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Census marks centenary of first count of population and housing

August 9, 2011 - AUSTRALIA

Australia's first national census was taken in 1911, so the 2011 census marks the centenary. Apr 2-3, the actual date in 1911, could be observed separately. The government describes Census 2011 as the largest data collection ever undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and, logistically, the largest peacetime operation of the Australian Government. A same-sex marriage advocacy group sees a way to be counted as married on the 2011 form, though the law does not recognize such marriages.

One hundred years on, eCensus gives householders an extra way to record their details. The Australian Marriage Equality group quotes an email to the group from Paul Lowe, Head of the ABS Population Census Branch, saying "the count of people in same-sex relationships who tick the 'husband or wife of person 1' box at question 5 will be made available as a part of the standard output from the 2011 Census." AME national convener, Peter Furness, said he welcomed the decision, "which will count the number of married same-sex couples living together even though such marriages are denied recognition under Australian law following amendments to the Marriage Act in 2004." Same sex marriages are denied recognition under Australian law following the 2004 amendments. According to the ABS, " the partners in a registered marriage must be of the opposite sex as same-sex relationships cannot be registered as marriages in Australia." The ABS defines same-sex couples as persons of the same sex living together in the same household and reporting a de facto relationship. They were counted in the 1996 and 2001 censuses. "Examination of same-sex data from the census may have some limitations, including reluctance to identify as being in a same-sex de facto marriage and lack of knowledge that same-sex relationships would be counted as such in the census. The doubling of same-sex couples counted in the census from 10,000 in 1996 to 20,000 in 2001 suggests an increase in those willing to identify as partners in a same-sex relationship." The 2011 Census will be undertaken on a comparable basis to the 2006 Census and will not include any new topic, but a new geographic classification will be implemented progressively from 2011.

Census details (Government news release Nov 2009))

ABS Announces Same-Sex Marriage To Be Counted in Census (Aust. Marriage Equality 7 May 2009)

ABS glossary defining marriage

Date written/update: 2011-08-09