The Australian Census is coming up on August 9th and millions of records are at risk of being destroyed forever, stopping future generations from benefitting from the information.
We need your help to stop this, even if you are not in Australia. Please read on to see how you can help.
The Australian Census Night is on August 9, and it is a big moment for all Australian citizens. Of all the questions on the census, the one garnering most attention is Question 60, which asks respondents if they want their paper response stored in the national archives, to be released publicly in 99 years' time or if they want it destroyed immediately.
Those of you familiar with historical information in England, Wales and Scotland, for example, will probably be thinking “What’s so special about that?” considering the fact that census data from those countries has been preserved since 1841.
In Australia, however, that hasn’t been the historical case. Instead, once the statistical data has been captured, the actual census records have been religiously destroyed.
This changed in 2006, but even then, as with this year’s census, there was only a check box which asked people to opt into preserving the identifying information as described above.
As family history researchers / genealogists who understand the immense value of census records, you would imagine that most people checked that very box, right? Wrong.
I spoke to Andrew Peake, President of the Australasian Federation of Family History Organistions (AFFHO) who had this to say:
“In 2006 only 54% of people ticked the box.
We’re hoping for more than 70% in 2011, so that by 2016 the Bureau of Census and Statistics, either have an 'opt-out' provision or it is automatically preserved. Particularly as there are no privacy concerns as the information is inaccessible for 100 years.”
While I’d like to think achieving a 70% opt-in rate is possible, the early signs aren’t particularly promising.
A recent report showed that 40% of people aged 18-34 don't want their census papers preserved, with 68% of those citing privacy concerns. That’s coming from a group of people who are probably more liberal with their private lives than any other previous generation. If they aren’t into the idea of sharing their census data, 99 years down the track, then we’ve got an uphill struggle to convince the rest of the population.
So, we need your help.
Whether you’re Australian or not, it’s critical that as many people as possible help build awareness of the issue, so we're asking everyone with a Twitter account to please tweet the following:
@myheritage says #justsayyes to Question 60 on the Australian Census. Help us preserve the present, for the future http://bit.ly/p8XpwJ
or just click HERE and a tweet will be created for you
We’ll then collate all of these tweets and build awareness of the issue more generally.
If you don't have a twitter account you can still take part by putting words of support, or stories about how identifying census data has helped you in the past, in the comments to this post and we'll include them in our awareness building campaign.
It will only take a minute but it will help us to make a difference and we can make a big change for future generations, they will know who their ancestors were.
Post Image from The Mercury