The counting of same-sex couples is one hot topic likely to be canvassed in the public consultation period for the development of the 2006 census.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is accepting public submissions now on the content and procedure of the next census, and gay and lesbian activists have alerted community members about the importance of making our voice heard.

National censuses in 1996 and 2001 counted co-habiting same-sex couples, but were deemed to under-report the actual numbers because lesbians and gay men may have had fears about disclosing their relationship, or were unaware that they were able to.

Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory said it was useful for the census to count people in same-sex relationships, but the Lobby would not be supportive of a census question asking people to declare their sexuality.

McGrory said the Lobby tried to raise awareness of the fact that people in same-sex couples could have their relationships counted, and called on the ABS to do the same.

For the question to be meaningful, the ABS needs to undertake awareness-raising activities, McGrory said. This could be done through advertising campaigns in gay and lesbian media, or by highlighting the fact that same-sex relationships could be counted in the census booklet itself, he suggested.

An ABS spokesperson said the ABS would write back to organisations that made submissions on census questions. Submissions close on 30 July. More information can be found at www.abs.gov.au.

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