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Media Release – Census 2021


For the first time, the National 2021 Census will refer to ‘Auslan’ as a language option. This is a major win for the Deaf Community in their struggle to have Auslan users   recognised in the population. Deaf Australia has been working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics since 2007 to address the issue of adding ‘Auslan’ as one of the language options.

Deaf Australia had attempted to amend the 2011 and 2016 Censuses without success. The Deaf Community conducted massive campaigns for its members to write down ‘Auslan’ in the ‘If other, please write’ option in both Censuses. Despite this, Deaf Australia views that previous data collected is not reflective of the actual numbers of Auslan users in Australia. This was due to the limited reach of the campaigns and many Auslan users still unaware they could write it as an ‘other’ language.

The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreting has stated that Auslan interpreting is third highest language provision behind Arabic and Mandarin (Chinese) languages in Australia. Despite this – and based on the Census 2016 – Auslan is ranked 44th as an ‘other’ language and as such does not warrant a significant profile as the top 5 languages.

Statistics show Auslan was first recorded in the 2001 Census. Since then, every Census has noted a significant increase of Auslan users.  In 2001 Auslan users numbered 5,306. This increased to 11,682 in 2016.

In the 2021 Census, the question asking ‘Does (person) use a language other than English at home? the prompt question in the ‘other language’ will state, “If other, for example, Auslan, please write here’.

Speaking about the Census 2021 new language option, Deaf Australia Chairperson, Todd Wright, said,

The inclusion of “Auslan” as a prompt in the ‘other’ language option is a significant win for the Deaf Community. This will make it easier for us to determine more accurately the number of Auslan users in Australia enabling us to work more effectively towards greater participation, awareness and addressing the community’s needs.’

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