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Making Sense of the Census

Making Sense of the Census: Observations of the 2001 Enumeration in Remote Aboriginal Australia

D.F. Martin
F. Morphy
W.G. Sanders
J. Taylor
Volume: CAEPR Monograph No. 22
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Making Sense of the Census
    Book Description:

    Special enumeration procedures for Indigenous Australians were introduced in the 1971 Census, and have been a feature of the Australian national census ever since. In 2001, as in previous years, the Indigenous Enumeration Strategy (IES) involved the use of locally recruited, mostly Indigenous, interviewers and the administration of modified forms. This monograph presents the results of the first detailed comparative appraisal of the IES. Three CAEPR researchers observed the 2001 Census enumeration, each in a different remote-area context: Martin at Aurukun, a major Aboriginal township on Cape York Peninsula, Morphy at a small outstation community in the Northern Territory, and Sanders in the town camps of Alice Springs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics facilitated the research by granting the researchers status as official observers. The introductory chapter by John Taylor gives a brief history of the IES and sets the context for the research. The three case-studies form the central chapters, and are followed by a concluding chapter that summarises the findings and recommendations. While each locality had its unique characteristics, the authors found some common problems across the board which lead to general recommendations about the future design of the IES. They advocate a simplification of the enumeration procedure, the abandonment of the 'two-form' structure, the focusing of the IES more narrowly on people in 'traditionally-oriented' discrete Indigenous communities, and substantial changes in the design and content of any new 'special Indigenous' census form.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-02-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. iii-iv)
    Jon Altman

    This monograph had its genesis in discussions held over many years between CAEPR researchers and the ABS regarding the capacity of census data to adequately and accurately represent the distinctiveness of Indigenous social, cultural and economic life in its many varied forms. Initial discussions surrounded the correct interpretation of census characteristics in situations where these fail to capture the on-the-ground reality of Indigenous circumstances. Other discussions concerned the adequacy of census counts in remote areas following the publication of a CAEPR Discussion Paper by David Martin and John Taylor illustrating discrepancies in enumeration at Aurukun community on remote Cape York...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations and acronyms
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Abbreviations for kin terms (chapter 3)
    (pp. x-x)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  8. 1. The context for observation
    (pp. 1-12)
    John Taylor

    This monograph explores some of the problems, successes and policy issues related to the application of the Indigenous Enumeration Strategy (IES) in the enumeration of Aboriginal people in remote parts of Australia. It is based on the evidence of direct observations made by three researchers from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) of the conduct of the 2001 Census enumeration in three separate localities. The localities—a major Aboriginal township, an outstation, and a series of urban town camps—were deliberately selected to be broadly representative of Indigenous settlement patterns across the remote north and centre. The aim...

  9. 2. Counting the Wik: the 2001 Census in Aurukun, western Cape York Peninsula
    (pp. 13-28)
    David Martin

    This chapter concerns the conduct of the 2001 census in Aurukun, a predominantly Aboriginal community of over 1,000 residents in western Cape York Peninsula. Almost all of the Aboriginal residents of the Statistical Local Area (SLA) are from groups whose traditional lands lie in and around the SLA, now collectively known as Wik people (Martin 1993). Fieldwork took place over a total of five days in Aurukun between the late afternoon of Sunday 5 August and midday on Friday 10 August. Roughly 50 per cent of the time was devoted to observing the conduct of the census itself. The balance...

  10. 3. When systems collide: the 2001 Census at a Northern Territory outstation
    (pp. 29-76)
    Frances Morphy

    In August 2001 I observed the conduct of the national Census at an outstation community (henceforth community A), serviced by a homelands association (henceforth HA) which is based at the Aboriginal settlement of B in the Northern Territory. The purposes of this research were twofold: to evaluate the IES as it was applied in this particular context, and to assess the quality of the data that were collected.

    This study is being published under terms of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 Undertaking of Fidelity and Secrecy, which imposes strong principles of confidentiality to protect the anonymity of census respondents....

  11. 4. Adapting to circumstance: the 2001 Census in the Alice Springs town camps
    (pp. 77-94)
    Will Sanders

    The Australian national census of population and housing is conducted every five years by the ABS. It attempts to collect basic demographic and socioeconomic information about the total Australian population and various subsets of that population, such as Indigenous Australians. As Indigenous Australians are a small minority of all Australians whose circumstances can differ considerably from those of the majority population, the ABS has over recent censuses adopted a special enumeration strategy for Indigenous Australians, particularly in the discrete Indigenous communities in sparsely settled northern and central Australia. The elements of this IES have been in place in the Northern...

  12. 5. The Indigenous Enumeration Strategy: an overview assessment and ideas for improvement
    (pp. 95-102)
    David Martin, Frances Morphy, Will Sanders and John Taylor

    This brief final chapter offers both an overview assessment of the conduct of the 2001 Census, based on a synthesis of the case studies, and some ideas for future improvement of the ABS’s Indigenous Enumeration Strategy, as applied to Aboriginal communities in sparsely settled northern and central Australia. The chapter is in three parts entitled ‘Who to count’, ‘How to count’ and ‘What to ask’. These seem to us to address the big issues that arise from the case studies and also to cover the ways in which the census could perhaps be better adapted to the circumstances of Aboriginal...

  13. Appendix A. Dwelling Check List, 2001 Census
    (pp. 103-104)
  14. Appendix B. Special Indigenous Household Form, 2001 Census
    (pp. 105-108)
  15. Appendix C. Special Indigenous Personal Form, 2001 Census
    (pp. 109-114)
  16. Appendix D. Special Short Form, 2001 Census
    (pp. 115-116)
  17. References
    (pp. 117-119)
  18. Notes on the authors
    (pp. 120-120)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-122)