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In August 2016, following Census night, the Australian Bureau of Statistics made a decision to establish an Independent Assurance Panel (the Panel) to provide assurance and transparency of 2016 Census data quality. The Panel was tasked with reviewing the 2016 Census data, having considered issues including, but not limited to the Census design, enumeration, processing and quality assurance, and using the quality of outputs from the 2011 and 2006 Censuses as benchmarks.

The Panel has concluded that the 2016 Census data is fit-for-purpose and can be used with confidence. The 2016 Census data is of comparable quality to the 2011 and 2006 Census data.

The 2016 Census continued to collect a comprehensive, detailed picture of Australia’s population with the retention of all 45 topics from the 2011 Census. The Panel examined a number of key topics including population counts, sex, age, income, Indigenous status, country of birth, language, ancestry and family structure. The Panel’s analysis revealed that the levels and distribution of characteristics matched expectations well and were comparable to other independent data sources where applicable.

The response rate for the 2016 Census is lower but comparable to that from the 2011 and 2006 Censuses, and is similar to response rates seen in other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The 2016 Census population counts compare well against the preliminary 2016 Estimated Resident Population data with key quality indicators from the Post Enumeration Survey lending further support for the comparability of the 2016 and 2011 Censuses. Net undercount for persons on Census forms is comparable to 2011, while over-imputation is larger in 2016 than in 2011, largely due to some non-responding dwellings being incorrectly classified as occupied on 2016 Census night.

Counts of the population at the state and/or territory level derived from the 2016 Census also compare well to the Estimated Resident Population, Australia’s official population estimate and can be reliably used to rebase these estimates. The Panel is not in a position to make a judgment below the state and/or territory level.

In summary, the Panel has determined that the 2016 Census data is of a comparable quality to previous Censuses, is useful and useable, and will support the same variety of uses of Census data as was the case for previous Censuses.

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