Australian Bureau of Statistics

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Australian Bureau of Statistics
ABS Logo Small mono.png
Agency overview
Formed 8 December 1905
Preceding Agency Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics
Headquarters Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Employees 3,055 (at June 2013)[1]
Minister responsible The Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer
Agency executive Jonathan Palmer, Acting Australian Statistician[2]
ABS House which is the headquarters for the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia's national statistical agency. The ABS provides key statistics on a wide range of economic, environmental and social issues, to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community.

The ABS website provides ABS data free-of-charge.

The ABS also has a presence on Facebook.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics was created as the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on 8 December 1905, when the Census and Statistics Act 1905 was given Royal assent. It had its beginnings in section 51 (xi) of the Constitution of Australia. The newly formed Federation recognised that statistics were going to be important for the Commonwealth government.

Australian Census[edit]

The agency undertakes the Australian Census of Population and Housing. The Census is conducted every five years under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act, 1905 (Cth) s 8.[3]

The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS and one of the most important. The Census aims to accurately measure the number of people and dwellings in Australia on Census Night, and a range of their key characteristics. This information provides a reliable basis for estimating the population of each of the states, territories and local government areas, primarily for electoral purposes and for planning the distribution of government funds. Census data are also used by individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors to make informed decisions on policy and planning issues that impact on the lives of all Australians.

Everyone in Australia is legally required to complete a Census form (see the Census and Statistics Act 1905 ), to ensure that Census data gives an accurate and complete picture of our nation.

The last Australian Census was held on 9 August 2011. This was Australia's sixteenth national Census, and marked 100 years of national Census taking in Australia. The 2011 Census was the largest logistical peacetime operation ever undertaken in Australia, employing over 43,000 field staff to ensure approximately 14.2 million forms were delivered to 9.8 million households.[4]

Results from the 2006 Census are available on the ABS web site.[5]

The ABS will release the results of the 2011 Census through a wide range of products and services.

The next Census of Population and Housing is scheduled for August 2016.[6]

Research and Experimental Development[edit]

The ABS has been undertaking surveys to collect estimates from Australian organisations of R&D expenditure and human resources devoted to R&D in Australia since 1978.[7] The results allow the nature and distribution of Australia's R&D activity to be monitored by government policy analysts and advisers to government, businesses and economists.


The ABS survey reports research against the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC). The first ASRC was released in 1993[8] and was in use until 1998. It comprised three classification schemes; Type of Activity (TOA), Field of Research (FOR) and Socio-Economic Objective (SEO). In 1998, a second ASRC was released[9] with a revised Socio-Economic Objective classification that used a different numbering range, and a Research Field, Course and Discipline (RFCD) classification to replace FORs. This revised classification came into effect in the 2000 collection period, which was due on 31 August 2001.[10] For the 2008 collection, RFCDs were replaced by Field of Research (FOR) codes.[11]

Other ABS surveys[edit]

The ABS also undertakes many other surveys, including household and business surveys. Some of the main statistics produced are published as "Key National Indicators",[12] which comprise:

  • National Accounts (includes Gross Domestic Product)
  • International Accounts
  • Consumption and Investment
  • Production
  • Prices (includes Consumer Price Index)
  • Labour Force and Demography
  • Incomes
  • Housing Finance

These statistics are compiled from surveys including:

  • Retail (monthly/quarterly)[13]
  • Labour Force (monthly)[14]
  • Building Approvals (monthly/quarterly)[15]
  • Survey of New Capital Expenditure (quarterly)[16]
  • Quarterly Business Indicator Survey (quarterly)
  • Local Government Finance Statistics (quarterly)
  • Economic Activity Survey (annual)

Compulsory participation[edit]

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, surveys conducted by the ABS are compulsory. Participants are randomly selected and every attempt is made to get the voluntary co-operation of the selected household, person or business. However, should the participant choose not to participate, the ABS has powers to direct the person to participate. Further failure to comply may result in the person being prosecuted; a conviction may result in a fine for non-compliance.[17]

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey[edit]

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) collects information on the social situation of Indigenous Australians (who are either Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders), including on health, education, culture and labour force participation. The survey started in 2002 and is carried out every six years.[18]

Year Book Australia[edit]

The ABS produces Year Book Australia, which is the principal reference work produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It provides a comprehensive and detailed statistical overview of various aspects of the economy and social conditions in Australia.

In addition, it contains descriptive matter dealing with Australia's geography and climate, government, international relations, defence, education, and the health and welfare support systems.

In April 2008, the ABS announced the cancellation of the 2009 Year Book due to budgetary constraints.[19]

The 2012 Year Book includes feature articles that recognise and celebrate the National Year of Reading, the Australian Year of the Farmer and the International Year of Co-operatives. It is available in hard copy and electronic format.

Past releases of Year Book Australia are also available.

Australian Statistician[edit]

Since 1975, the head of the ABS has been known as the Australian Statistician. Previously, the office was titled the Commonwealth Statistician.

The most recent incumbent (since March 2007) was Brian Pink.[20] Mr Pink retired in January 2014.[2] Ian Ewing and Jonathan Palmer will each act in the role of Australian Statistician respectively from Monday 13 January until Friday 14 February 2014, and from Monday 17 February until Friday 28 March 2014.

Australian CensusAtSchool project[edit]

The Australian CensusAtSchool is based on a program developed by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) Centre for Statistical Education in the United Kingdom.[21] The UK project has been extremely successful in improving statistical literacy and was successfully extended to all provinces in South Africa. Since then, other organisations have adapted the project to suit their local environment, namely Canada, New Zealand, the Office of Economic and Statistical Research (OESR) in Queensland and the Noel Baker Centre for School Mathematics in South Australia. After the success of the OESR and Noel Baker initiatives, agreement was gained from both the South Australian and Queensland projects for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to take the national lead in this project.

The project was introduced to schools in 2005 by the ABS with two key objectives:

  • the development of statistical literacy among students in years 5 – 12 across Australia
  • to promote the 2006 Census of Population and Housing

CenusAtSchool is a non-compulsory education project that aims to improve statistical literacy through analysis of real data, and assist them in making sensible, informed decisions. It is a free internet-based data collection and analysis project designed for students in years 5 to 12. Students respond to questions of interest about themselves by completing the CensusAtSchool online questionnaire.[22] The questionnaire response data is then released back to teachers and students providing real, raw, relevant data for use with supporting activities across curriculum in all states and territories. Students can generate random samples of response data from an Australia-wide database via the Random Sampler facility.[23] This statistical tool allows students to extract a wealth of up-to-date information about sleeping and eating habits, student lifestyles, favourite music and sport activity, attitudes to topical social and environmental issues, technology and much more.

Recent innovations[edit]

Run That Town – A free strategy game that uses real ABS data to show how it can be used in the community.

ABS IPhone app – ABS statistics via your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. The mobile application has four sections: Key Economic Indicators, Census Data, real-time Population Clock and About the ABS. Includes Census data and map viewing by Commonwealth Electoral Divisions.

Betaworks – A "sandpit" environment that showcases new web design concepts and enhancements to the community.

Interactive data – Includes the animated Population Pyramid which shows the change of population distribution over time, and the Inflation Calculator which shows the purchasing power of an amount of money between two chosen dates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics - Annual Report, 2012-13
  2. ^ a b The Australian Statistician to retire (Media Release)
  3. ^ Comlaw. Comlaw. Retrieved on 21 August 2013.
  4. ^ What is the Census
  5. ^ 2006 reference & information
  6. ^ 2016 Census. (11 June 2013). Retrieved on 21 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Past Releases, Australian Bureau of Statistics". August 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  8. ^ Ian Castles, Australian Statistician (21 April 1993). "1297.0 – Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC), 1993". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 5 February 2007. 
  9. ^ T. J. Skinner, Acting Australian Statistician (28 August 1998). "1297.0 – Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC), 1998". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 5 February 2007. 
  10. ^ "Innovation and Technology Update – Bulletin No. 5". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 16 November 2001. Retrieved 5 February 2007. 
  11. ^ "8111.0 – Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia, 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 26 May 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "1345.0 – Key National Indicators, 2007". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 5 December 2008. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  13. ^ "8501.0 Retail Trade Trends, Australia, Oct 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  14. ^ "6102.0.55.001 – Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Apr 2007". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 30 June 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  15. ^ "8731.0 – Building Approvals, Australia, Oct 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  16. ^ "5625.0 Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia, Sep 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  17. ^ "The Australian Bureau of Statistics has asked me to complete a survey. Do I have to answer the questions in the survey?". Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey", Australian Bureau of Statistics, accessed 11 November 2010. Archived by WebCite on 11 November 2010.
  19. ^ Healy, Guy (2 April 2008). "ABS kills off Year Book". The Australian. 
  20. ^ "Appointment of Australian Statistician". Press Release, Treasurer of Australia. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2007. 
  21. ^ [1][dead link]
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics – CensusAtSchool. Retrieved on 21 August 2013.

External links[edit]