Who is involved in running the Census?
The Census is a massive undertaking every 5 years, which provides a wealth of information for all levels of government and private sector organisations. There are somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 people involved in running the Census, and when you sit down to fill in your Census form on August 9th, it’s worth reflecting on the huge organisational effort it take to get it to you, and then process the data. As you’d imagine, it’s quite a job to make sure that everyone in Australia gets counted on Census night.
There are a whole bunch of people involved in getting your Census form to you for the 9th of August and collecting it afterwards. It’s a real community effort with most staff being local residents and working close to home. Who are they?
1. Census Collectors
- About 30,000 Census collectors work Across Australia.
- Each Census collector has a workload of somewhere around 300-500 dwellings in urban areas and less in rural areas. The vast majority work within a few km of home.
- They are the visible face of the Census, walking the streets, driving around rural areas (and in more remote or inaccessible areas flying or travelling by boat), noticable by their bright yellow satchels specially designed to hold Census forms.
- See my blog entry “What’s it like to work on the Census?“.
- Collectors will be out from 29th July to 7th August delivering Census forms and from 10th to 28th August collecting them.
2. Area Supervisors
- Each look after about 7-9 Census Collectors, interview and recruit them, check their workloads to ensure that their dwelling numbers are right, train them, gets their materials to them and monitor their work.
- There are about 4,000 Area Supervisors around Australia.
- Area Supervisors are involved for longer than collectors, working from May through to the end of September.
3. District Managers and the Australian Bureau of Statistics
- The ABS have overall responsibility for running the Census every 5 years, and there is a permanent team who are already working on plans for the 2016 Census. They run test Censuses in small areas during the “in-between” Census years.
- During the Census year, each state office of the ABS sets up a “Census Management Unit” to oversee the running of Census in that state.
- In some states there are District Managers, who manage the Census for large regions of the state and are also temporary staff recruited by the ABS but for a much longer period, almost a year in fact. In other states including Victoria, Area Supervisors report directly to the ABS.
- The CMUs also look after special strategies designed to make sure that difficult to count groups are represented in the Census, including culturally diverse populations, homeless people (see “Are homeless people counted in the Census?“) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
This Census the ABS has put together a special unit in the Darwin office, which is looking after the Census count for the Northern Territory, plus the northern parts of WA, QLD and SA. This encompasses some of the most remote parts of Australia and presents special challenges – hopefully this should mean a better count for some of these areas, including rapidly growing Roebourne Shire in northwest WA.
There is also a special unit in each CMU this Census helping Census Collectors and Area Supervisors properly enumerate the inner city areas of Australia, including Secure Apartment Buildings, which are increasing in number and notoriously difficult to get access to or find people at home. This Census, the eCensus (see upcoming blog about this) will be strongly encouraged in these buildings.
4. Other Census field workers
There are a whole lot of other people involved too, generally making sure people in non-standard household situations get counted in the Census as well. Some things you may not have thought of:
- If you’re in hospital, a hotel, nursing home, ski lodge or construction camp (or any other “non-private dwelling”), your form will most likely be delivered by a Special Collector, who is usually an employee of the establishment recruited by the Census to make sure everyone staying there gets counted. Where people are incapable of filling out their own forms due to illness or disability, they can interview the residents or get the data from their administrative records.
- Also deserving of a special mention is the Reserve Collector – this little known role is about ensuring that the job is done if collectors get sick, injured or resign. The reserve collector has one of the toughest jobs in the Census – they have to attend all the training and then may have to take over someone else’s work at a moment’s notice and finish it rather rapidly.
- People from the CMUs also go out to places like the NSW and Victorian Snowfields, large hospitals, ships in Australian waters, overnight trains and buses and the other hard to get places to make sure that everyone is counted. Someone travels on the Spirit of Tasmania to get forms to everyone staying the night on the Bass Strait Ferry. Census materials were sent to all the Australian bases in Antarctica over the summer to allow those braving the Antarctic winter to be counted (they all do the eCensus).
- People who work with the homeless or refugee communities are recruited by the ABS to help members of these communities fill out their Census forms and ensure they are counted.
5. The Data Processing Centre
- After Census night, the collectors get all the forms from their households, tally them up and return them to their Area Supervisors. The boxes of forms and other materials get picked up and taken to the Data Processing Centre in Melbourne which processes the Census forms for the entire country.
- This Census the DPC is located in the old The Age building on Spencer St which will be demolished when it’s finished (not because of the Census we hope – it is apparently scheduled for demolition to build apartments, which unfortunately will have to wait until next Census to be counted).
- While the collectors’ work is winding down, the hundreds of people employed at the DPC start work, which will go through until late 2012, scanning and processing all the data on millions of Census forms, and producing the final data output which we all use.
I’m sure I’ve glossed over a lot of important functions in the running of the Census – rest assured it’s a big job. Despite the huge size of Australia and the vast number of different residential situations that people can find themselves in on Census night, with careful planning and a great team of people, as a nation we manage to get almost universal coverage in the Census, and everyone has a role to play in that.
.id is a team of population experts who combine online tools and consulting services to help local governments and organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. Access our free demographic resources and tools here.