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Archives and Societal Provenance by Michael Piggott

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9

Saving the statistics, destroying the census

Abstract.

Throughout the twentieth century Australia destroyed its name-identified population census data. This practice, which had bi-partisan political support, favoured privacy over research. In particular, the Australian Bureau of Statistics strongly argued that the primary purpose of the census meant data integrity was paramount, and explicit government policy seemed to limit the National Archives’ appraisal options. The chapter summarises this background and describes the policy debate in the 1990s which led, firstly, to a one-off decision for the 2001 centenary of federation to allow people to ‘opt in’ so as to ensure their name-identified details would be preserved and then made publicly ...

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