Ten Things To Remember When Completing The 2016 Online Census

Ten Things To Remember When Completing The 2016 Online Census

The 2016 Census is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, August 9. For the first time, the online version — or “eCensus” — is the default method for filling in the national survey. As with the 2011 version, most of the online process is fairly self-explanatory, but here are ten issues to bear in mind.

You’ll need your unique code to get started

In order to use the eCensus, you’ll need to enter your 12 digit Census Login which should have come in the mail. If it hasn’t turned up for some reason or you’ve managed to lose it, contact the Census Inquiry Service as soon as possible. (You can contact them online or call 1300 214 531.)

In addition to your 12 digit Census Login, you’ll also need to write down a 9 digit password which will be auto-generated when you first log into your Census. You only need this if your session expires or you intend to complete the Census in multiple sittings. (Select the “Save and exit” icon on the top right hand screen of your Census form if you need to come back later.)

You don’t have to wait until Census night

The official “Census night” is Tuesday August 9. However, you’re free to fill it out ahead of time if you have plans that night or would prefer to get it over and done with. Simply head to the eCensus webpage and get cracking!

If you forget to fill out the Census, expect to be fined

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. Stiff fines apply for people who fail to complete the survey — we’re talking a potential penalty of $180 per day. Forget to fill it out at your peril. With that said, the ABS considers fines to be an absolute last resort.

What’s all this talk about privacy?

The 2016 Census will not be anonymous. When you fill out the 2016 Australian Census questionnaire, your name and address will be linked for the first time to other, previously anonymised data like your status of employment, education and personal health. This has proved to be controversial, with many Australians concerned about privacy. (You can read our thoughts on the potential dangers here.)

For its part, the ABS has outlined how it aims to protect the privacy of individuals on the Census website, which we have included below:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has legal obligations to keep Census data secure and ensure that it does not disclose identifiable information about a person, household or business. We use a comprehensive set of practices to ensure the confidentiality of information provided on Census forms.

The ABS uses the strongest encryption technology that current internet browsers will support to ensure information from the online Census form is delivered securely. For those who use a paper form, we provide prepaid envelopes to return the form. Any individual member of a household (including a visitor) can request their own unique login number for the online form, or a separate paper form and envelope.

Information provided on Census forms is protected by the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. These provisions legally bind all ABS staff to protect this information. Staff working on all stages of the Census, including collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of data, are bound by this obligation.

Under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, the ABS must not disclose personal information in a way that will identify an individual, household or business. It is an offence for any past or present ABS officer to divulge, either directly or indirectly, any information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

Unfortunately, short of deliberately lying on the form, there’s not much you can do about this issue.

You can request a separate form if you live with others

If you live in shared accommodation or on campus, you need to ensure that whoever fills out the online form includes you on their Census. But what if you’d rather keep certain details private such as your income? Thankfully, you can complete a separate form by contacting the Census Inquiry Service.

You will need internet access and a suitable browser

Well, duh. Any modern browser — Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Safari — should be fine, but if you have a very old version you might need to update. For example, only Internet Explorer version 10 or later is supported.

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). You can see the full list of minimum system requirements here.

Use the “+More Information” button if you’re not sure about something

Each question in the Census includes a “+More Information” button which provides more background. If you don’t know what a question means or are unsure how to answer it, click on this icon for an overview.

You can click the “previous” button if you want to change a response. However, once you’ve completed and submitted your Census, you will no longer be able to make any changes.

Don’t treat the religion question like a joke

The question about religion isn’t compulsory. If you do answer, you can choose from a list of common religions, select ‘No religion’ or nominate your own. On the 2011 Census 64,390 Australians put “Jedi” down as their religion. While this is amusing, it can have real-world ramifications that you’re not expecting. Data from this question is used to fund everything from community support facilities to public policy and city planning. The Atheist Foundation of Australia is leading a campaign to get people to stop making the “Jedi” joke for this very reason. (Read more here.)

By the same token, you should refrain from nominating a religion that reflects your upbringing rather than your current beliefs. The aim is to accurately reflect modern Australia’s active religions. So don’t put Uniting Church in Australia (or whatever) just because it’s on your birth certificate.

You can now announce your census completion on Twitter!

When you submit the completed survey, there’s an option to auto-tweet the news from inside the website. For posterity. Or something.

You can still request a dead tree version if you really want to

You can request a paper form of the 2016 Census by calling 1300 820 275. You will still need your 12-digit Login number which was already sent in the mail. Paper forms must be completed and returned in the Reply Paid envelope as soon as possible.


More On Census 2016:


  • The 2016 Census will not be anonymous.

    In the sense that the ABS will request your name and address along with your census form, it never was. The census has always asked for this information. All that’s changed is that they’ll store names for longer this time (on a separate database, so for someone to get census forms with names attached they’d need to steal two separate well-protected data sets. This seems highly unlikely).

    • Bless the Maker and His water.
      Bless the coming and going of Him.
      May His passage cleanse the world.
      May He keep the world for His people.

    • @ bong – What happens if you’re working on the night of the Census?

      Census FAQ says just complete it for your usual dwelling (http://help.census.abs.gov.au/help/popquestions#backtotop)

      At work on Census night – shift work
      If you’re working on Census night and return home the next day, you should include the details of your usual dwelling on your Census form. You should complete your form as soon as possible.

  • @chrisjager do they have a legal basis for fining people other than ‘its compulsory’?

    • Census and Statistics Act 1905

      14 Failure to answer questions etc.
      (1) A person commits an offence if:
      (a) the person is served a direction under subsection 10(4) or 11(2); and
      (b) the person fails to comply with the direction.
      Penalty: One penalty unit.
      (2) Subsection (1) is an offence of strict liability.
      Note 1: For strict liability, see section 6.1 of the Criminal Code.
      Note 2: A person commits an offence in respect of each day until the person complies with the direction (see section 4K of the Crimes Act 1914).
      (3) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a person’s failure to answer a question, or to supply particulars, relating to the person’s religious beliefs.
      Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in subsection (3) (see subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code).

      • He asked if there is a legal basis for fining you. The answer is a conditional ‘no’. They have no legal basis to fine any Australian for not completing the census unless you voluntarily provide them the name of a person in your household who becomes liable for completing/returning the census.

        Only once they establish liability on someone does the Act you quote apply. The Act consistently refers to a ‘person’. This means “the liable party”, not “every Australian”. This is the deception the ABS uses to compel you to participate when in fact you don’t have to.

        What the ABS don’t tell you is the word “compulsory” has no legal meaning or definition in the Act (or any law). The ABS has to use the word “compulsory” in all their marketing and PR because it sounds “legal” and compels people to participate. They then refer to the Census Act and the fines in the same sentence as a threat for not conforming. What they don’t mention is it’s only AFTER you voluntarily provide them the name of someone at your address that that person becomes “legally obligated” to complete the census and pay any fines under the Act.

        In a house of 20 people who don’t complete a census, they can’t prosecute “The Resident”. Do you think all 20 people would get fined? Firstly, how would they even know the names of the 20 people that live at the house if the ABS is being truthful about retaining our personal data. Secondly, assuming they know the names of every resident, that would mean kids and infants are getting fines in the mail. Show me the section of the Act where it says children and infants are exempt! The ABS MUST establish a liable party at your house before the census Act applies.

        What they don’t tell you is there is NO law which states you have to give them the name of someone in your household in the first place. In order to lawfully boycott the census you need only throw any mail addressed to “The Resident” in the bin without opening it (as there is no law stating you need to open such mail) and, when they follow you up in person don’t answer their questions (as there is no law stating you need to give a census worker information whilst standing on your property). If they leave the forms in your letterbox or on the doorstep, just leave it there. Don’t talk to them, don’t call them, don’t write to them. I now post a trespass notice on our door so they have to leave the property without even knocking.

        Only if they send you a letter addressed to you BY NAME should you open it and pay attention to the content.

        The reports of fines being issued to people in past census’s are probably true. But they are the idiots who gave their name to the ABS at some point to allow the ABS to then issue directions and fines.

        It’s one big deceit with carefully chosen words and threats, and the masses fall for it every time. This article is simply regurgitating ABS PR garbage. (Note, I’m no lawyer so act on this information as you will however I have never completed a census and have never been chased or fined using the above approach)

  • @chrisjager could you please confirm if this is applicable even for Australia Permanent and Temporary Residents?

    I don’t think it’s just Australian citizens because every tax payer is contributing to the funds that get allocated to the community.


  • Thanks so much for this info. I completed my census early but couldn’t find anywhere whether that was acceptable. I’m just glad it’s finished and I don’t want to deal with it anymore.

  • What everyone seems to miss is clearly contained in s14 of the Census and Statistics Act. In order to commit an offence, a person must be served a direction under ss10(4) or 11(2) and then fail to comply with the direction.

    As the mailout containing the census login code IS NOT a legal direction, one won’t be committing any offence. It is only if the ABS chooses to issue a written direction to a person directing them to complete the census that the potential for an offence is created. Best wishes to the ABS in taking on administrative overload in issuing notices in the case of a minor (or mass) boycott. Not to mention the collection of names and addresses is likely beyond their remit anyway.

  • I’ve always happily filled it out before, because I assumed that the names were only used to check your name off the roll as having completed it, and that they were then immediately destroyed. I had no idea they were keeping it for as long as 18 months and that they were data matching to other records. They’ve been quoted in the media as saying they want to access our Medicare and PBS records to data match – I’m sorry, but where do they get off thinking they have the right to access our sensitive medical information without our consent??

    Notice they keep saying they aren’t giving our census data to other government departments, but ignore the question of whether the data is flowing in the opposite direction? How much data is flowing TO the ABS, rather than just AWAY from it?

  • In regards to trespassing notice, im curious to know if that can apply if you are renting…? Thanks in advance.

  • I have submitted the census and now a member of the household has been hospitalised. What do i need to do?

  • Jediism, Jedi Realists and Jedi Pragmatists exits in the hundreds of thousands, it is no joke. They are not necessarily die hard fans and geeks, many are spiritual people that take inspiration from the principles of Jedi Philosophy to live their own lives. While light sabres, robes, Jedi mind tricks and galactic wars may be part of a fictional Star War universe, consider that most mainstream religions and traditional wisdom’s are based on fanciful parables. Its the underlying message that these stories carry that is important. I for one call my personal higher power the “Force” and take Jedi practice and teachings as a spiritual path and will be listing Jedi as my “religion”. Form more information see http://www.jediliving.com/ (Jedi Philosophy) and https://www.templeofthejediorder.org/ (Jediism).

  • Ummm are you guys 100% sure about the anonymity party? The CEO from ABS has said that the ONLY thing to change this year is that they are storing for 4 years instead of 18 months. The last Census was NOT anonymous. Also, your article states that our names & addresses will be linked to our personal data, but the link below says otherwise “Names and addresses will be stored securely and separately from other Census data, and each other, and will never be recombined with other Census data. ”


  • The Atheist Foundation of Australia is leading a campaign to get people to stop making the “Jedi” joke because it will miss out on funding as a religion… Lets call a spade a spade here….

    Guess what I’m putting down…. you bunch of pretenders….

  • I’m not happy about the discriminatory atheist campaign. Why do they assume that Jedi are atheist? Many Jedi are multi-religion but spend more time thinking about Star Wars than they do about God.

    It’s accurate – and we need more Star Wars memorabilia and services, so we should be taken seriously.

    How would the Atheists like it if we started a campaign to brand them all as Buddhists since “not believing in God” doesn’t equate with “No Religion”.

    Pathetic really.

  • i don`t have a Census number to log in. Nothing in mail box, i only arrived back home last night.

  • I did it last night. Of course, easy, but so few questions…they could have used Survey Monkey.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!