Census21 campaign leader Michael Dove praises ABS for making privacy and confidentiality a focus

Si Gladman / 30 July 2021

More people who are living in conservative religious households and who are fearful of revealing their non-religious identity to family members will be able to confidentially mark ‘No Religion’ on this year’s census.

In his RSA Webinar presentation on Wednesday, Michael Dove, leader of the Census 21 – Not Religious? Mark ‘No Religion’ campaign, praised the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for boosting privacy and confidentiality protections for individuals.

Michael (pictured) told the webinar the ABS had taken a number of measures to ensure individuals would have the chance to complete their own personal information instead of having this done on their behalf by the head of the household.

Michael said he had been engaging closely with senior people at the ABS in recent months to ensure the introduction of data processing  measures that will respect that choice. He also acknowledged the role of the ABS communications team in upgrading the visibility and accuracy of information about this option.

Individuals can now request a separate online or paper form that will take precedence over information submitted about them on the household form.

The heads of the households will now not have to be informed if someone at the same dwelling has requested an individual form.

While remaining critical of the problems with the census question on religion, Michael said the ABS should be congratulated for its work to give more people an opportunity to have their information recorded accurately.

He said it would be particularly beneficial for non-religious Australians who are living in conservative religious households, citing the example of a 20-year-old in an Islamic family who would not want to upset their parents.

“I think that what this does is actually give them a way to have themselves correctly represented and accurately recorded,” Michael said.

“(Previously) there was no recognition of the fact that a person requesting the form may have wanted to keep knowledge of that request private and confidential.

“It’s important that the act of choosing to complete a separate individual form is itself private and confidential. The mechanism for requesting an individual form now protects the individual’s privacy and confidentiality to the same extent as the information that is provided.”

You can find more information and key links about the individual form here on the Census21 campaign website.

Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

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