Census grrl

ABS Census logoIn another life, (actually in 2006) I was a census collector, employed by the Commonwealth of Australia to traipse the streets of Ballarat in the middle of winter delivering forms, being accosted by dogs and hordes of zombies.

No, I’m joking, it was the middle of summer :)…

Honestly, whoever at the Australian Bureau of Statistics thought it was a good idea to hold a census count in winter has clearly spent too long in Canberra. My fingers were numb as I was constantly writing notes or numbers on forms and at night time I became quite adept at holding a flashlight in my mouth while writing and making notes.

The suggestion from the ABS was that I could work up to 9pm at night, as people would be up. However, most people did not take too kindly to a door knock that late at night, particularly if they were elderly and living alone (and there were a lot of people in that demographic in my collection area). I would knock at a house that had lights on, and no-one would answer. I also became quite adept at looking for the electricity meter to discern if someone was home, or if the house was vacant.

The area to which I was allocated was chosen as it was far away enough from my own house to ensure I wasn’t going to bump into anyone I knew. The first house I knocked on was someone I knew from my commuting to Melbourne. Another house turned out to be someone who worked with Mr BG. It IS Ballarat after all…

I helped people fill in their forms, due to old age or being unable to read, and explained over and over again why it was important to fill in the form. It is a hassle, it can be boring filling in the form and yes, it’s a hoot if you put Jedi, or Druid, or Whovian. But the information provided helps councils and governments plan for future schools, communities, and infrastructure such as public transport, health services and shops. There was only one person out of the 300 or so houses that I collected from who refused to fill out the form and whom I had to refer to my supervisor.

If you wish, you can also choose to  have your details retained for archival purposes by the National Archives of Australia and your descendants may wish to trace your whereabouts and glean something about your life. The information you put on your form this year will be available to the public in 2110.

Have fun form filling!


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