During the period leading up to and during the 2006 Census, a team of four researchers from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at The Australian National University undertook an observation of the census enumeration in four remote locations. Three of these were in the Northern Territory—the Alice Springs town camps (Will Sanders), Wadeye (John Taylor) and a group of homelands in the Yolngu-speaking area of eastern Arnhem Land (Frances Morphy)—and one was in Western Australia, at Fitzroy Crossing (Kathryn Thorburn). One researcher (Frances Morphy) also spent time at the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) Northern Territory Census Management Unit (CMU) in Darwin and at the Data Processing Centre (DPC) in Melbourne, observing the training of the Northern Territory Census Field Officers (CFOs) and their assistants, the handling of the Northern Territory Interviewer Household Forms (IHF) in Darwin after the count and the coding of the data from the forms at the DPC.
Our aim in this monograph is to provide a frank and objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Indigenous Enumeration Strategy (IES) as it applied in 2006. This project was based on the premise that the national census was a necessary instrument of the nation-state and that its purpose was, firstly, to count the population of the country and, secondly, to collect data that allowed broad-brush comparisons of different sectors of the population across a variety of basic demographic parameters. We acknowledge that this puts constraints on the design of the census. Our focus, then, will be on suggestions that will improve the ability of the IES to fulfil these purposes.