A former Morrison government minister and the Australian Bureau of Statistics are facing a formal human rights complaint alleging the failure to properly count LGBTIQ people in the Census is unlawful discrimination.
Newcastle parent April Long (above, centre), who is non-binary, and LGBTIQ+ organisation Equality Australia filed the case with the Australian Human Rights Commission on Thursday.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the Census, surveying every Australian and household, every five years.
But the co-complainants allege then-Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and the ABS unlawfully discriminated against April, their family and other LGBTIQ+ Australians by failing to properly count them in the 2021 Census.
“On Census night, my partner Kelly and were really excited. We had a special dinner and really made a big deal of it,” Long said.
“Our son Kaison was 8 months old, so we weren’t just doing the Census for us, but for him.
“We wanted our new little family to be counted.”
But the experience for April and their family quickly turned from excitement to disappointment. Long said the Census instead excluded their role as a parent and made assumptions about their gender.
“As we were filling out the form, it kept going from bad to worse,” they said.
“Kaison has two Mums – I’m Mumma and Kelly is Mummy – but the form asked where Kaison’s mother and father were born.
“Our family wasn’t included at all – I felt excluded, and it made Kaison’s family invisible.
“Our initial reaction was shock. We were unable to complete it accurately.
“It didn’t capture us, it made us feel invisible and it didn’t count us.
“I hope that by pursuing this complaint, we can ensure the new government properly counts LGBTIQ+ people in the next Census and ensures other rainbow families like ours are recognised equally.”
Importance of counting LGBTIQ+ Australians in the Census
Equality Australia said April’s experience was just one of thousands of experiences of discrimination felt by LGBTIQ+ people and their families across the country on Census night.
The group says without separate questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and variations in sex characteristics, the Census fails to capture data about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.
The complaint alleges the ABS and the assistant treasurer – then-Liberal MP Michael Sukkar – engaged in deliberate conduct that meant the ABS “could not follow its own guidance” on the collection of such data.
“Our national census should count every one of us properly,” Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh said.
“Every person and every family in Australia should be treated with the dignity and respect of being recognised for who they are, as individuals, and as families.
“The 2021 Census could have provided crucial information about LGBTIQ+ people to inform the response of governments and non-government organisations to better address our communities’ needs, particularly in health and social services.
“Instead, it failed to ask the right questions to properly count LGBTIQ+ people.”
ABS has flagged public consultation before 2026 Census
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said it was disappointed to hear of the complaint and would work with both parties to seek a resolution.
The ABS says it consulted broadly on the 2021 census, including with the LGBTIQ community, but the government decides Census topics.
Previously, ABS chief statistician David Gruen said the bureau was instructed by the government to not ask about sexual orientation or gender.
“There will be an opportunity to revisit that for the 2026 census,” he said in June.
“The ABS will be engaging in a public consultation process starting later this year to ask the community if there are other questions people think we should be asking.”
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