Census crosses new frontiers

The 15th national poll is a chance to quiz Australians on everything, from internet access in their home to religion.

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The Census aims to take a “snapshot” of Australia every five years – collecting information on the social, economic and housing characteristics of society.

More than 13 million census forms have been handed out over the past fortnight.

The scope of the survey is vast and does not only include people in mainland Australia.

Hundreds of thousands of forms will be completed from new frontiers.

A special census collector will board Spirit of Tasmania II, which will sail across Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport tonight, to distribute census forms to travellers.

Researchers at Australia’s Antarctic bases will fill out their forms online.

The eCensus option will allow the researchers and IT-savvy Australians to submit their survey on the internet for the first time.

National head of the census, Paul Williams said “Testing suggests approximately 10 per cent of the population, or around 800,000 households, will complete their census form online.”

National statistician Dennis Trewin said he was happy, but a little nervous, about how the eCensus will go.

“Even though we’ve tested and re-tested our system and we’ve made sure it’s very, very secure, that is something in the back of my mind,” said Mr Trewin. “But we’re confident it will go according to plan.”

Mr Trewin is urging Australian youth in particular to make sure they are included.

“Young people may not realise that the mere fact of being counted in the Census can make a difference to their lives.”

Collectors will be returning to pick up forms over the next week and failure to take part will attract a penalty of up $110 a day until the census is completed.