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On Tuesday night Australia had it’s Census night, something that only happens once every five years and aims to “accurately count the number of people in Australia, their key characteristics, and the dwellings in which they live”. For a survey-loving nerd like me, it’s something to look forward to, especially as this is the first time I’ve done it as an actual adult (I was overseas during the last one in ’06 and before that I was just a gangly teen living with my parents).

So it was with great disappointment that I completed the eCensus, since the lazy girl didn’t give us a paper form (yes I have the damn internet but I like paper forms!)  when I realised just how little data they really get from us. They could collect some really interesting data from us all, stuff that would reflect the real Australia and help make some really important changes to how things are run in our country. But instead it was all about where we live, who we live with, if we work and where, if we’ve studied, what’s our religion and have we had babies. BORING.

This is the sort of thing I would have liked to have seen on the Census this year:

  • What is you sexual orientation?

  • Do you support gay marriage?

  • Do you regularly practice your religion (ie. attend church each week, daily prayer sessions etc)?

  • (If not currently working) Are you currently on maternity/paternity leave?

  • (If unmarried) Do you plan to ever get married?

  • (If currently childless) Are you planning to have children?

  • Should Australia become a republic?

  • Did you cry at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?

There are endless possibilities and we’d learn a huge amount about the people who live in this country if the questions went a lit bit deeper than “What religion are you” or “do you have a job”. Then there’s the fact a lot of the questions don’t delve deep enough, like whether or not you’re on maternal leave which is why you’re not currently working. Or as this person points out, the fact there are different levels of disability than being unable to look after yourself and needing assistance from another human being to complete certain functions. And I mean, what better way to help decide if gay couples should have the right to marry than to ask the Australian public what they think about it? Imagine how much Australian politics would benefit if we could all give our opinion on matters such as the carbon tax, stance on refugees and whether or not we should become a republic? Of course there’d need to be an option of “no answer” for the boring lot who can’t stand the idea of innovation or revealing the tings they actually believe in. But I think most people would be very receptive to these sorts of questions.

In 99 years when all of our info becomes public, the people of the future will learn little to nothing about how society was in 2011 except X amount of people walked to work on Tuesday 9th August 2011 and 40% of Australians still think it’s funny to write “Jedi” or “Pastafarian” as their religion. YAWN. There was so much potential and it was wasted. I can only hope thing will spice up in the 2016 census, and get asked questions that will actually help shape our damn nation and not to see what mode of transport I took to get to work on that day (which incidentally did not reflect the way I usually travel to work every day and pains me greatly).

What questions would you have liked to see on the 2011 census?

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Cara Westworth
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