What is it like to work on the Census?
The Census is the biggest peacetime recruitment exercise Australia conducts, and Census Collectors are the foot soldiers of the operation. The ABS recently launched their Area Supervisor recruitment campaign. In April they will be launching their Census collector recruitment.
Who are Census Collectors?
There are about 30,000 Census collectors needed around Australia, and they each look after a small patch of Australia called a “Collector Workload” (formerly Collection District). The great thing about the Australian Census, and one of the reasons it works so well, is that each collector is responsible for making sure that everyone within their area on Census night receives a Census form and fills it out. The collectors walk (urban) or drive (rural) around their area, delivering forms to householders prior to Census night and collecting for up to about 3 weeks afterwards.
Between 6 and 10 Census collectors report to an Area Supervisor in the local area who runs their training, ensures they have enough supplies, monitors their work and follows up difficult household who may refuse to do the Census, and liaises with the ABS to keep them up to date on progress.
If you’ve ever considered doing Census work, now is the time to put your hand up. I’ve been a Census collector before. In 2001, and in 2006 I worked in the Census Management Unit overseeing all the Area Supervisors in Regional Victoria.
It’s an incredible buzz, working on such a major project, and you really feel like a part of something. Both collectors and supervisors can work predominantly after hours, so it’s compatible with an existing job, though some business hours work may be needed to attend training.
What’s it like to be a Census Collector?
Collectors have to deal with householders ranging from those who don’t want to know you and yell at you to get off their property to those who invite you in for a meal and want you to stay the night! They need to deal with dogs, and other pets/wildlife, and generally get along with all sorts of people. It’s a fantastic way to see a bit more of your local area, and maybe a point of view you haven’t seen before.
In 2001 I did Census collection in inner city Melbourne. I had to get access to security apartments where everyone is out all hours of the night, deal with people who didn’t speak English (ABS do provide an interpreter service), find little houses above shops, and negotiate with overseas students who thought the Census was only for permanent residents. Be prepared for the unexpected….I had to go into a brothel and ask if anyone would be staying there on Census night…
Area Supervisors get an overview of everything their collectors are doing, so they get a wider perspective. They also have to be very good at organising things, and both AS and Collector need to be diligent with paperwork. In the end you are working for a BUREAUcracy, and everything must be thoroughly documented, with records kept of every form and visit to a household. The ABS are sticklers for procedure, so you’ll have to follow them to the letter, there’s not a lot of room for interpretation. On the plus side, this means there aren’t a lot of situations that there isn’t some sort of plan for.
It’s also great if you work with Census data to get an insight into how the data is collected, and how people interpret the questions.
And you also get paid for it. It’s not a king’s ransom, but it’s a nice little bonus at the end of the day. Don’t sign up for the money though, it’s all about helping your community make the count.
How do I become a Census Collector?
Census Collector recruitment – 9 April 2011
If you or someone you know would like to make your community count in the 2011 Census then you can register your interest now at www.abs.gov.au/census.
ABS have particular trouble recruiting enough workers in coastal holiday areas, and in inner city areas, so if you live in one of these places, we’d especially encourage you to put your hand up.
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please share it with your friends on facebook, tweet it to the twittesphere or post a comment – we’d love to hear your experiences – especially if you’ve been a Census collector yourself.
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