Australian Bureau of Statistics

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Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed8 December 1905; 117 years ago (1905-12-08)
Preceding agency
  • Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics
JurisdictionAustralian Government
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory
Employees3,779 (at 30 June 2021) [1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent departmentTreasury
ABS House which is the headquarters for the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the independent statutory agency of the Australian Government responsible for statistical collection and analysis and for giving evidence-based advice to federal, state and territory governments. The ABS collects and analyses statistics on economic, population, environmental and social issues, publishing many on their website. The ABS also operates the national Census of Population and Housing that occurs every five years.


In 1901, statistics were collected by each state for their individual use. While attempts were made to coordinate collections through an annual Conference of Statisticians, it was quickly realized that a National Statistical Office would be required to develop nationally comparable statistics.[4]

The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS) was established under the Census and Statistics Act in 1905. Sir George Knibbs was appointed as the first Commonwealth Statistician. Initially, the bureau was located in Melbourne and was attached to the Department of Home Affairs. In 1928, the bureau relocated to Canberra and in 1932 moved to the Treasury portfolio.[4]

Initially, the states maintained their own statistical offices and worked together with the CBCS to produce national data. However, some states found it difficult to resource a state statistical office to the level required for an adequate statistical service. In 1924 the Tasmanian Statistical Office transferred to the Commonwealth. On 20 August 1957, the NSW Bureau of Statistics was merged into the Commonwealth Bureau.[5] Unification of the state statistical offices with the CBCS was finally achieved in the late 1950s under the stewardship of Sir Stanley Carver, who was both NSW Statistician and Acting Commonwealth Statistician.[4]

In 1974 the CBCS was abolished and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was established in its place. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act established the ABS as a statutory authority in 1975, headed by the Australian Statistician and responsible to the Treasurer.[4]

Organizational vision and values[edit]

The ABS purpose is to "inform Australia's important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights".[6]

The ABS values work in conjunction with the broader Australian Public Service (APS) values[7] and include impartiality, commitment to service, accountability, respect and ethical behaviour.[8]


From 2015, an investment of $250 million over five years by the Australian government[8] is being used to modernize ABS systems and processes, with the aim of delivering the best possible statistical program in more efficient and innovative ways.[8]

Census of Population and Housing[edit]

The ABS undertakes the Australian Census of Population and Housing. The census is conducted every five years under federal law and the Constitution of Australia.[9]

The last Australian census was held on 9 August 2016 and was the 17th national census.[citation needed] Statistics from the census were published on the ABS website on 27 June 2017.[10]

The census 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 is used to inform public policy as well as electoral boundaries, infrastructure planning and the provision of community services.[citation needed]

2016 census[edit]

In 2016, the ABS took steps to conduct the census largely online through their website and logins, rather than through traditional paper forms.[11] The 2016 census was unavailable for 43 hours, from 7:30 pm on August 9, due to a series of events which prompted the ABS to take the form offline.[12] The chief statistician, David Kalisch, said the website was closed after multiple denial-of-service attacks targeted the online form. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) confirmed the incident was a DoS attack and that it did not result in any unauthorised access to or extraction of any personal information.[13][14]

The online census web page was back up at 2:30 pm on August 11.[15] A Senate inquiry was held into the census events.[16] An independent panel was established by the Australian Statistician to ensure quality of the data from the 2016 census and it was found fit for purpose, comparable to previous Australian and international censuses and able to be used with confidence.[17]

Work program[edit]

The ABS has an extensive work program covering a vast range of topics, and releases several hundred publications yearly. Topics include:

  • Economy
  • Industry
  • People
  • Labour
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Snapshots of Australia.

The ABS previously published the Year book, Australia, available on the ABS site under various ISSNs and title iterations (Commonwealth yearbook, Official yearbook of the Commonwealth of Australia).[18] It was first published in 1908 and ceased in 2012.[19]

Main economic indicators[edit]

The ABS publishes a suite of monthly and quarterly economic publications that are part of the core of the organization's work program. These statistics are integral to the functioning of Australia's economy and impact areas, such as interest rates, property prices, employment, the value of the Australian dollar, commodity prices and many more areas. Popular publications include:

Other major publications[edit]

Outside the main economic indicators, the ABS has a number of other major publications covering topics including:

  • Health: The 2011–12 Australian Health Survey was the most comprehensive survey on health and wellbeing ever conducted in Australia. For the first time, the survey also included a biomedical component with respondents having the option of providing biomedical samples such as blood and urine for testing. This allowed the survey to capture detailed health information from Australians such as the prevalence of conditions such as diabetes in the community. Many individuals were subsequently informed that they had medical conditions they were not aware of prior to testing.[20] Another component of the Australian Health Survey asked respondents to keep a food diary which was then used to obtain a rich picture of the nutritional intake and dietary preferences of the nation.[21]
  • Crime: The ABS publishes a suite of crime publications including individual releases covering offenders,[22] crime victims,[23] the corrections system[24] and prisons.[25]
  • Demography: The ABS publishes a number of demography releases including data on population,[26] population growth[27] and projections,[28] interstate and overseas migration,[29] births,[30] deaths[31] and overseas arrivals and departures.[32]
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) collects information on the social situation of Indigenous Australians, including on health, education, culture and labour force participation. The ABS also collects data related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through the Australian Health Survey[33] as well as in many other regular publications in the areas of demography, education, employment and more.
  • Education: The major education publications are Childhood Education and Care,[34] Schools,[35] and Education and Work.[36] They look at all aspects of education in Australia from preschool up to undergraduate and postgraduate study.
  • Environment: The ABS has a range of publications on environmental topics covering energy and water use, conservation activities undertaken by households, land management and farming and more. The innovative Land Account publication covering the Great Barrier Reef and utilising Google Maps technology was released in 2011.[37]
  • Research and Innovation: The ABS has been undertaking surveys to collect estimates from Australian organizations regarding expenditure on and human resources devoted to research and development (R&D) in Australia since 1978. 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.[38]

In August 2017 the treasurer issued a direction to the ABS to undertake a statistical collection into the views of Australians on the electoral roll about same sex marriage.[39] This is now referred to as the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

International engagement[edit]

The ABS engages in international and regional statistical forums including United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy (CSSP), and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Conference for European Statisticians (CES).

The ABS has a partnership with DFAT to deliver statistical and institutional capability building programs for the Indo-Pacific region, both in-country and by hosting development visits. The ABS has also hosted international development and study visits from countries including China, Japan, Canada, Korea and Nepal.[40]

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 incumbent since 11 December 2019 is David Gruen.[41] Previous incumbents have included David Kalisch[42] and Brian Pink.[43] Pink retired in January 2014.[44] Ian Ewing acted in the role from 13 January to 14 February 2014 and Jonathan Palmer acted from 17 February to 12 December 2014.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Australian Bureau of Statistics – Annual Report 2020–21". 16 September 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Administrative Arrangements Order". 23 June 2022. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  3. ^ "Dr David Gruen, Australian Statistician". 12 December 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "History of the ABS". Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Bureau of Statistics". Record agency. NSW State Archives & Records. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Main Features – Purpose, role, strategic priorities and values". ABS. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  7. ^ "APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice". The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC). Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "1005.0 – ABS Corporate Plan, 2015–19". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Senate Inquiry Report into the 2016 Census". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  10. ^ "2016 Census Data". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Get online on August 9". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Review of the events surrounding the 2016 eCensus: Improving institutional cyber security culture and practices across the Australian government—Alastair MacGibbon, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security—Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—13 October 2016". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Review of the events surrounding the 2016 eCensus: Improving institutional cyber security culture and practices across the Australian government—Alastair MacGibbon, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security—Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—13 October 2016". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  14. ^ "ABS Chief Statistician reveals to ABC NewsRadio the census website was taken down after four cyber-attacks from an overseas source". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2016. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  15. ^ "2016 Census – Online form update: 3.00 pm, August 11". (Press release). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 11 August 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  16. ^ "2016 Census Senate Inquiry Report". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Census quality – independent assurance". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 June 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  18. ^ "1301.0". Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  19. ^ Kafkarisos, Steven. "Research Guides: Commonwealth government publications : Year books". Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  20. ^ "4364.0.55.005 – Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011–12". 2 August 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  21. ^ "4364.0.55.007 – Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011–12". 21 December 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  22. ^ "4519.0 – Recorded Crime – Offenders, 2014–15". 24 February 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  23. ^ "4530.0 – Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2014–15". 17 February 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  24. ^ "4512.0 – Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2016". 9 June 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  25. ^ "4517.0 – Prisoners in Australia, 2015". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  26. ^ "3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2015". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  27. ^ "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2014–15". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  28. ^ "3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  29. ^ "3412.0 – Migration, Australia, 2014–15". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  30. ^ "3301.0 – Births, Australia, 2014". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  31. ^ "3302.0 – Deaths, Australia, 2014". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  32. ^ "3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, May 2016". 6 July 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  33. ^ "4727.0.55.003 – Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Biomedical Results, 2012–13". 17 December 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  34. ^ "4402.0 – Childhood Education and Care, Australia, June 2014". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  35. ^ "4221.0 – Schools, Australia, 2015". 5 April 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  36. ^ "6227.0 – Education and Work, Australia, May 2015". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  37. ^ "4609.0.55.001 – Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2014". 18 July 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  38. ^ "8166.0 – Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, 2014–15". 16 June 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  39. ^ Treasury. "Census and Statistics (Statistical Information) Direction 2017". Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  40. ^ "1001.0 – Australian Bureau of Statistics – Annual Report, 2013–14". Retrieved 2 August 2016. CC BY icon.svg This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia license.
  41. ^ "Appointment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Statistician". Department of the Treasury. 28 November 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  42. ^ National (12 December 2014). "David Kalisch new Australian Statistician: Leads Australian Bureau of Statistics after tumultuous year". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  43. ^ "Appointment of Australian Statistician". Press Release, Treasurer of Australia. 13 December 2006. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2007.
  44. ^ "The Australian Statistician to retire (Media Release)". Retrieved 2 August 2016.

External links[edit]