International students and a fine of 180 AUD for not completing the Census?

Written by News, Student Life

What is Census?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will hold the Census of Population and Housing again this year. In 2016 Census will be held on Tuesday, the 9th of August. It is a legal form that must be completed by every individual living in Australia on the night. The information collected creates an extensive database of details such as marriage status, religion (the only question that is optional), racial background and income. This helps determine where taxpayer money will be best spent – in health, transport and infrastructure, education and so on.

That’s a lot of numbers. (

How does this affect me as an international student?

The Census aims to understand how many people are in Australia at one particular time – a “snapshot” of the population. Therefore, regardless of whether you are a citizen or not, if you are in Australia you must complete the form. This includes tourists, international students or those on working visas. By participating, you are helping the government and businesses have a better idea of what services to provide international students. Essentially, you help shape Australia’s future.

So what happens?

On August 1st, a letter from ABS may have been mailed to your household. It contains a 12-digit code unique to your address and allows you to complete the Census online. If you wish to complete a paper form, call ABS to request one or visit the website using the 12-digit code you have received. Simply complete the document and send it back using the provided envelope.

This was how Facebook was done back in the day (

Snail mail – how Facebook messenger was done back in the day. (

But I’m not at home on Census night…

If you live in a:

  • Shared-house includes everyone living there on the form. Or you can call 1300 214 531 to ask for a personal login.
  • Residence you will be provided with a personal form with login details.

If you are:

  • Staying at another house on Tuesday, make sure you’ve been included on their Census as part of their household. Similarly, if you have guests staying over, include them on your form.
  • At an accommodation service – hotel serviced apartment, hostel or caravan park – you will be provided with one once you arrive.
  • In more remote areas ABS Field Officers will be posted at various locations or visit your home to provide paper forms or answer any questions.
  • Overseas on Tuesday the 9th of August, there is no need to complete it.

What if I don’t complete the form?

Since the Census form is a legal document if you miss the date, ABS will remind you of your obligation. If you still do not send the form to you will be fined $180 AUD per day until you do. If you provide the misleading information, you will be fined $1800.

I don't know about you but I don't have $180 lying around...unless it's for photos like this one ( [AAP Image/Joel Carrett])

I don’t know about you but I don’t have a spare $1800 lying around…unless it’s for photos like this one.( [AAP Image/Joel Carrett])

 Changes for 2016: 

Details such as names and addresses will be kept in the database for 48 months now instead of 18 months. Some might be concerned about this decision, but ABS assures that identification will be a “very low” risk. Data will be “anonymised” as names will be stored separately.

Annette Kelly, Victorian Census Director, explains that ABS is required by law to keep all information strictly confidential. This means they are not allowed to share data with third parties such as “other government agency, court or tribunal” or even between the Department of Immigration or the Australian Taxation Office.

Additionally, by 2020 all collected information will be destroyed.

So that means I'll hid out until 2020 ( [ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images])

So that just means I’ll be in hiding until 2020. (

 Where can I find out more? 

Visit the official website here to read more about the National Census or the detailed privacy statement in your language.

If you would like help filling out the form, give the Translation and Interpreter Service a call on 131 450.

Featured image credit:

Last modified: August 7, 2016

2 Responses

  1. Tungalagtuya says:

    Hi i dont have a census code . By post didnt come my home address . Now what i have to do pls contact me my phone number is 0404761957

    1. Thi Tran says:

      Hi Tungalagtuya, You can make a phone call to the Department on 131 450 to receive further assistance. They will able to give you all the guidance, and you can also choose to speak with an interpreter. Thanks for your question. All the best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *