Building Pacific trust in the 2023 Census

The upcoming 2023 Census theme Tatau tātou – All of us count resonates strongly with the Pacific Data Sovereignty (PDS) Committee’s rallying cry of Nothing about us, without us, an expression utilised by the group to convey their goals in data systems.

The Committee’s chairperson, Ivan Tava, wants to ensure that Pacific peoples are not only counted but are genuine participants and decision makers in data systems.

“We’ve long seen the need for legitimate partnerships that instil Pacific people’s trust in the census system,” says Tava.

“While there have been a range of disruptions in recent years, we are hoping for an improved response to the census while we strengthen Pacific responsiveness in data systems and in turn, help to rebuild trust.”

The Pacific Data Sovereignty Network signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tatauranga Aotearoa – Statistics New Zealand (Stats NZ) in August 2022 to help address key challenges with Pacific peoples’ data in Stats NZ systems and to improve self-determination of the use of their data. Their recent strategic planning workshop identified priority areas for 2023 with short to long-term outcomes that includes increased participation in Stats NZ’s data systems.

“Our strategic priorities are underway and if well supported, will make significant strides in Pacific peoples’ participation across SNZ systems including the census,” says Tava.

A long-serving member of the Committee, Associate-Professor Polly Atatoa Carr, remembers all too well the low turn-out of Pacific peoples in the 2018 Census and is welcoming increased efforts to improve accessibility to the census.

“An important objective of 2023 Census is to enable more people to be counted, and for the information collected to be high quality,” says Atatoa Carr.

“Without a successful census, meeting our collective responsibilities towards population health gain and equity of outcomes across our communities will not be achieved.

“Without our communities being able to be counted in the census, then understandings of the strengths of Pacific people, such as our languages, identity, and support structures within households are incomplete.”

The PDS Network’s Secretariat, support led by Malaetogia Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow, has had a strong response from Pacific peoples across a range of sectors and communities, seeking to understand, participate and make decisions about data collection, storage and use.

“The inaugural PDS Conference held in November 2022 was evidence of a heightened interest in wanting to understand how data and data systems like the census can benefit Pacific communities and families,” says Fa’alili-Fidow.

“Efforts to increase response rates are of prime importance right now, but so too is what comes after the census.”

The nationwide 2023 Census takes place on 7 March 2023, but you and the whole household can complete your census forms as soon as you get them.  See for more information.