Census 'should canvas sexual orientation'

Dominic GianniniAAP
Equality Australia says the 2021 census wasted an opportunity to find out more about LGBTQI people.
Camera IconEquality Australia says the 2021 census wasted an opportunity to find out more about LGBTQI people. Credit: AAP

Australia's latest census generated millions of data sets but there's at least one group that's been left feeling invisible.

The 2021 survey was the first time respondents had an option to select non-binary as their gender, and LGBTQI advocates hope future census questions delve further into that space, along with sexual orientation.

The ABS is considering expanding the 65-question census for its next iteration in 2026 after being instructed by the government not ask about sexual orientation.

"The parliament and government determines the topics of the census and the ABS was instructed to ask a question on sex but not on gender and not on sexual orientation," statistician David Gruen said.

"There will be an opportunity to revisit that for the 2026 census and the ABS will be engaging in a public consultation process starting later this year to ask the community if there are other questions people think we should be asking."

Equality Australia says the 2021 census excluded the LGBTQI community and branded the questionnaire a wasted opportunity.

"Until we're counted, we'll remain invisible," CEO Anna Brown said.

More comprehensive data on the age and location of the community would allow government and health services to better direct resources into high-risk areas, the organisation said.

"Young people from the LGBTQI community are approximately five times more likely to have attempted suicide than the general population and almost one in every two children who are trans have attempted suicide.

"The problem is, we just don't know in which parts of Australia all these people live, and that is something that a nationwide census could have told us."

Population trends for sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be traced through census data, but the ABS will release a more comprehensive analysis on the topic, Dr Gruen said.

"People not only answered the (sex) question, but also had an opportunity to write comments and we will be providing detail on that," he added.

"We are going to go to some trouble to carefully analyse the results of the sex question and put out an analytical article in a couple of months."

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