Census question slammed as “insensitive”

A question on this year's Census has left grieving mothers in tears.

By Taylah Eastwell

The wording of a question on this year’s census has become a subject of controversy, with many women taking to social media to express the feelings it triggered.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics asked participants ‘how many babies has (name) ever given birth to?’, prompting painful memories of still-births and miscarriages for grieving families.

Participants were told to exclude any foster, adopted and step children.

Red Nose Co-Chief Executive Officer, Jackie Mead said she was disappointed to see the question worded so poorly, saying it could be “so offensive to many women, including the women who have lost a baby”.

“Many women have told us they are upset and confused about the abrupt way this question was worded and many were left in tears while completing their census.

“Sadly, one in four Australian pregnancies end in miscarriage and one in 135 ends in stillbirth. This is an issue that affects so many women,” she said.

Molly Sarafov, a mother who recently lost her son to stillbirth said the question caught her completely off guard.

“I was in tears,” she said.

“I wasn’t sure what to write and I tapped the button for more information, but that just said something about how the ABS was trying to record statistics on the age of fertility of women, so didn’t help anyone in my situation answer the question.”

Star Mail readers took to social media to weigh up the issue.

Emma said when she first read the question she was “taken aback, firstly because it was on the same page as education levels and then I was like, why does it matter how many babies a person has had?”.

Angela disagreed. “I was actually relieved to be asked that question and have my late miscarried child acknowledged. Nobody remembers her/him except me,” she said.

“It was always going to be a contentious question because processing pregnancy and child loss is such a unique individual process. I note they don’t ask men how many children they have fathered,” she added.

Erin said she was glad she wasn’t the only one who considered the question odd.

“Even the way the question was asked was certainly open to interpretation,” she said.

Red Nose said it is available anytime should the ABS wish to contact them about future Census questions that may adversely affect women’s mental health, particularly the many grieving the loss of a much wanted baby.

“Red Nose Day on Friday (13 August) helps fund our 24/7 grief and loss support services, and we encourage women feeling upset today to call us on the Red Nose Grief and Loss 24/7 Support Line 1300 308 307.”