By Anna Brown, CEO, Equality Australia & Nicky Bath, CEO, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia 

Tonight is census night, but once again LGBTIQ+ people won’t be properly counted. 

The national survey will ask for a whole heap of our personal information – how much we earn, our religious beliefs, and our history of chronic disease. But it won’t ask questions about sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. 

Without questions that accurately capture us, the once-in-five-year snapshot of the population won’t capture the full diversity of the Australian community. 

It’s a missed opportunity to inform crucial decisions about what services are provided, and where. 

The real-world reality is that intersex people, and people of diverse genders and sexualities face unique challenges when it comes to things like mental health, homelessness and aged care.

We already know LGBTIQ+ people across the nation experience significant health and wellbeing disparities, compared to the rest of the Australian community. 

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LGBTIQ+ young people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than the general population. Transgender people aged 14 to 25 are a shocking 15 times more likely. There is evidence of elevated rates of drug and alcohol use, higher rates of HIV and STIs, and a significantly higher cancer burden.

LGBTQI+ Communities Exist

The immense challenge is, we just don’t know in which parts of Australia our communities live, and a whole range of other important data to understand the contributing factors to our poorer health, and that is something that a nationwide census could have told us.

This year the census will be asking people about chronic health conditions for the first time, but without questions about sexual orientation, gender identity or variations of sex characteristics, we just won’t know how many LGBTIQ+ people are affected, or where – vital data for planning health and wellbeing programs to serve our communities.

LGBTIQ+ Health Australia has been working with Intersex Human Rights Australia and transgender advocates for the inclusion of these questions in the 2021 Census for years, supported by Equality Australia to launch a public campaign for change in 2019.

Yet despite the recommendations of local governments, non-government organisations, and the Commonwealth departments of health and social services to include us, and the promising testing of possible questions by the ABS, the responsible Minister – Michael Sukkar – decided not to include them.

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For us and many in our community, it feels like an insulting erasure of our existence. But we exist, and our lives and our communities count. 

How To Ensure Our Communities Are Visible?

That’s why in just one week over 25,000 of us have signed Equality Australia and LGBTIQ+ Health Australia’s petition calling on the Federal Government to stop leaving LGBTIQ+ people out, and count us in. 

It’s part of a campaign supported by an alliance of other community, human rights and health groups, including ACON, AFAO, Amnesty International Australia, Intersex Human Rights Australia, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, Thorne Harbour Health, A Gender Agenda and Transgender Victoria.

We’re pleased that allies such as the Black Dog Institute and Uniting Care are also lending their voices to the campaign. Just Equal has also gathered support from LGBTIQ+ community organisations and individuals for a community consensus declaration that will be presented to the ABS and government.    

But now that census night is here, many are asking what they can do to ensure our communities and our protest are visible. 

First of all, it’s really important that we call fill out our census. In fact, we’re legally obliged to do so accurately – so make sure you fill it out. You may, however, choose to leave a polite message for an ABS staff member in the general feedback box at the end of the survey. 

With the attention of the media and the country focussed on the survey, we have an opportunity to ensure that we’re seen, and that our message cannot be ignored. Use this handy tool to change you Facebook profile picture to show you want our communities to be counted. Click the links below to use our rainbow, trans flag or intersex frames

The Australian Labor Party have reaffirmed that they agree questions that accurately count our communities should have been included in the census. It’s great news, but our communities must continue to work together to ensure that whichever party forms government has committed to including questions that give an accurate picture of the LGBTIQ+ community in Australia. 

 

© Star Observer 2021 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.