Saturday, 6 August 2011

Our census form

arrived last night. Census night is the ninth of this month.
My father says he is too old to be filling in forms. He gets an accountant to do the tax form and passes everything else to me.
I could have filled in the form on line. On reflection I decided against it. There were two reasons for this and the major one was to do with security. No computer system in the world is absolutely secure.
I am never happy filling in a form which asks for large amounts of personal information. I am even less happy about filling in a form which asks me for large amounts of personal information about someone else, in this case my father. This one must be filled in. The law demands it and there are penalties for failing to answer the questions.
Some of the questions however are rather curious. Where do I live now? Where did I live a year ago? Where did I live five years ago? These are no doubt designed to try and discover how mobile the population is but what of the people who have lived in more than one place in the past year? There are increasing numbers of such people.
Are you an Australian citizen? If not, where were you born? It sounds reasonable but which country did you come from? If you are a refugee you might have been born in one country and spent years waiting to come here. It would be useful to know that.
Do you speak a language other than English at home? My BIL speaks English in his own home but Greek to his parents. There is no sub-question for that - or any indication of how well he might speak Greek. There is a subjective question about how well someone speaks English.
On Tuesday I will help three people who cannot read or write English fill in their forms. They all speak English well enough to be understood but they cannot fill in a form. There is no means of indicating they had my assistance.
There is a question about assistance given to family members but no question about assistance given to immediate neighbours. It is a question which should be included to gain more information about urban isolation.
There is also a question about needing assistance with communication activities. I wish I could believe that question was designed to provide future assistance to people with special communication needs. It is not. It is designed to allow the government to find out what they need to do to inform people, not have people inform them.
There will be millions of census forms filled in. It will take a long time to analyse the data. It will be out of date by the time it becomes available so it will be, at best, only an indicator of what is going on in the country.
There is an optional question on the census. It asks about religion. I am going to leave it blank. What I believe is not something the government needs to know. I am not sure they can really use the other information they will get.


Donna Hosie said...

We haven't had our form yet. I can't decide what religion to write in: Wizard or Jedi!

Frances said...

Cat: perhaps my point of view is extreme.
My tradition and culture is Christian, although I do not belong to or attend a church, or indeed particularly approve of them.
However, I want the government to continue to legislate based upon this tradition and culture. If, according to census results, Christianity becomes a minority religion - and,the numbers seem to be shrinking with each census - then in the future this may not be so.
So, I list "Christian".

Anonymous said...

They write the question the wrong way Frances - it should not list the various branches of Christianity. There are branches of Islam and Buddhism too and they do not seem to take that into account at all. Chris

JO said...

I take your point, Cat, that this doesn't cover all complexities. But - if it did - imagine how long the form would be. They have to find a way to gather enough information to drive policy (well, that's the theory, but politicians may not see it like that) without driving everyone demented in their efforts to fill in a form. It must be impossible to get that right.

As for the religion bit - I always leave that blank too.

Miriam Drori said...

There will always be situations that don't fit the questions. I know plenty of homes in which two languages (or more) are spoken. Often the parents speak in one language and the children reply in another.

catdownunder said...

I take your point Frances but I think Chris is right - they should just ask "Christian".
Jo,Most of the census questions have not changed from five or ten years ago. I cannot comment from before that because my father filled them out instead. I rather suspect that some questions could be redesigned without the need to ask any more.

Wilson San said...

My husband and I live in Melton South. We've been waiting for our form to be delivered but here the Census day comes and we still haven't received it. It was advertised that we can complete our form on line. So........we logged into the site, but it asked for a Census Number we don't have. Then my husband rang the phone number for Census line and couldn't get through. Now what?

Wilson San said...

The Census form wasn't delivered so we decided to go on line and fill in the census form however, they asked for a Census number. We didn't have a number so we phone the Census hotline but couldn't get through - now what????????