Have your say on the topics included in the 2026 Census
The Census never sleeps. While there is still some information yet to be released from the 2021 Census, the ABS is already well under way preparing for the next Census in 2026, including taking submissions on the relevant topics. Glenn looks at what the ABS is looking for, how to submit, and what role .id (informed decisions) is playing to help shape the future of the Census.
The ABS is yet to release all the information from the 2021 Census. Most of it is out – and available via .id’s local information tools, such as the community profile (profile.id) – but datasets such as socio-economic (SEIFA) indexes and homelessness are still on their way. (They will be added to the relevant .id tools soon after release from the ABS.) But the Census waits for no-one, and the ABS has already called for submissions about what topics to include on the 2026 Census. The Census is Australia’s most important statistical collection, and every 5 years, we get the opportunity to shape what’s included in it. But the work starts early. It’s still more than 3 years to the 2026 Census, and the planning has been underway for some time.
The ABS are in phase 1 of the consultation process leading up to 2026 right now. Anyone – individual, company or organisation – can submit a topic for inclusion on the Census.
We often hear from our clients that they would like to see certain things in the Census. Now is your chance to make a difference! If you have a strong interest in seeing a topic included on the 2026 Census, it would be a great time to have your say. The most commonly raised topics from our clients in the past have been things like pet ownership, health outcomes (now represented in the Census), leisure activity participation and crime information.
How do I make a submission regarding 2026 Census topics?
You can make a submission via the ABS Consultation Hub. There are a number of questions to answer on your submission, how the data will be used, what geographic level you need it for etc. The ABS assesses whether a topic will be considered further on the following criteria:
- The topic is of current national importance
- There is a need for data at the national level, and either the local level or for small population groups
- There is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic following the Census (future Censuses time series)
These three criteria really show the strength of the Census. It is a national collection, which provides data right down to the smallest areas and population groups, and has a regular 5-yearly frequency enabling a view of change over time for all the characteristics. So it’s important that topics included in it have a need for this level of detail.
Three other criteria are also used; these relate to the ease of collecting the data, whether there are other data sources available, and whether it can be asked on a self-responded questionnaire (very important in the Census, which generally needs to be completed without assistance).
The ABS is already looking at some topics for inclusion, including ones which formed part of the 2021 Census consultation but didn’t make it onto the final form. These will be reconsidered (and if you submitted on these in 2021 you don’t need to put in another submission):
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity
- Household and family structure (including contemporary categories such as shared care for children)
- Journey to Education – method of travel and place of education
- Smoking status
Will .id (informed decisions) be making a submission to the ABS?
In our role at .id representing more 300 Local Government clients around Australia, we will be making some submissions on topics as well. Last Census, we made 7 submissions on behalf of our clients. These included the retention of the motor vehicles topic (which was eventually retained), and long-term health conditions (which was included for the first time). But they didn’t all get up.
Everyone is welcome to put your own submission into ABS, but if you are one of our clients and there is a particular topic you’d like to include in the Census in 2026, also feel free to comment on this blog. We will consider, as part of our own submission, along with others that we’ve heard from clients along the way. Topic submissions close on April 28th, 2023.
How do you measure how people feel?
One thing which the Census does not cover is opinion and subjective data. You’re unlikely to see questions making it onto the Census regarding how people feel about what it is like to live in Australia, what the community believes needs to happen to advance quality of life, their health, wellbeing, or finances. These are the domain of other surveys, including .id’s own Living in Place community survey, an exciting new tool which puts a resident lens on all these topics to inform local government planning and advocacy. If you’re interested in more information on this, have a look at this recent example for the City of Parramatta.