A Complaint To The Human Rights Commission’s Been Lodged About LGBTQI+ Inclusion In The Census

A complaint’s been lodged against the Australian Bureau of Statistics and former Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar over the inclusion of LGBTQI+ people and families in the 2021 Census.

The complaint — which was lodged by Newcastle parent April Long and LGBTQI+ org Equality Australia — alleges that Sukkar and the ABS unlawfully discriminated against LGBTQI+ people and that the census didn’t properly count them.

Long criticised the way the census posed questions around parenthood, as they and their partner Kelly have a baby son Kaison.

“Our son Kaison was eight months old, so we weren’t just doing the census for us but for him. We wanted our new little family to be counted,” they said in a statement.

“As we were filling out the form, it kept going from bad to worse.

“Kaison has two Mums — I’m Mumma and Kelly is Mummy — but the form asked where Kaison’s mother and father were born.”

According to Long, their family “wasn’t included at all” and it “made [them] feel invisible.

Part of the complaint against the census is the fact there was no seperate question about sexual orientation.

The other criticisms against the census include that the question about sex, and lack of question about sex characteristic variations, made trans and intersex people respectively “invisible”. It also said that the question about sex didn’t make sense to gender-diverse people.

Per The Sydney Morning Herald, while the census let people pick from male, female and non-binary sex options, there wasn’t a question about gender identity — plus the ABS hasn’t yet reported the data about non-binary people.

“Our national census should count every one of us properly,” said Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh.

“Every person and family in Australia should be treated with the dignity and respect of being recognised for who they are, as individuals and as families.”

Kassisieh also said the census failed to “ask the right questions to properly count LGBTIQ+ people”, and that we still don’t know how many LGBTQI+ families Australia has.

“Thousands of rainbow families like April’s were asked insensitive and offensive questions that assumed they were in a heterosexual relationship and many LGBTIQ+ people were simply ignored by the failure to ask appropriate questions about us an our lives at all.”

The complaint alleges that Sukkar and the ABS “engaged in deliberate conduct” meaning the ABS “could not follow its own guidance on the collection of data on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics”.

In a statement, the ABS said it would “provide full support to the AHRC in relation to any complaint and seek a resolution with concerned parties”.

“The Government of the day determines the topics that are included in each census,” it said.

According to the ABS, it worked with data users and stakeholders — including bodies representing the LGBTQI+ community — when it developed the 2021 census questions. It’ll also start consultation for the 2026 census this year.

“The ABS will engage with the public and stakeholders, including LGBTIQ+ communities, to understand data needs and test any proposed changes,” it said.

Now, the complaint’ll go to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which will consider whether the issue can be privately resolved.