The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has confirmed it’s considering questions on gender and sexual identity for the 2026 Census.
The ABS conducts the Census, surveying every household, in Australia every five years. The next is in 2026.
But for years, advocates have warned the ABS doesn’t have data on LGBTQIA+ populations in Australia.
As well as recognition, governments need the data for their responses and policies in areas including health.
This week the ABS published a shortlist of new Census questions, including on sexual orientation, gender and sex characteristics.
Equality Australia said in 2021 “thousands of LGBTIQ+ people and rainbow families were rendered invisible” by that year’s Census.
“The Census failed to ask appropriate questions about who we are and how we live,” legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said.
“The next Census should reflect the diversity of the Australian community and finally count everyone properly.
“Governments need reliable data about our work, income and health to inform the delivery of vital services and make decisions about our future.”
Kassisieh said at the moment we don’t know how many LGBTIQ+ people live in Australia.
“Asking some simple questions ensures everyone is counted in the snapshot of the nation,” he said.
After a second phase of consultation, the ABS will make a final recommendation to the Federal Government next year.
Gender and sexual orientation questions on the Census shortlist
The ABS considered gender and sexual orientation questions for inclusion in the 2021 Census.
But the only question that made it in, a non-binary question, was widely criticised. The ABS also admitted the question failed to capture meaningful data.
The ABS said if the 2026 Census asks about sex assigned at birth “the combination of these two topics would provide an opportunity to produce counts for the transgender and gender diverse community.”
“It may also enhance the quality and accuracy of data relating to a person’s sex,” the ABS said.
The ABS will also consider questions on variations of sex characteristics, which would indicate how many intersex people live in Australia.
The ABS acknowledged research showing trans and gender diverse people “experience poorer physical and mental health outcomes, lower access to secure housing, and are at an increased risk of poverty, discrimination and violence.”
Sexual identity questions were “tested extensively before the 2021 Census, including with respondents who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or use a different term”.
But the testing identified “sensitivities, including privacy concerns about answering this question with other members of the household present,” the ABS said.
“The ABS will continue to engage with stakeholders and assess the feasibility of including this topic. Particularly, the collection of this information on a form completed by the household.”
Equality Australia’s Ghassan Kassisieh said the 2026 Census is “an opportunity to reflect the real diversity of the Australian community, and gather crucial information about the kinds of services all our communities need.”
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.