Every five years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counts every person and household in Australia and asks us a range of general questions, in order to inform future investments. This is called the Census.
In collecting this data, the general aim is to gauge what we need as a society and within our communities, so that the government can provide more support, funding and focus to those specific areas.
The Census asks a mix of questions (age, country of birth, religion, ancestry) that are designed to get a “well-rounded view” of who you are as a member of the Australian population, but there’s one problem: the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t counted.
Let’s break it down.
If you’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it doesn’t affect your ability to fill out the Census. Technically, anyone can take part. But this year, in the 2021` Australian Census, there are no questions around sexual orientations, gender identity or variations of sex characteristics, which means that people who identify as anything that fits outside hetero and cis norms aren’t accounted for.
If we think back to our last Census, it was in 2016, which was the year before same-sex marriage because legalised here in Australia. We’ve done a lot of growing in the last five years, to say the least.
Given where we were at in 2016, it’s not shocking that questions around gender identity and sexual orientation weren’t included, but not to include them now in 2021, feels really ignorant and a step backwards on our journey towards equality.
In the last year or so, it’s become pretty common to be asked questions around gender, identity and sexual orientation on most basic info forms. When you go to a new doctor or sign up to a streaming platform, at the very minimum, you have a choice to not identify as male or female. Most places are really amazing. They give space for you to put your pronouns, to write down your own gender identity and sexual orientation, and there’s always a choice as to whether you want to share that information or not.
Frankly, these are identifying characteristics that help shape our experience of the world and they’re integral when it comes to understanding an individual, let alone an entire population.
Big social media platforms, such as Instagram and LinkedIn, have introduced an allocated spot for pronouns on your profile, sparking conversations around the importance of respecting our individual identities, normalising the use of pronouns and allowing more of us to speak up about how we identify in a simple, yet effective way. This move alone has seen more visibility around the fluid nature of gender, highlighted especially in celebrity or well-known figures, who have chosen to use their social media platforms to celebrate and talk about their identity in the most transparent way.
Beyond this, as a society, we’ve become more aware of our diversities and there are consistent examples of new ways that we’re celebrating diversity in mainstream media. Even The Bachelor Australia franchise has caught up, enlisting Brooke Blurton as their first pansexual bachelorette to be aired later this year.
It’s clear that our attitudes towards the Queer community, gender equality and identity have changed radically over the last five years, and honestly, I feel really proud of that growth. I consider myself to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I identify as a bisexual woman.
With my own personal experience, I’ve felt myself open up, be welcomed, celebrated and accepted in society and in my own personal relationships so much more in the last few years and it’s an incredibly liberating feeling.
I think that’s why moments like these feel hurtful, because this year’s 2021 Census, doesn’t reflect our growth as a society at all. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel a little angry, too.
Data pulled from the Census heavily impacts the government’s dedication to health and mental health services, education, community and social services, which arguably affect members of the LGBTQIA+ community more than most.
As a bisexual woman, I have struggled with mental health battles due to feeling shame around my identity, being bullied and questioned about it in ways that have affected my life negatively in moments – and I’m not alone.
According to Absolut’s Make Love Louder report, 37% of LGBTQIA+ Australians aged 16+ have been diagnosed or treated for a mental disorder in the past three years, while more than 43% feel that Australia isn’t accepting of their community.
Sadly, this 2021 Census isn’t doing much to combat these stats. Particularly when it comes to mental health, how does leaving out a massive chunk of the population that has historically struggled with mental health due to incessant discrimination help guide the government to best support us as a society?
As a result of the government’s decision to discount Queer identities, there’s no possible way that they’ll be able to understand the needs of LGBTQIA+ people and the community will miss out on vital services, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Although there’s nothing we can do the amend the current Census, which kicks of tonight, we need to band together as a society and be loud about what we need and deserve.
There’s a current campaign, headed by the incredible Courtney Act and partnered by Equality Australia and LGBTQ+ Health Australia, which explains why LGBTQIA+ people must be counted in the next Census.
You can join the campaign and help to ensure that we’re properly counted next time round by signing a petition and use the hashtag #CountUsIn on any social call-outs about the 2021 Census. Sign the petition here. If you sign, you’ll be given a link to share the petition loud and wide.
Other organisations have embarked on their own initiatives, too, which is amazing to see. Amnesty International has written to Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar MP to convey its dismay over the Australian Government’s decision not to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in Census 2021. You can read their letter here.
The official start date of the 2021 Australian Census is Tuesday, August 10, and it’ll be available to fill out online here.
I recommend that we all do it. I know it’s difficult to be a part of something that you’re not properly included in, but showing up and being heard matters.
If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
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