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Defence Census
putting the people into our planning

Frequently Asked Questions

What a Census is?

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. A census collects data from a whole population rather than just a sample of that population: it seeks to collect factual information concerning the characteristics and circumstances of the people who make up that population. The Defence Census gathers a variety of in-depth demographic, financial, educational and the like information from Defence members and their families that is not available from any other Defence or Public sources of information. Unlike other Defence surveys, such as the Defence 'Your Say' Survey, the Census does not collect and measure attitudinal data. Demand for attitudinal data can be met via other existing (or new) personnel research projects.

What does the Defence Census Achieve?

Defence Census data is made available to, and is used by, external agencies such as the Defence Housing Authority and academic institutions involved in Defence and social research. Census information is also used frequently for briefing Ministers, Parliamentary Committees and other elements of Government involved with Defence personnel issues. For example, during development of the 'Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force' the Broderick Review Team made extensive use of Defence Census data gathered over the past 21 years since the first Census in 1991. Without access to the Census data, the Review Team would have been unable to find detailed historical information on matters such as cultural and linguistic diversity, number of dependent children of specific age groups, education needs, childcare requirements, gender issues, divorce/separation rates and many other pertinent Defence demographic matters.

Although for comparison purposes most census questions asked are identical for each census, comprehensive reviews of census questions are conducted during the lead-up to each census. Outdated questions are removed and new questions are added to ensure contemporary issues are reflected. For instance, the 2011 Census had a much higher focus on operational service than previous questionnaires, reflecting the need for Defence to monitor OPTEMPO and its impacts on members and their families. There was also an increased focus on capturing qualifications, categories, trades, specialisations and musterings, place of recruitment for Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander members, and relationship history. A similar comprehensive review of potential census questions will be conducted in the lead-up to the 2015 Census.

Is the Census voluntary?

Yes, you are under no obligation to complete the Census. However, by contributing you are assisting Defence to plan personnel policies that will advantage both yourself and your family into the future.

Are your answers private?

Yes, your answers ARE private.  Strict privacy rules apply to ensure that all respondents remain anonymous, ensuring that you can respond thoroughly and honestly. Your privacy is guaranteed under the auspices of the Commonwealth Privacy Act of 1988, and anyone who breaches the principles in that Act is liable to prosecution. No Defence member has any access to your Census questionnaire, whether in hard copy or completed over the internet. All responses are dealt with by an independent research contractor to collate and analyse the information. Census Form serial numbers are used for processing purposes only - they are not connected to responses. When the Census information is analysed the databases are constructed so that only grouped data can be accessed. An individual's responses cannot be obtained, ensuring your privacy is maintained. Contract employees do not know which Defence employees made which responses. Once processing is completed, the Contractor is required to destroy all Census questionnaires and Defence Census related material, including all data gathered via the electronic survey, and provide a certificate of their destruction to the Manager Defence Census.

Doesn't Defence already have this information?

Although some of the information that is sought in the Census may already be held elsewhere, it is necessary to recollect this information in a manner that can be used in conjunction with the other vital data gathered by the Census. For example, PMKeyS holds a lot of personal information about you but it would not be possible to gather that information in any meaningful way that could be used to build the demographic profiles required of the Census.

Who should participate in the Census?

All Defence employees, i.e. Permanent ADF members, Defence APS employees and ADF Reserve members who have completed one day of paid service in the last calendar year should participate in the Census.

What is the information used for?

The data gathered in each Census are used to underpin a huge range of decisions being made. This includes the dealings of Defence with other Government departments, education departments and other service providers. Sometimes outcomes from the Census can be directly seen, such as changes in allowances or changes to personnel policies. Other times the results are used in ways that are extremely useful but with less tangible outcomes.