EXPLAINER

2021 Census survey to take place while COVID-19 lockdown continues across Australia

It's intended to provide a snapshot of the nation in time for future generations, but this year's census will be certainly unlike others before it.

With half the population now in COVID-19 induced lockdown questions about where we spend our time, or how we travelled to work, will be vastly different from previous years.

The official 'census night' this year will be Tuesday August 10 and we're being encouraged to complete the survey online.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reminded that children should be included when counting the members of a household.

Data from the 2016 census indicated one in 20 children aged zero to four - or 5.1 per cent of Australian children - were not included in the information gathered on census night.

If there is a child staying at your residence, then they should be included in the answers provided.

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The census is compulsory, so you will need to do it. You could be fined up to $222 for every day you fail to complete the survey.

One of the only reasons an Australian citizen might be exempt from completing the census is if they are overseas.

But, even if you are in a quarantining facility after returning from overseas, you will be expected to complete the census.

In order to avoid the same problems that occurred in 2016, there will be no need for the entire nation to log online together.

The survey can be completed any time before August 12 before someone from the census will contact you.

A letter with the unique code and password has been sent to every household.

CENSUS 2021: A letter with a unique code and password has been sent to each household in Australia. Picture: ABS supplied

CENSUS 2021: A letter with a unique code and password has been sent to each household in Australia. Picture: ABS supplied

If you cannot do it on the internet, you can still fill out a paper form. Assistance is also available in 14 different languages aside from English.

You can call the 24-hour automated paper form request service on 1800 130 250. You will need the 16-digit census number that appears on the letter you would now have received.

The census can deploy a field agent to help you complete your form as well.

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In June, statistician Dr David Gruen explained that extra precautions would be taken to ensure the census can be done in the middle of the pandemic.

"For this year's Census, we've got the added complication of needing to be ready to respond to possible interruptions because of COVID and of course, the safety of citizens and census staff are of critical importance," Dr Gruen said.

In October last year, the census team deployed a 100,000 household test to check the COVID-safe plan.

"In Victoria, we used a mail-only approach with no field staff, relying on letters and advertising because Victoria was locked down," Dr Gruen said.

"In Sydney, we tested a contactless approach where field officers dropped material at the letterbox instead of knocking on doors.

"And in South Australia, we tested how we would withdraw our field staff in response to a sudden change in restrictions in that state and organised the safe return of field staff once restrictions were lessened."

Dr Gruen said he was confident the staff would be able to handle any COVID-related challenges that present this week as they seek to deploy the survey across 10 million households.

Once the data has been collected, the Australian Bureau of Statistics aims to release results in three phases. Firstly in June 2022 and then in October of 2022, and again in March 2023.

"The census will provide further insights into the impacts of COVID-19 across the Australian population. We need everyone to be counted to tell the story of how Australia has changed and to plan for the future," Dr Gruen said.

This story Everything you need to know about the Census first appeared on The Canberra Times.