Australian Bureau of Statistics

Australian Bureau of Statistics
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
Minister responsible Bill Shorten, Assistant Treasurer
Agency executive Brian Pink, Australian Statistician
ABS House which is the headquarters for the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia's national statistical agency. It 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.


Population and housing

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, Section 8.[1] The last Australian population census was held on 8 August 2006. Results from the 2006 Census are available on the ABS web site.[2]

The previous census took place on 9 August 2011.

Research and development

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.[3] 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.

There are four Research & Development surveys:[3]

  • R&D Business survey, conducted annually[4]
  • R&D Higher Education survey, conducted biennially by the ABS since 1994; in 1990 and 1992 it was collected by Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs[5]
  • R&D General Government survey, conducted biennially[6]
  • R&D Private Non-profit Sector survey, conducted biennially[7]


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

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:

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)

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

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.[17]

Year Book Australia

The ABS produces an annual year book for Australia, called the 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.[18]

Australian Statistician

Since 1975, the head of the ABS has been known as the Australian Statistician. Previously, the office was titled the Commonwealth Statistician. A full list of all office-holders is at Australian Statistician.

The incumbent (since March 2007) is Brian Pink.[19]

Australian CensusAtSchool project

The Australian CensusAtSchool is based on a program developed by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) Centre for Statistical Education in the United Kingdom.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ a b "Definitions and Methodological Notes : Statistics on Science and Innovation". Science and Innovation Analysis Section, Department of Education, Science and Training. November 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  4. ^ Research and Experimental Development - Businesses (Survey of), ABS
  5. ^ Research and Experimental Development - Higher Education Sector (Survey of), ABS
  6. ^ Research and Experimental Development - General Government (Survey of)
  7. ^ Research and Experimental Development - Private Non Profit Sector (Survey of)
  8. ^ Ian Castles, Australian Statistician (1993-04-21). "1297.0 - Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC), 1993". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  9. ^ T. J. Skinner, Acting Australian Statistician (1998-08-28). "1297.0 - Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC), 1998". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  10. ^ "Innovation and Technology Update - Bulletin No. 5". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2001-11-16.!OpenDocument#3.2%20HIGHER%20EDUCATION%20R%26D%20SURVEY%202. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  11. ^ "8111.0 - Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia, 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2010-05-26. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  12. ^ "1345.0 - Key National Indicators, 2007". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  13. ^ "8501.0 Retail Trade Trends, Australia, Oct 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  14. ^ "6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Apr 2007". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  15. ^ "8731.0 - Building Approvals, Australia, Oct 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  16. ^ "5625.0 Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia, Sep 2008". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  17. ^ "National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey", Australian Bureau of Statistics, accessed 11 November 2010. Archived by WebCite on 11 November 2010.
  18. ^ Healy, Guy (2 April 2008). "ABS kills off Year Book". The Australian.,25197,23468224-12332,00.html. 
  19. ^ "Appointment of Australian Statistician". Press Release, Treasurer of Australia. 2006-12-13. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ [4]
  22. ^ [5]

External links

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