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Census 2021 – Service with the Australian Defence Force

The 2021 Census was the first to ask questions relating to service in the Australian Defence Force. The question asked whether the respondent is currently serving, or has previously served in the Defence Force, and the type or types of service.

The Census question captures the various forms Defence Force service can occur – both regular and reserve and the different combinations thereof.

The first tranche of 2021 Census data was released on 28 June 2022. Further tranches of data will continue to be released into 2023.

In the initial release, the data was generalised to:

  • currently serving in the regular service,
  • currently serving in the reserve service,
  • not currently serving (but previously served in either regular or reserve), and
  • have never served.

The data released focuses on:

  • Household composition, housing, high-school education, and household income
  • Age and sex, long-term health conditions, location, indigenous status, assistance requirements

Download the data tables as Excel spreadsheets from the ABS website.

Much of the initial media coverage has been on the numbers and locations of veterans, with some interesting ‘big-hands’ statistics:

  • 581,139 Australians reported that they have served or are currently serving in the ADF
    • 60,286 currently serving regular members
    • 24,581 currently serving reserve members
    • 496,276 former members (regular and reserve)
  • Queensland has the most people who reported that they have served, at 163,112
  • New South Wales has the most currently serving regulars, at 18,007, and reservists, at 6,506.

You can read the Department of Veterans’ Affairs summary here.

While these statistics are interesting, the Census data provides a treasure trove of information about the veteran population, which will inform veteran policy development into the future.

As data becomes available, and more insights into Australia’s veteran population become available, we will provide updates below.