25 July 2001

Launch of the Census Awareness Campaign, Darwin

I'm delighted to be here today in Darwin to launch the Awareness Campaign in the lead-up to Australia's first Census of the 21st century.

First, I would like to acknowledge the Larrakia Nation and its people as custodians of this land and welcome their representative here today.

I'm particularly happy to start the Census collection process here in Darwin. I'm pleased because it gives me a reason to make the point that Darwin and the Northern Territory is equally important to this Census as every other State and Territory.

The Census gives every Australian absolutely equal status, so it makes sense to me to launch the campaign here in Darwin and remind the rest of Australia of that principle.

In fact, I want to mark the start of the delivery of the Census forms to every Australian household today by seeing off our chief statistician Dennis Trewin, who will deliver the forms to the workers at the Paspaley Pearl farm at Port Bremer.

On Census Night, August 7, we will experience the most wide-ranging collection ever undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics , involving contact with each and every household in the nation.

It will stretch from here, right on this wharf where ABS will be counting the passengers on the cruise ships and the people who live here, to the southernmost part of Tasmania where ABS will be counting families in remote townships and along that rugged coastline.

What I want to do in the next few minutes is to give you a feel for the Census - particularly it's significance and its importance and also to tell you a bit about the content of this Census, and how it is different from all the previous censuses over this past 100 years.

This 2001 Census is different because it reflects what we Australians believe is important to measure; important to count and record about us and our way of life.

So this Census has three new questions which will capture, if you like, this modern Australia of diversity and innovation.

Two new questions are on information technology and they will provide invaluable data to both the Government and private organisations - particularly in regional and rural areas.

Only the Census can provide such information about smaller geographic areas and smaller population groups, so regional, rural and remote Australia, along with the major coastal cities, is well served by the Census.

The third new question embraces a special Centenary of Federation feature - the Time Capsule Project.

We're able, if we like, to write ourselves into history - a free choice. I'll have more to say about the Time Capsule in a minute.

On the subject of new technology, the processing of the 2001 Census will feature some computer innovations, including

  • imaging of the census forms to remove the need for handling large volumes of paper at the Census processing centre.
  • the use of special software to automatically read the hand-printed responses on the census form.
  • a great Website, incidentally with lots of info for journos; and a digitised mapping system which has, in an extraordinary accomplishment, provided high-quality detailed collection maps for all of Australia.

And from today, the community Census Awareness Campaign will unfold, informing everyone in Australia about the new Census questions, the new technology, but most importantly, why the Census is such an important part of our democracy.

And why everyone in Australia on Census Night, August 7, should contribute to it by filling in the Census form.

For most of the population, filling in the Census form is routine, it comes around every five years. This Census is the latest of 14 since Federation.

Every one of those Census snapshots tells a new story about Australia.

Like time-lapsed photography, the Censuses have captured our national journey through the 20th century.

Just as many of you would be fascinated to look at your local areas, I was fascinated to take a close look at my electorate in North Sydney:

I am much better able to represent the interests of my constituents by knowing the demography of North Sydney.

For example, North Sydney is truly diverse, with a large Chinese population and I'm proud to say more Armenians concentrated into its 42 square kilometres than anywhere else in Australia.

Through all the Censuses, one can track the ebb and flow of settlement in North Sydney, right down to small areas; the impact of migration, births, deaths, marriages and a myriad of trends and expectations.

This sort of information is available for every part of Australia, including Darwin.

The last Census counted 195,101 people in the Northern Territory. The number of people in Darwin, taking into account 1,765 overseas visitors, was 84,042.

The median age in Darwin on Census night was 30. The last Census showed that indigenous people accounted for 9.1% of the population of Darwin.

These Census snapshots give us all a better understanding both of our past and present.

Add to this recipe information harvested about ourselves today, and we can plan our tomorrows far more self-confidently and effectively.

This 14th Census of Population and Housing seems to have timed itself perfectly.

The next snapshot of the nation will be at a pivotal time between past and future.

Now of course, all moments are pivotal between the past and the future.

But 2001 is special.

  • It marks our Centenary of Federation.
  • It marks Australia's leap from one century to the next.
  • It marks the start of a new millennium.
  • It marks a new epoch of information and communication.

After one of the biggest-ever recruitment drives for temporary staff to be undertaken by any single organisation - some 30,000 Census field officer jobs have been filled.

August 7 will be the culmination of just on six years of dedication and hard work by very many people in the ABS who have devoted themselves to a successful Census in 2001.

It is a great national project underpinning our democracy, playing its role in setting electoral boundaries; determining the number of seats in the House of Reps, and in the allocation of financial assistance grants from the Commonwealth to States and Territories.

Enormous cost-benefits are derived to Australia from the Census.

By investing less than half an hour to fill in the Census form every five years, the community reaps real rewards in terms of useable information across almost every aspect of our society.

A Census shows us how people commute and where they go. Transport planners can then use Census information to work out solutions for better moving millions of people through our cities.

Census information reveals trends in Australian life. Strategic planners in both public and private sectors see the needs of present Australians and the forecast the probable needs of future Australians.

Where do people need breast cancer screening clinics, hospitals, schools and sports grounds? Where will retirees be living in 2010? Where are the best locations for retail outlets, manufacturing establishments, entertainment facilities?

The Census also continues to be one of the most important sources of statistical information about indigenous people and the results are used extensively by indigenous communities and organisations and governments.

The Awareness Campaign starting today will also make it very clear to everyone in Australia that complete privacy is assured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The confidentiality of your Census information is protected by law.

The awareness campaign will also promote the availability of help for any Australians who may, for language or other reasons such as disability, have difficulty completing the Census form.

And it will make people aware of The Centenary of Federation Census Time Capsule.

The 2001 Census offers the Australian people the opportunity of having their name, address and Census information stored securely for 99 years by the National Archives of Australia and then released for research purposes in the year 2100.

It will include details of our way of life and our descendants will be able to discover details of their family history.

Only those who indicate on their Census form that they agree to have their information stored by the National Archives will be included in the Census Time Capsule.

But I would encourage everyone to be part of the great project. The information in the Census time capsule is a gift to future generations from us all in the Australia of today.

On that note I take great pleasure this morning in launching the Public Awareness Campaign for the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

To mark the occasion I want to give you a preview of the television campaign which will start tomorrow and unveil the newspaper campaign which will begin on Friday.

Here they are...

Now it's time for the farewell. From today some 30,000 Census Collectors will hit the streets and the waterways and the bush tracks to deliver the Census forms to every household in Australia.

One of them is our head statistician, Dennis Trewin,

He's heading off right now to deliver Census forms to the workers on Paspaley Pearl farm at Port Bremer. Now while Census collectors are rather remarkable people, Dennis won't be walking on water to get to Port Bremer. He'll be getting there by seaplane.

That seaplane is rather conveniently parked right here at this wharf, so could you join me in wishing him and in fact all his fellow collectors well in their endeavours both here in the Northern Territory and right across Australia.