The 2021 Australian Census Isn’t Counting LGBTQIA+ People and It’s Not Okay


Every five years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counts every person and household in Australia and asks us questions like our age, country of birth, religion and ancestry. The aim is to get the “most comprehensive” snapshot of the country and to inform the government on how society is changing and where to put their funds.

But there’s one problem: the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t counted.

The 2021 Census doesn’t ask any 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.

Now, as a country, we’ve done a lot of societal growing in the last five years. Just to think that the last Census was in 2016, when same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in Australia yet shows us how far we’ve come.

So, given the radical changes within us as a society, this blatant gap just seems completely ignorant. It’s also really disappointing, on our government’s behalf.

By now, it’s become pretty commonplace to be asked questions around gender, identity and sexual orientation in 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.

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 franchise in Australia has caught up, enlisting Brooke Blurton as their first pansexual bachelorette to be aired later this year.

For these reasons, it strikes me as strange that anyone identifying outside of heterosexuality and cis identity is simply not counted in our 2021 Australian Census.

The Census 2021, is the Australian Government’s key opportunity to understand what the community needs, especially in relation to health and mental health services, education, community and social services.

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?

I think that having personal experience with this discrimination makes this topic a bit emotional for me. 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. Although I feel proud to be a member of the queer community and extremely proud of how far we’ve all come in the last five years, the fact that this year’s Census doesn’t reflect our growth hurts.

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.

This is simply not fair, and it’s not the future Australia we want to be a part of. But fortunately, we’re being loud about that fact.

There’s currently a campaign going around socials, headed by the incredible Courtney Act, which explains why LGBTQIA+ people must be counted in the next Census. Although we can’t do anything about this year’s, we’re looking forward.

You can join the campaign with Equality Australia, Courtney Act and LGBTQ+ Health Australia to ensure that we’re properly counted next time round by signing a petition and use the hastag #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.

It’s important that we’re loud here, because our voices matter and we need to fight for the future of queer communities to come.

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 weren’t invited to, but it just makes it all the more important to get involved.

If you, or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.

Beyond Blue 24/7 support: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 24/7 support: 13 11 14

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