Comment: Making the Census Count

14 Aug 2021

Since 1911 the Australian Commonwealth has held a census 18 times, each one a different picture of our growing nation.

But the census we completed this week had a unique question. For the first time, it asked Australians: have you served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF)?

Our answer to that question will reshape the Government’s approach to delivering support for our veterans and serving personnel. 

So far we’ve had an incomplete picture of the Australian veteran community.

Right now, the Government supports around 240,000 veterans.

But new research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed that 373,500 Australians have served in the ADF since 1985. That includes the 59,000 currently in uniform. 

It is estimated that as many as 630,000 veterans are living in Australia today. But we don’t know where they all live.  

The 2021 census will help us better understand who our veterans are, where they live, and what they need. 

We’ll be able to map our veterans and deliver targeted services to them, and also help ADF personnel transition to civilian life with local support.

The census data will be fused with the findings of the upcoming Royal Commission. All of this will build a stronger evidence base for better veterans policy.

Our sailors, soldiers and airmen do their jobs. We need to do ours when they come home and settle back into the community.

The 2021 census data will help us care for them more effectively.

That, in the end, is what matters.


Andrew Hastie