Multicultural outreach aims to improve accuracy of 2016 census


With the 2016 census looming, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been increasing efforts to promote the count within multicultural communities.

Narinder Singh has been studying in Australia for the past two years. He's just one of several recent arrivals who will take part in their first Australian census next month.

"I have friends living with me, three or four friends, and it's very important for us," he told SBS News.

"The government will be able to know the percentage of Punjabi or Sikh living in this country [and] how much they're contributing to this country."

According to the last census in 2011, the number of people born in India saw significant growth in the space of five years.

But the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has since discovered a few discrepancies, largely due to uncertainty among census takers over how they should identify themselves in line with India's many dialects and faiths.

Mohan Singh Pooni, a director from the Australian Sikh Association, said any sort of miscount affected the way certain cultural and religious groups were represented in the wider community.

"When we make requests from the government for any resources or facilities to be given to the Sikh people, if we don't have the numbers, the government may not be very sympathetic to our requests," he said.

"That's why it's very important for our community to fill the census in a way that truly reflects the number of Sikhs living in Australia."

The Gurudwara Sahib - a Sikh temple in Sydney's west - is one of many institutions the ABS has been visiting to hold information sessions addressing questions and concerns about the census.

The temple and the bureau have been working together to encourage the relevant people to put down Sikhism as their religion, and Punjabi as their language.

Puneet Jodhka has helped the ABS address various questions from Sikh communities across New South Wales.

"Why do I need to do it? What do I get out of it? Or I don't trust it - engagements like this help to overcome such barriers and it gives us a chance to reach out to people and we can focus on the issues that are relevant to them," she said.

NSW Census director Liz Bolzan said the response from multicultural groups to this year's census had been positive, though some have expressed concern surrounding privacy.

"We're making sure the message is out, that people understand that census information is kept private and secure," she said.

"We're rapidly changing, and to understand who we are as a society we need to know where we are, who we are, how we live, and to encourage that diverse communities get the services they need and the infrastructure needed. It might be where to put a school or roads or community housing."

Details on how to complete the census will be mailed out from August 1, in the lead-up to the count on August 9.

Source SBS News

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