Census 2021 more important than ever for veterans

The latest Australian Census is taking place on 10 August and it is a particularly important one for veterans.

This is because for the first time, the Census will include a question about service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), which is the result of a great deal of lobbying by the RSL.

The reason this is important is because currently there is no comprehensive data on the total number of veterans living in Australia. Estimates indicate this may be as many as 630,000 people.

The 2021 Census will give government and the wider community more accurate information on how many veterans live in Australia and their geographic spread. At the very least, this will enable better targeted training and information about caring for veterans to health care professionals as well as lead to improved service delivery to veterans and their families.

For example, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is one of the largest purchasers of healthcare services in Australia. Census data will assist DVA to plan and cost future services to ensure veterans and their families are provided with the right services, when and where they are needed.

It will also help inform RSL NSW’s decisions as it plans for the future and executes the Strategic Plan which is all about meeting the changing needs of veterans going forward.

This page on the Census website provides guidance on how to complete it. The good news is you don’t need to wait until 10 August if you would like to complete it now.

Veterans can be assured that under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, no identifiable information can be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics about any individual, which means the data collected is “anonymised” (i.e. cannot be traced back to you personally).

RSL LifeCare says answer right on Census night

“The government thinks there are 650,000 to 700,000 veterans living in the Australian community,” says Nicki Young, General Manager Veteran Services at RSL LifeCare, partner charity of RSL NSW. “We know where our serving community of 80,000 Regular members and Reservists is. We know where the approximately 310,000 DVA clients are.”

Beyond that though, Young explains, RSL LifeCare must make assumptions to proactively target services and respond reactively to requests for help.

“The census is an amazing opportunity for us to really understand where and who our veterans are, so that we can proactively build data-driven services and support where they’re needed most, targeted to the different needs at different phases of a veteran’s life,” Young says.

“In any good population management or public health program, you have to know where the people are and what their needs are to build services around them to support them.”

The census question will ask ‘Has the person ever served in the Australian Defence Force?’, with a set of response options covering current and previous reserve and regular service.


Image courtesy Australian Bureau of Statistics

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