ABS admits new recommendations required to count LGBTIQ+ people properly in Census

28 September 2022 – The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released an analysis confirming that the approach taken to questions relating to sex in the 2021 Census requires re-evaluation and says it will deliver new recommendations to the government for the 2026 Census.

National LGBTIQ+ group Equality Australia says the ABS admission proves that changes will be necessary in order to count LGBTIQ+ people properly.

The new analysis from the ABS comes after Equality Australia and April Long (they/them) last week lodged a formal complaint against the ABS and the Assistant Treasurer (then Minister Michael Sukkar) over alleged unlawful discrimination towards LGBTIQ+ people in the 2021 Census.

“The census should count everyone properly. This ABS analysis proves LGBTIQ+ people were never afforded that opportunity,” said Ghassan Kassisieh (he/him), Equality Australia’s Legal Director.

In a new release of data from the 2021 Census, the ABS has admitted that the ‘non-binary sex’ option in the last Census failed to capture meaningful data on Australia’s gender diversity, with over 43,000 Australians instead attempting to record their gender, sexual orientation, or variations of sex characteristics in the poorly-worded question on ‘sex’.

“While 43,000 LGBTIQ+ people gave it their best shot, like my family, thousands of LGBTIQ+ people and rainbow families were simply ignored by the failure to ask appropriate questions about us and our lives,” said April Long (they/them), a non-binary person, parent and partner.

Last week, Equality Australia joined with April Long (they/them) in a formal complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.  The complaint, brought against the ABS and the Assistant Treasurer (a position then held by former Minister Michael Sukkar), alleged unlawful discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people because of the failure to ask appropriate questions on sexual orientation, gender identity and variations in sex characteristics, and the manner in which Census 2021 was conducted.

“The 2021 Census could have provided the data needed to ensure services are provided to LGBTIQ+ people where they are most needed.  Instead, the Census asked ill-fitting questions which have resulted in junk data that even the ABS can’t use”, said Mr Kassisieh.

“If the ABS is correct in sheeting the blame solely to the former Government, then we hope this complaint will help build the case for the newly elected Albanese government and the ABS to right the wrongs of the past and ensure that LGBTIQ+ people are properly counted in the next Census,” said Mr Kassisieh.

Media Contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154, tara.ravens@equalityaustralia.org.au