ABS scraps plans for sexual orientation questions in next census


australian bureau of statistics census data australia
Photo: ABS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has axed plans to include questions about people’s sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2021 census.

The census is conducted every five years, with the data used to shape the country’s infrastructure and services. The ABS will begin early testing of the 2021 census in New South Wales this month.

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But Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said it was disappointing the ABS was not proceeding with the sexuality and gender identity questions.

“It is absolutely vital for us to be counted if we are to have the diverse needs of the LGBTIQ community adequately addressed in government policy and programs,” Ms Brown told The Guardian.

“We all know about the mental health and wellbeing disparities for LGBTIQ Australians.

“We need a clearer understanding of the demographics of our communities so we can ensure that funding whether for healthcare, or social services, is directed to where it is most needed.”

An ABS spokesperson told The Guardian the decision was to a desire to keep “the burden we placed on responding households to a minimum, and being able to test our processes.”

But the spokesperson said the final decision on the 2021 questions was up to the federal government.

“Potential new topics, not included in the October test, may still be included in the 2021 census pending the government’s decision,” they said.

A question about whether people are male, female, or non-binary is still under consideration for the 2021 census, the spokesperson said.

Equality Australia have launched a petition calling on ABS to collect “accurate data to ensure no Australians get left behind when planning our healthcare and social services programs.”

Appropriate census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity ‘essential’

In August, a coalition of health organisations called on the ABS to collect “appropriate and meaningful” census data on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status in 2021.

“The census is best placed to understand the cultural, economic and social diversity of our communities,” the groups said.

“[The census provides] information about the population across small geographic areas and long-time trends in key aspects of the lives of Australians,” the groups said.

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“Census data underpins government funding and investment and informs government decisions in a range of areas, including healthcare and social services planning.

Asking “appropriate questions on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status” is “essential in addressing the significant health disparities” that LGBTI people experience, they said.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.