• Tony Bosworth

Concerns over hand-delivered Census forms in Hawkesbury’s more remote areas during virus lockdown

When St Albans' resident Greg Hibberd saw someone driving onto his property yesterday he wondered who it could be – after all, we’re all in COVID lockdown.

It turned out it was a man delivering the 2021 Census form, which he handed over without wearing a mask.

“I thought it was odd that a guy drove to the farm yesterday afternoon delivering Census forms during Sydney’s lockdown,” said Mr Hibberd this morning.

“I was outside feeding the horses so he didn’t need to get out of his car as I was near the drive way. He handed it to me no gloves or obvious sanitizer.

“But you would think this would not be happening at the moment when we can’t go anywhere.

“And it can be done “online” so again why was he out delivering this door to door?” asked Mr Hibberd.

The 2021 Census, say organisers Australian Bureau of Statistics, “will go ahead, with careful planning and continuous monitoring. The health and safety of the community and our staff will continue to be our highest priority”.

“We’ve done extensive planning to engage with the community and protect our staff during COVID-19. We’re actively adapting our approach to suit local circumstances,” they say.

When Macquarie MP Susan Templeman heard about the incident this morning she immediately got in touch with the ABS and asked what was happening.

“I was concerned to hear the report of this incident, and my office has now referred it to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for an explanation,” Ms Templeman said.

“It has also been brought to the attention of the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones.

“I do note that on its website, the ABS says that most people will get their Census instructions in the mail, and where there is a poor mail service, Census staff may do a letterbox drop, but it is meant to be contactless.

“It also states that staff are provided with face coverings and have been trained “around social distancing, hand hygiene and non-contact”.

“It is certainly of the utmost importance that every safety precaution is taken in the current climate.”

An Census spokesperson told the Post his afternoon, “Census Field Staff are delivering forms to letterboxes and doorsteps in some parts of the country (particularly areas with low internet connectivity), but the majority of households, around 85 per cent, will receive their instructions to complete the Census in the mail.

“Census delivery work is akin to what Postal or Delivery workers do.

“In all locations where we need to work in the community we do so safely, following all public health orders and current local rules and restrictions. We expect all Census staff to rigorously follow these instructions.

“Census field staff will be able to show their ID cards if authorities or householders want that peace of mind.

“The vast majority of dwellings will be enabled via letter delivered by Australia Post, however in cases where this isn't appropriate, we deliver forms to the letterbox or doorstep following local rules.

“We are using a COVID safe plan which has been worked through with local authorities and follow all local rules,” said the Census spokesperson.

Ms Templeman said, “if anyone has concerns about the way in which Census activities have been conducted, I would urge them to contact the ABS to make a complaint via https://www.census.abs.gov.au/contact.”

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