2021 Census – telling Australia’s Story

13 August 2021
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This week, like most Australians, I participated in the National Census. We were told that participating is an important part of telling Australia’s story. Yet the feelings I’m left with after completing the census is ‘this is not my Australia, or my reality’.

As an Organisational Psychologist and an equity, diversity, and inclusion consultant at Symmtera I spend my time helping organisations, leaders, and teams to consciously adapt their language, behaviours and ways of working to be more inclusive of differences. I am often asked to review policies, processes, and documentation to help organisations hardwire equity, diversity, and inclusion into their DNA.

So, whilst it does not surprise me that in 2021 our national census embodies biased and limiting views of gender identity, family constructs, abilities, or health – to name a few – it certainly does disappoint me.

It does not require much effort to:

• Update the gender question to allow for non-binary response options
• Recognise that whilst many families today do have a mother and father – there are also many who do not
• Know that labels, such as mental health, can exclude neurodiverse people.

It does require recognition that unless you consciously include people you will unconsciously exclude them. And language is a visible signal and symbol to Australians of the extent to which the non-dominant groups are seen, heard, and valued.

ABS – you can do better than this – particularly if you are intending to represent our diverse lived experiences to tell the Australian Story.