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Will Australia's online census render 'rainbow families' with same-sex parents invisible?

Australians are currently having a meltdown about the government's decision to take its mandatory census digital. 

Privacy issues, discussions around online security and wise-cracks have flooded the internet in the last couple of weeks, since it was announced the government would be collecting certain information (like the participant's full name and address) for the first time. 

Some people have called for a boycott due to data collection concerns, while others say that the census is secure as hell and everybody just needs to calm the hell down.

But an organisation for same-sex couples and their children, Rainbow Families, has raised concerns about the inclusivity of the census as well. A key source of data used to help government make policy decisions for the public and private sector, the census will see a lack of representation for children with same-sex parents, according to the group. 

In the census, kids are assumed to have a mother and a father and must answer individual questions on both their parents. 

Upon contacting the census organisers, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Rainbow Families' Vanessa Gonzalez was advised in an email that "the most straightforward way is to have either one of the mothers use the 'father' response in the form." 

Gonzalez told Mashable Australia: "The advice is asking us to lie. In the past many LGBTQ people had to live in secret and in fear of discrimination or harassment. We are now in 2016 … my sons are able to have their two parents, their two mothers, listed on their birth certificate. In a way the government is putting my children back in the closet." 

"The data will assume and count them as being raised by a mother and a father. I wish for my children not to have stigma about having two loving mothers as parents … Given the current debate about marriage equality and also views expressed about children, it is important that the community is aware that we exist and that we are growing as a population group."

The situation leaves families like Gonzalez's with two options: either fill out the online census form with inaccurate information that risks rendering same-sex couples and their children invisible, or request a paper version of the form, and cross out the gender of one parent. 

Gonzalez says that whilst the second option could provide an accurate picture, Rainbow Families "has not been guaranteed by ABS that data will be collated to reflect the change. We could go to all this trouble and find that it is collated under the current categories," adding "In 2016 we should not be expected to still be crossing out government forms."

Gonzalez is hoping that next census, forms will count her family as it actually is. "It will be hard to know how many children have two mums or two dads until the census is updated to count every child’s parent’s regardless of their gender."

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