Census 2021: Australia still in the dark on LGBTQIA+ lives

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today revealed the results of the 2021 Census, delivering a snapshot of the lives and demographics of many Australians.

While the new data will shine a light on the experiences and beliefs of many discrete groups across the nation, insights on LGBTQIA+ lives are absent from today’s data due to the omission of questions on sexuality, gender identity or variations of sex characteristics from the Census.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics dumped proposed new questions on sexuality and gender in 2019, citing concerns there would be a public backlash over their inclusion and intervention from the office of then Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

CEO of LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, Nicky Bath, highlights that appropriate questions would have provided access of a range of data that would help shape better responses to health disparities affecting LGBTIQ+ Australians.

“The Census is Australia’s only tool with population level data that gives insight into the cultural, social and economic picture of Australians and is critical information to assist in planning now and into the future,” Bath said.

“For the first time this Census data includes information on long term health conditions including mental health. Had LGBTIQ+ variables been included in the data, we would have access to much needed data to assist with planning and where to focus investment in mental health services and in building the capacity of the mental health sector to work with LGBTIQ+ people.”

“We cannot change the past, we can change the future and today I call on the Federal Government to ensure that in 2027 when the data is released from the 2026 Census that the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics Standard for Sex, Gender, Variation of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables, 2020 (2020 Standard) is included,” Bath adds.

“Other countries are moving to include LGBTIQ+ Australians in their Census, they recognise that this information is urgently needed and is appropriate to ask. Australia must follow these examples of leadership and include LGBTIQ+ people in 2026”.

Data shows changing face of nation, increase in ‘no religion’

Millennials (25 – 39 year olds) have grown to become as numerous as the Baby Boomer generation (55 – 74 year olds), with both groups representing over 5.4 million Australians, while almost half of Australians have a parent born overseas (48.2 per cent) and the population continues to be drawn from around the globe, with 27.6 per cent reporting a birthplace overseas.

812,728 people (3.2 per cent of the population) identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, an increase of over 25 per cent (25.2 per cent) since 2016.

The data also revealed fewer people are reporting their religion as Christian, more are reporting ‘no religion’. Almost 40 per cent (38.9 per cent) of Australia’s population reported having no religion in the 2021 Census, an increase from 30 per cent (30.1 per cent) in 2016 and 22 per cent (22.3 per cent) in 2011.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s National Director for Politics, Wendy Francis, says these figures highlight the need for the Albanese Government to move ahead with religious discrimination legislation.

“Despite the question on religion being the only optional question on the Census, over 60% of Australians have self-identified as religious with 44% of these being Christian. It is an important statistic which points to the ongoing need for religious discrimination laws in our nation,” Francis sais.

“The Australian Christian Lobby looks forward to the Albanese Government fulfilling their promise to introduce Religious Discrimination legislation that will provide adequate protection for the majority of Australians who identify as religious.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has confirmed this month that the government will introduce religious discrimination legislation this term of Parliament.

Dreyfus said Labor will introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill reflecting Labor policy, which promises to “prohibit discrimination against LGBTQA+ students and teachers in faith-based schools.”

Leigh Andrew Hill

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