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Census 2021: Compulsory for Australian residents including international students, temporary migrants

Community Engagement Officer Nirmal Singh will hold information sessions with non-English speaking backgrounds. Source: Supplied by Nirmal Singh

Every resident present in Australia on 10 August will have to participate in the census to avoid paying a penalty. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will also provide help to members of the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will start dispatching census forms across households from 1 August.

Participation is compulsory for every Australian resident present in the country as on 10 August, including temporary residents and international students. Non-participation in the census can lead to a penalty of up to $222 a day.


  • Participation in the census is mandatory for all residents present in Australia on 10 August
  • Residents will start receiving a letter from the ABS from 1 August
  • Help is available for those who can’t fill the form in English

“Irrespective of your residential status, participation is mandatory. If you leave Australia on 9 August, you don’t have to participate. It is for those who are physically present in Australia on 10 August,” Nirmal Singh, Community Engagement Officer at ABS told SBS Hindi.

“You will have to include your child’s name if he/she is born on 10 August,” he added.

Mr Singh said Australian citizens and permanent residents currently stranded in India or overseas are not required to fill the census form.

The form will carry a password required to complete the census process online. Those who cannot do it online, may post the paper form in a prepaid envelope provided to them by the ABS.

Australia Census 2021
Community engagement officer Nirmal Singh says it is mandatory for anyone present in Australia on 10 August 2021 to in the census.
Supplied by Nirmal Singh

The form will have nearly 50 questions about the name, age, country of birth, language spoken, occupation, disability and other details of the respondent.

“This entire process will take about 30-45 minutes. There is a penalty for not filling the form and completing the census process,” Mr Singh said. 

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides for penalties of up to $222 a day for failure to complete and return a form.

Mr Singh said these forms are in English only, and ABS provides help to people from non-English backgrounds. He said residents can call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131450 to get information in their languages.

“ABS has also appointed community engagement officers like me to hold information sessions with communities to provide information in their language.

“Community members can bring their forms to us and we will help them out in filling them,” he added.

Mr Singh said the data provided to the ABS is secure and strict penalties apply, including a jail term, for sharing or leaking the data.

Australia Census 2021
Teachers and students in Melbourne help migrant groups, refugees and those struggling with English fill with their census forms (file photo)
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

“We follow all the privacy laws and principles in Australia. The data stays in Australia only. Personal information like your name and income is not even shared with other government agencies including the Australian Taxation Office and the state governments,” he added.

Mr Singh said the data collection process is expected to be over by September and the first draft of the information collected could be published in July 2022. The final draft can be expected by October 2022.

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