Slow English

Podcasts about Australia for intermediate learners of English

Podcast 140 – The Census – Every Australian Counts


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Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 140 – The Census – Every Australian Counts

(This podcast is 12 minutes and 6 seconds long.)


Every 5 years in Australia, everybody is counted.  This process is called the census.  The census collects particular information about everybody in Australia, including their jobs and where they live.  Our last census was held on the evening of Tuesday the 10th of August, 2021.  This last census was done mostly online.  I can remember on that evening in August of last year, sitting down with my wife at our computer and logging in to the census website.  We answered all the questions required of us.  Sometimes we had to look up the help information provided to understand exactly what particular words meant, but we were always able to complete each question as required.  It is requirement under the law that each person participate in the census, and we were of course keen to do it correctly and on time.  It was our contribution to the creation of the planning information used for our country going forward.

This information is collected and summarized in ways which guarantee that people’s personal details can never be identified.  This guarantees privacy for every person and for every organisation.  For full information about the census in Australia, you should go to, where all the details about the census can be found.  In this podcast, I would like to give you just a brief introduction.

The census is planned and managed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, or ABS for short.  The ABS is owned by the Australian Government and is required by law to carry out the role of collecting and providing information about Australia’s people and our economy.  Obviously, such information is most useful to those involved in planning for the future, including federal, state and local government planners.  But it is also useful for private companies who are trying to plan their business activities for the future.  Academic researchers also make use of the data as they carry out their research projects and studies.  It’s even used by the average citizen (like me) who just wants to find out more about the demographics of Australia’s people.  For example; how old are we, what jobs do we do, how much do we earn, how well educated are we, where were we born, where do we live, what is our family situation, how many of us are disabled, how many of us are of aboriginal descent, how many are visitors to Australia, and so on.

Importantly, carrying out the census every 5 years allows planners to see how our people and society are changing over time.  This is critical if we are going to build community facilities such as schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etcetera – everything which our community needs in order to live safely and for our economy to grow.  Without this type of information, our planning would be just guesswork and would be very poor indeed.

Our first census was in 1911, just 10 years after Australia was created as a nation.  Of course, everything was done manually back then, with no computers to help in summarizing and calculating information.  In 1911, they used around 7,300 census collectors who travelled across the country on horses, carts and bicycles in order to deliver and then collect the completed census forms. Sometimes they were held up by floods and it was difficult to collect all the forms on time.  I can remember as a child when our local census collector came to our house to give us the forms and to check that we were ready to fill them out on census night.  She came back later to pick them up following census night.  It was a big deal in the family and it was interesting to see my parents filling out the form and giving all the details required.  That was when I realized that the census was something important for us all.

Once the census is completed, it takes a while for all the information to be collated and summarized.  For the first census, it took years to produce useful summaries.  The population of Australia in 1911 was reported as 4,455,005.  For the next census in 1921, they were able to use mechanical equipment to count and make calculations from the census data, which helped speed things up.  The census was held again in 1933, 1947, 1954, 1961 and every 5 years since then.  For the 10th August 2021 census, the information was released in June 2022.

Anyone can access the high level data produced by this latest census, and earlier ones.  More than 96% of people participated in the latest census, ensuring that the quality of our information is very good.  It found our population on that day was 25,422,788 people, excluding overseas visitors.  This was an increase of 8.6 % compared to the last census in 2016.  Of those, 49.3 % were male with a median age of 37 years, while 50.7 % were female with a median age of 39 years.  Other interesting information relates to where people live.  For example, 66.9% of Australians live in the big capital cities.  Another interesting fact is that 27.6% of Australians were born overseas.  We really are a multi-cultural nation.

The ABS website at makes it very easy to view and download lots of interesting census information about the Australian population.  One page I find very interesting is the page showing grouping of census data by topic.

Topics include (amongst others) Cultural Diversity, Disability and Carers, Education and Training, Household and Families, Housing, Income and Work, Location, just to name a few.

Here you can find information of interest.  For example, over 8 million people reported having a long term health condition, and 1,490,344 people reported having 2 long term health conditions.  This surely highlights the need for continued investment in our health system going forward. You can see how this type of information would be so useful in planning for the future needs of our society.

I think the Australian Bureau of Statistics does very valuable work for Australia. The census is a great example.

If you have a question or comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Or, you can send me an email at  I would love to hear from you.  Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast.  I will write back to you, in English of course.  If you would like to take a short quiz to see if you have understood this podcast, you will also find it on my website. Goodbye until next time.


Podcast 140 Quiz - Did you understand the podcast?

You can take the quiz as many times as you like.



academic researchers = university experts who study things, people and society

access = to go into, to be able to get to something

average citizen = a normal person, not someone special and not an expert

brief introduction = an overview, a summary, without all the detail

business activities = (here) the activities done by people in companies and firms

calculations = adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing numbers

capital cities = in this case Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Canberra, Hobart

carers = people who look after sick, old or disabled people

check = to find out

collated = put into groups

collected = to bring things together

collectors = people who collect things or information

companies = private organisations with people working together for a common purpose

compared = when you decide if something is worse or better than something else

contribution = your input, when you do something which is good for others

count = find out how many there are

creation = the making of something,

critical = very, very important

cultural diversity =  when you have people from many lands who live together

deliver = to bring something to another person and give it to them

demographics = the characteristics of a population of people

disability = when some part of your body or mind is not working properly

economy = describes all the goods, services and jobs in a country, including the money paid

ensuring = making sure something will happen

evening = the time from about 6pm until midnight

exactly = precisely, without any misunderstanding

excluding = when something is left out, not included

filling out the form = putting information into a form

forms = (here) paper forms with headings, which you must fill in with information

going forward = in the future

guarantee = to promise 100% that something will happen

guesswork = when you have no facts and you just guess what the truth is

health condition = a sickness, injury or disability

help information provided = the place in a computer program where you get help on how to use the program

identified = found, seen

investment = when you spend money to improve something

involved = (here) when you doing an activity with others

keen = enthusiastic, when you really want to do something

location = place

managed = to look after, to operate, to run

meant = what was the meaning

mechanical equipment = machines which are used to do some work

median = the middle number in a range of numbers

organisation = groups of people who work together for a common purpose

participate = to do something along with other people, to be involved, to take part

particular = when you are talking about something important or special

privacy = whether or not your information will be known or seen by others

process = the steps you take to do an activity

project = when you have a job or activity to do which has a start and finish

realized = when you have learned about something for the first time

relates to = there is a relationship, refers to

reported = when you have told somebody else some information

required = needed, things which must be done

required by law = you must do this, you have no choice but to do it

requirement under the law = it is the law and you must do this

society = all the people in a country and how they live

studies= where researchers look at a problem or question and try to find an answer

summarized = to simplify a collection into the main points

valuable = something people want



  1. Hi Rob,
    The census, in my opinion, plays an very important role in a country’s formulation of high-quality economic development plans. It is also very useful for a private family’s development and financial management. For example, in 2018, I bought a house in Brisbane, where I live.  I did this based on the fact that the census showed that there was a trend towards a significant influx of people into the greater Brisbane area. I expected that a large influx of people in one area would push up house prices.  And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. So I got my low price real estate, thanks to the census.
    Thank you so much for sharing this valuable podcast with me. Let’s look forward to the next one.
    Best regards,

    • Hi Dep. Many thanks for your comment. That is a perfect example of how useful the census data can be to a private person. Well done on your part.
      Have a great day.

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