) clearly states “You won’t be fined…Just complete it asap.”
    ASAP will be fulfilled as soon as I get addressed, (as opposed to anonymous and unsolicited) documentation, either via Official and Authorised Census Collectors or via Certified mail!
    What a catastrophic Fuck Up…Does anyone know who is responsible?

  • When filling in the online form you have to enter something in the name field. But two blank spaces works. Probably the easiest solution.

  • Nope, it’s an offence to give false information. It’s not an offence to leave any question or the whole thing, unless they have directed you to do those things.

  • Even without knowing your name you can be identified in some cases: Are you the only gay Latvian Anglican in your town? Only male Sikh shopkeeper? Suddenly everyone knows your income, and other info.

  • Just leaving your name out is not adequate. If your address is there it is easy for the ABS or the government to find out who you are.
    Linking the information supplied to all sorts of agencies is a blatant invasion of privacy.
    If the census enables appropriate funding, infrastructure, etc why in an ageing population are there not enough nursing homes?
    Did nobody notice the age of our population at the last census?

    • But it will make you easier for the state re-education camps to find when they come for the undesirable minority you happen to belong to.

    • What about ‘Anon’ as name and ‘private residence’ as address. Still entering your shire without exact address gives them statistically each population etc..?

  • “…completing the Census is a good thing considering the information that is collected will be used to provide the Government guidance for future policies and funding decisions…”

    This government decides future policies and funding decisions on it’s neo-liberal agenda.
    What the people think is irrelevant.
    Labor isn’t much better.

  • I found that if you put underscore character in the name box in the on-line form, the form gets accepted. That is how you can conceal your name

  • Privacy issues aside, the purpose of the census is to obtain STATISTICAL information – no more than that. Perusal of the paper form shows that – aside from the Surname question – all information is of a statistical nature. I will therefore honestly complete all relevant questions – WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE SURNAME FIELD. This fulfils my civic duty – without disclosing my personal information. Honestly, can this course of action lead to prosecution under the Act?

  • David Weymouth also said in the interview that less than 100 people in the whole of Australia were fined last census and that was from just refusing to fill it out not for putting Jedi down as their religion or for calling themselves Boaty McBoat Face.

  • How can the ABS say our data is secure when they admit they have had 10 data breaches (e.g. HACKED 10 times).

  • I actually have no problem with them having the name (they already have it realistically and it’s the basis of all those genealogy progs).
    I have a problem with them misusing the data and associating the data with other data, and passing the results elsewhere/losing it. The census data should always be anonymised and averaged such that it can never be reversed and associated with someone in particular. If they can’t be trusted to do this, they can’t be trusted to get that data.

  • even if you want to do the right thing by the ABS, you can’t get on their site or contact them by phone.
    If telstra crashes because they offer free download, how does the ABS expect a couple of million people to get onto their site in one night. UNBELIEVABLE

  • You truly are an idiot. Are you not aware that all of this is covered in the Census and statistics act and therefore entirely legal.

  • Everybody is missing the point – It doesn’t matter if you put it on the census or not, Medicare along with most other government departments probably already have everyone’s details between all the departments and most of it probably relatively up to date because everyone wants to access Medicare etc… if you think government departments wouldn’t share information you would have to be naive… one way or another the government already has your information, to think this one change to one organisation is going to be your undoing is just silly. I always think that its just like security screens on windows and doors, they are really only meant to keep the honest people out coz if someone really wants to break in then they will find a way, digital hack or not.

  • Sorry to state the obvious but I don’t see how leaving out your name makes it anonymous considering they need to know who the form is from in order to determine who’s completed it and who to fine for not completing it.

  • ABS letter:’To the resident'(NOTE:not a real estate ad) Caution!’Login code’not peel to reveal,code wrongly faces upward.Resting drink on back envelope, reveals your code .Online a further Password and receipt is auto assigned (no choice),presumably 2 census sets are being farmed out to 3rd parties.Add to false promises of Timeline/Phoneline/Online/Papercopy/mailout access. Hardly the Hackers fault if Govt serve it up on a lazy Susan. Again Govt spins the ‘hackers’ inquiry blotting out botch-ups @ every census level and every thing Govt touched and that’s putting it mildly.No confidence motion,dissolve the house and we’ll try again ! Online election anyone ?

  • Nah, the census data isn’t used because after the pork barrelling at the elections are finished there is no money left, so why bother.

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