The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has announced it is testing a suite of new questions it hopes will more accurately reflect Australia’s diverse population, including questions regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity, non-binary and intersex identity, and sexual orientation.
In a statement, the folks in charge of counting us all up and reporting that data to the government said eight new questions are being considered for inclusion in the 2021 census.
They also include questions about chronic health conditions, the ways students travel to their educational facility, Australian Defence Force service, smoking status, and the shared care of children.
Regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity, the ABS hopes a new question will accurately reflect affiliations with a particular “mob, clan, nation or language group.” That’s important data currently missing from the census.
The ABS says they hope the upcoming survey will grasp the nuances of gender identity, and they acknowledged current questions don’t quite capture the full picture.
“Submissions noted a need for data to better understand the characteristics of transgender individuals and people with intersex variations” the ABS said, adding “the diversity of gender identity is not easy to define, but is also not well represented by the current standard.”
Stakeholders also suggested that the full breadth of sexual orientations was not perfectly accounted for in previous censuses.
The ABS will now undertake consultation with relevant groups to figure out how best to ask those questions, while also acknowledging the fact that some respondents may be uncomfortable with expressing their identities – or may be unable to do so, considering instances where “individuals respond on behalf of others in their household.”
Census data is used to inform government bodies about policy decisions, and helps determine where vital funding and support is needed most.
Of course, the 2016 census was an absolute shitshow, and the ABS even reported its servers were the target of a DDoS attack. The potential of the 2021 census being hacked will be a key concern for the ABS moving forward; collecting new strands of deeply personal data means it’ll be even more important they don’t mess it up in the future.
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