Help Us Save Millions of Census Records From Being Destroyed


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

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

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  • Donella

    August 3, 2011

    census records are so important to preserve! please consider checking the box to preserve this record for genealogists of the future. for instance, I was thrilled to find my 4th GrGrandparents and their daughter, my 3rd GrGrandmother, in Scotland’s 1841 census!!! wouldn’t have found them if those records hadn’t been preserved. I have found many records I needed to trace my family in the USA as well, in census data. and am very much looking forward to the release of the US 1940 census next year!


    August 3, 2011


  • Sylvia Seddon

    August 3, 2011

    census records are really important to genealogist world wide – don’t let the Australian Government destroy vital information so tick the box heck box which asked people to opt into preserving the identifying information

  • Kim

    August 4, 2011

    Great work everyone! Thanks for your support with this. Together I’m sure we can build awareness of this issue.

  • sonya staffolani

    August 4, 2011

    My family will definitely be participating in the important step, to secure these vital records for future generations – if only our ancestors could have done so…for genies and fam researchers, to destroy these records, is tantamount to sacrilige. Let’s not let this happen on 9th Aug. Please photocopy the document and keep with your treasured documents. cheers

  • Maureen Hurst

    August 4, 2011

    Census records are a vital primary source not only to family historians but for students of social history.

  • Kim

    August 5, 2011

    Keep up the good work team. We’re getting great exposure for this cause across the world!

  • Keith Sayers

    August 5, 2011

    At the very least that question 60 should be the other way round – assuring us that our census will be kept confidential for 100 years before being made public unless we opt out.

  • Ann

    August 6, 2011

    I live in Australia and I’m researching my family tree. I have gained so much informaton from census records from my ancestors in the UK and realise just how important they are for family research.

    I’ve forwarded this blog on Twitter and Facebook and asked my Facebook Aussie friends to keep passing it along…saying ‘Yes’ to Q60

  • Catherine Crout-Habel

    August 6, 2011

    I’m a born and bred South Australian whom, without the UK Census would never have discovered so much of my heritage and that of my children and grandchildren. Is something we all cherish.

    Such a disgrace, and embarrassment, that Australia has never valued this information and must make the rest of the world wonder what it is that we are trying to hide.

    The time for change is way overdue and the law needs to be changed to ensure that this valuable info is retained for future generations.

    A step forward, is to “check” AGREE on Qu 60 of the 2011 Census and encourage others to do the same.

  • Kim

    August 7, 2011

    @Keith – completely agree.

    @Ann – thanks for the support. The more people we share the message with the more likely we’ll be able to reach our target

    @Catherine – Agree the time for change is overdue.

  • Froggy

    August 7, 2011

    I agree with “DONT DESTROY” It is so important for Future Generations

  • Wal French

    August 7, 2011

    I am using all the English often
    Please don’t destroy this Great aid for future generations

  • Valerie Brotherton

    May 5, 2013

    Please keep Australia’s Census in the Archive. This is very important.