Australian same-sex families will not be accurately represented in the 2016 census, according to volunteer organisation Rainbow Families.
This year’s census requires respondents to identify the place of birth of a child’s “father” and “mother” – rather than gender-neutral alternatives.
Census program head, Duncan Young, says the census captures exactly the same data on same-sex families as other families, but members of the LGBTI community say there is lack of accurate representation and inclusion of children with same-sex parents.
“As well as this exclusion being hurtful to rainbow families, we have to question the integrity of the data obtained by the census,” said Vanessa Gonzales from Rainbow Families.
“The only way to accurately record this would be for each parent to ask for a paper form and cross-out one of the names,” said Vanessa Gonzales. Image supplied.
It is not clear how same-sex families are to accurately answer the parental place of birth question - especially online, as there is not an option for two fathers or two mothers.
Ms Gonzales said the only option would be to order a paper form and cross-out "mother" or "father" and replace it with the accurate information.
“Yet again, rainbow parents are asked to cross-out government forms in order to accurately represent our families,” said Ms Gonzales.
However, Mr Young says the question is designed to record the child's birth parents, but admits it is confusing.
"The reason why the question is structured the way that it is, is because of the interest in birth parents, however if people feel that they should be reporting their own country of birth that’s OK as well," he said.
"We will process the data afterwards and use that, but the census is a reflection of what Australian’s provide to us, it’s not necessarily a perfect picture."
Rainbow Co-Chair, Ashley Scott, says he approached the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for a workable solution over the question but he was never contacted.
"Our families aren’t made up of two genetic parents, they’re made up of parents who love children and it’s not just an LGBTI issue, there are lots of families made up of not genetic families," said Mr Scott.
Rainbow Families says there is a "real danger" that many children being raised by same-sex parents will not be counted and become invisible.
The ABS' Mr Young admits that the question is "possibly not clear enough".
"The questions on the census form all have to be written as simply as possible and we ask people to fill them out to the best of their ability, and in a way which is right for their household. We don’t say that you can’t fill it out in a particular way," he said.
However, Mr Young said the ABS would "absolutely" consider changes to the wording in the future.
"We do work with a number of LGBTI organisations in preparation for the census and it’s really important that every area of the community understands the census, the importance and value of the census and is counted," said Mr Young.
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