Australian Privacy Advocates say People’s Names in Census Records should not be Retained

Census records are some of the most useful records available to genealogists. However, if some Australians have their way, future genealogists will not have access to these records. Privacy advocates are calling on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) not to collect names of individuals in next month’s census, due to privacy concerns.

Actually, this is not as big a loss as it sounds. All Australian census records in the past few years have only kept the names for 18 months. Unlike many other countries, the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not preserve the names and then make them public after 72 or 100 years.

The names in past Australian census records were largely used for administrative purposes, to ensure everyone completed the census. The original plan was to keep the 2016 census records for 4 years but privacy advocates believe the names in the census records should not be saved at all.

The Australian Privacy Foundation is calling on the Australian Bureau of Statistics to stop using people’s names for data analysis. Some people are declaring they will boycott the census entirely because of the changes.

You can read more in an article by Jessica Longbottom in the ABC.NET.AU News site at


I am certainly thankful that my family does not come from or live in Australia!


    Was your intention to be insulting to Australian residents, or their electoral choices, Leonard?


    I don’t care for the government decisions. Since the census is paid for with taxpayer money, I like the idea of taxpayers having a say. I wrote to our own US Census Bureau asking that perhaps some “good” questions might be put in as an option for people to answer. Not the same has preserving the record of course. Don’t now about Australia, but dead people have no rights it seems in the US, at least in Texas. The County made a mistake on the burial date for my Dad. When my sister went to have it corrected. The clerk said he doesn’t matter, he is dead. SO, everytime I enter the reference, I have to add a correction note. More and more folks are getting interested in their heritage, perhaps it is time for them to speak out on preservation of the records!


Unfortunately all of our census since Federation have been pulped when the statisticians have finished with them. A real blow to genealogists. Some prefederation census, and earlier “Musters” of convicts are available but these are incomplete and some give only the head of the household together with the number of people in the household. At the last census we were asked to indicate whether “our” details could be held for 100 years, this after much pressure from researchers, we had to tick a box to indicate yes so whatever those in 100 years will find will not be complete. This present brouhaha is about keeping records for a period to match against tax and social security data which some see as intrusive.


Hmm, interesting way to do a census, but I guess since most of the citizens of one’s country would be considered a “descendant” of a “criminal” that was shipped from England or one of the English colonies, maybe the Aussies just don’t want to know who was really the criminal……LOL


Actually, these days being able to show descent from a convict is highly valued. There are a number of societies and groups dedicated to this. And of course the need the British felt to establish a new colony was in part driven by that avenue being closed off in its old American colonies, where convicts had been sent previously.
The Australian settlements quickly grew and prospered attracting a huge influx of free and sponsored settlers.
There are more Irish descendants than the current Irish population, Melbourne has the biggest population of Greek descendants outside of Athens. And so on, so very similar to North America.
Being convicted of a petty crime by a judicial system biased in favour of the propertied class and sent across the seas was frequently the best thing that ever happened.


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