From time to time, authorities feel that they need to find out several details relating to the population. Every country in the world needs such statistics in order to plan for the future. Unless one can project what the requirements will be, one cannot have a realistic plan to meet these ever-changing demographic patterns.
The census is in effect a snapshot of the population. It tells us the size of the population, where they live, information about households, including their size and composition, where people who constitute the Australian population have come from, what religion they practice (if any), and a multitude of other details to complete the picture.
In Australia, a census is carried out every five years. The last census was conducted in 2006 and it is due again this year. It will be held on Tuesday 9 August. On that day, every person is expected to fill in the census form and give the relevant details.
From the last census we learned that one-fifth of the population in Australia were born overseas. It would be no surprise to find that this proportion has grown considerably. As a matter of fact, we already know that the number persons born in South-East Asia and living in Australia is now higher than that from Europe, which is, of course, no surprise, seeing that the number of persons coming from Europe, including Malta, has become a mere trickle.
What is the significance of such a census for the Maltese community? It is important to realise that we too have to promote a realistic picture of our community. We want to know not merely how many of us were born overseas, but perhaps much more importantly, how many of us have now joined the grey army and have indeed celebrated our three-score and ten milestone. It is important to know how many of us will be requiring nursing homes and other facilities health-related or otherwise in the not-too-distant future.
A well known phenomenon associated with ageing is the fact that as we grow older we tend to lose our ‘acquired’ English language and tend to rely more and more on the language which we learned from our mother. Many of us will be forgetting English words and find ourselves substituting words, phrases and sentences in Maltese. This highlights the need for carers, including social workers, nurses and doctors who can understand the language, and in their absence, we need interpreters that can bridge the gulf created by this problem.
It is also not so well known that Maltese welfare organisations like the Maltese Community Council of Victoria depend on government grants to enable it to fund its welfare program. Without such grants we will have to close shop and leave these services to non-Maltese, so called ‘mainstream’ organisations, which have no knowledge of the language and not interest in continuing Maltese traditional ways, including food and other needs. The needs of the Maltese community as they become clear through the census, would help in enabling us to continue our services to the community.
Hence, the critical importance of giving a clear picture of who we are and what our needs might be. It is therefore crucial that on census night we emphasize those characteristics that make us Maltese. To the question “What language do you speak at home?” we have to emphasize that we all speak Maltese at home. There is no point in impressing the statisticians that we all speak English!
Likewise, in relation to questions relating to ancestry, we should make sure that our Maltese background comes out loud and clear. We should make sure that our information counts, and that everybody is included in this census.
Finally, bear in mind also that this information is entirely private. Nobody is going to know what you have written, and the information is used only for statistical purposes, that is, no names will ever appear anywhere in any publication. This information is required even if you are not an Australian citizen.
Make sure that your information makes a difference!
Further information about the Census is available on the website at www.abs.gov.au/census.
UPDATE: 24 July 2011
Click here to download a slide presentation prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the importance of the Census.
Key Census Dates: 2011
- July 2011: National Launch of the Census
- 28 July 2011: eCensus opens to the public
- 9 August 2011: Census Night
- 10 – 28 August 2011: Collection of Census forms
- June 2012: Release of the first Census results
- October 2012: Release of the second results