There have been mixed reports lately that firstly the Commonwealth Government and then revised to say the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) itself has been seeking changes to the requirement for a five-yearly national census – with a view to it being conducted every ten years.  The stories suggest that the ABS has other ways (yet to be detailed) of surveying that will ensure accurate forecasts of key population and other data.

Yes, the census is a costly exercise that consumes an army of human resources; yes, some of the data does seem to take a long time to be released.  But any change needs to be carefully considered with the target being to ensure that vital and accurate statistics remain readily available.

The conduct of the national census is something that Australia does well.  We have a long tradition of survey data that enables trends to be examined and analysed.  The data is often vital for many aspects of planning work and it is difficult to envisage how informed discussion on a variety of issues can be seriously debated without access to good quality statistical information.

Census data helps us to understand how our cities and towns change over time and in so doing this helps us to understand what the future might be like.  The data is important  to track changing household sizes across the State; changing patterns of age and ethnicity; changes in transport usage and work place locations, just to name a few.  Good planning relies heavily on the application of good data.  Without accurate data we are left to speculate based on anecdotal evidence or inferior small sample surveys.

We await with interest confirmation of decisions in respect of these stories.


Images sourced from ABS website.