By JR on Sunday, August 07, 2011
Sara Hudson questions official racism
Next Thursday, 9th August, is Census night. Across the country Australians will be filling in the official Census Household Form. The Census is an important source of statistics for government and is used to determine government policy and funding levels. But a small group of Aboriginal Australians, living in discrete communities, are given a separate form – the Interviewer Household Form. Next Thursday, 9 August, is Census night. Across the country Australians will be filling in the official Census Household Form. The Census is an important source of statistics for government and is used to determine government policy and funding levels. But a small group of Aboriginal Australians, living in discrete communities, are given a separate form – the Interviewer Household Form.
The rationale for the separate form is that Indigenous Australians living in discrete communities do not have the English literacy and numeracy skills to fill in the standard Census form. However, an illiterate Somali who has just arrived as a refugee in Australia does not get a separate form but gets assistance from interpreters.
Now if the only difference between the two forms was their names, then there wouldn’t be much to complain about. But unfortunately the distinction is much more pervasive than that.
• Different questions are asked
• Questions have different response options
• Different examples of responses for a question
• Questions are worded differently
• Question response boxes are in a different order
• The sequence of questions is different
These differences mean that data are not directly comparable between Indigenous Australians surveyed by the Interviewer Household Form and other Australians, including Indigenous Australians who receive the mainstream Household Form.
The Household Form explicitly states on the front that any person in the household concerned about privacy can ask the Collector for a Personal Form and a Privacy Envelope. The Interviewer Household Form has no such statements, effectively signalling that Indigenous Australians have lesser rights to privacy.
The inclusion of participation in CDEP (an Aboriginal work-for-the-dole type program) as a separate question, and its classification as employment in the Census, has enabled government to hide the high levels of unemployment in discrete communities. If CDEP was treated like other work-for-the- dole programs and classified as unemployment, then the official Indigenous unemployment rate (from the 2006 Census) would be nearly 50%.
The misguided attempt of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to be ‘culturally appropriate’ is state-sanctioned apartheid. Not only is it deeply patronising to assume that Aboriginal people living in discrete communities are unable to fill out the official Household Form (Alison Anderson, an MLA for the Northern Territory, was given the Interview Household Form), the different questions used mar the validity of the statistics.
If enough pressure is applied on the ABS, this may be the last Census that such a racially discriminatory and statistically invalid practice is carried out.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 5 August. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.