Auslan to be included on next Census as language option

Tags Conditions Accessibility

Posted 2 months ago by Rebecca St Clair

“[Including Auslan] will make it easier for us to determine more accurately the number of Auslan users in Australia." (Source: iStock)
“[Including Auslan] will make it easier for us to determine more accurately the number of Auslan users in Australia." (Source: iStock)

The 2021 National Census will, for the first time, include Auslan as a language option following unsuccessful attempts in previous years to have it included. 

In the 2021 Census, the prompt in the “other language” field will now read, “If other, for example, Auslan, please write here”.

Since 2007 Deaf Australia, the peak organisation for Deaf people in Australia who use Auslan, has been working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), who is responsible for planning and running the Census,  to have Auslan included. 

Prior attempts to have Auslan included on the Census were made in 2011 and 2016 but were unsuccessful. 

Deaf Australia Chairperson, Todd Wright that the inclusion of Auslan is a major win for the Deaf Community in their struggle to have Auslan users recognised in the wider community. 

“The inclusion of “Auslan” as a prompt in the ‘other’ language option is a significant win for the Deaf Community.”

Having Auslan included on the 2021 Census will not just determine the number of Auslan users but will help to address community needs, says Mr Wright. 

“[Including Auslan] 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.”

In previous years, where Auslan was not included as an option, members of the Deaf Community held campaigns where they wrote down Auslan in the ‘If other, please write’ option field.

Deaf Australia says that despite this previous data collected is not reflective of the actual numbers of Auslan users in Australia as the campaigns had limited reach and many many Auslan users were unaware they could write it as an ‘other’ language. 

ABS statistics show an increase of Auslan users since it was first recorded in the 2001 Census.

In 2001 Auslan users numbered 5,306 which increased to 11,602 in 2016. 

The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreting (NAATI) has also stated that Auslan interpreting is their third-highest language request behind Arabic and Mandarin (Chinese) languages in Australia.

Despite this Auslan is only ranked 44th as an ‘other’ language, according to the 2016 Census.

What are your thoughts about including Auslan? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].