What you need to know about the Census if you're cruising.

Next week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will once again carry out its five-yearly freeze frame on our population, household make-up and diversity on August 9 in the form of Census 2016.

In the days leading up to show time, mainstream media will likely be bombarding you with information on what you need to do, when, how and most importantly why. But what if you’re on a cruise ship on Census night? That is one of the many particular and extenuating circumstances that may affect people when it comes to participating in the Census. We’ve liaised with the ABS, combed through the detail and found the answers.

Completing the Census is actually mandated by law and everybody who will be in Australia on the 9th of August (regardless of their nationality) has a duty to do so, with an enforceable penalty structure in place for those who don’t feel the need to adhere to their obligation.

Census posters will be at cruise ports and airports around the country on August 9.
This is the poster you’ll see at cruise ports and airports around the country on August 9.

The Census is based on households and the people who will be staying the night in that household on the night of August 9 (even if they don’t reside there normally). According to the ABS, if you will not be in Australia on Census night, you are exempt from but you do need to notify the ABS in advance by phoning 1300 214 531 if there will be nobody in your house. If one or more people, such as house sitters, will be in your home on the 9th, they must complete the Census on behalf of themselves occupying your residence.

When it comes to cruising, the Census is taking place during the off-season, in which time only a few lines sail from Australia – P&O Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.

Most cruise ships, even those which sail for most or all of the year in Australia, are registered overseas for administration and business purposes – that’s pretty standard. This means that the ships are considered foreign soil so if you’re cruising to the South Pacific or New Zealand and will be away on August 9, you are not required to complete the Census and your place in the national snapshot will be taken from the Customs paperwork you fill out before leaving.

Census forms were being handed out to guests who will be at sea on Census Night - August 9.
Census forms were being handed out to guests who will be at sea on Census Night – August 9.

It’s a little different if you’re on a domestic cruise. Because you would not have cleared Customs and therefore would have not “departed Australia”, you must still complete the Census. Passengers on cruises which will be mid-voyage on August 9th saw forms distributed at the port during embarkation and these will be collected by officers when they return – unless travellers complete their Census online like everyone else on the night.

If your voyage is departing from Australia on August 9 itself, you’ll also receive your Census form from officers at the port on the day of your pre-embarkation. You can complete & return the form on the spot, online or return it to officers in the terminal as you disembark.

The ABS has told Cruise Advice you should allow around 25-30 minutes to complete this form if you opt to complete it on the spot. For those returning home on Census night, the normal process will apply and your details will be in your letterbox when you get home or a form will be provided to you when checking in to your post-cruise hotel.

Good thing the Census only takes place every five years.