In this article we present some of the key reference materials for making sense of the 2011 Census and for providing an information base to the statistics of the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], in general.

ABS is to be congratulated for making the vast majority of 2011 Census data available FOR FREE. There are some things that cost money, but these are normally for more advanced materials where the ABS has to do some type of higher level processing, or customize data for specific requests, or send out some form of media [like data on DVD].

Most of these reference materials are also available FOR FREE on ABS website, which is at:


The Census, being a flagship activity of the ABS, has its own Census homepage at:

http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/census?opendocumentHYPERLINK “http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/census?opendocument&navpos=10″&HYPERLINK “http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/census?opendocument&navpos=10″navpos=10

This homepage has easy access to the range of data products including:

  • QuickStats – providing a simple set of summary statistics for an area;
  • The full range of Community Profiles – including Basic Community, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Indigenous), Time Series, Place of Enumeration, Expanded Community, and Working Population. These profiles are all downloadable in Excel format so that data can be used in other applications or documents.
  • TableBuilder, which enables more experienced Census users to generate their own customised cross-tabulations
  • Data Packs, which have the detailed Census data for all levels and classifications of geography.

Note that all of these data are available for use under a Creative Commons license. Details of permitted uses are available from hyperlinks contained within the download files.

The Census homepage also has a short interactive video called ‘Spotlight’ [which looks at what the census data reveals and its uses]; reports on data quality; some analytical articles based on census outputs; and access to news about the Census.

An excellent starting point to get an overview of the whole Census process – including the history of Censuses in Australia; how the data is analysed; geography and changes from 2006; and lots more – is in How Australia Takes a Census, 2011 at:


The range of services and products from Census 2011 that will be available and when, is contained in the ABS Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing – Products & Services, 2011 at:


And if you really want to get seriously detailed about what it all means, then the 2011 Census Dictionary is for you. This is ‘the bible’ of each Census, and contains definitions of all the variables contained in census data, including the full set of sub-classifications and categories for each variable, and a host of other vital background info. Check out the Dictionary at:


Each of these publications is mostly web-based, but they do have printable versions, normally in pdf format.

Although the bare bones of ABS classifications are contained in the Census Dictionary, if you want more information about these classifications [e.g. of geography, industry, occupations, languages, places of birth, religion, and so on] the full versions are contained in publications on the ABS site at:

http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/Methods,+Classifications,+Concepts+HYPERLINK “http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/Methods,+Classifications,+Concepts+&+Standards?opendocument#from-banner=GT”&HYPERLINK “http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/Methods,+Classifications,+Concepts+&+Standards?opendocument#from-banner=GT”+Standards?opendocument#from-banner=GT

Everyone should note that the ABS has recently dramatically revamped the standard geographic areas for which it presents data. This new Australian Statistical Geography Standard [ASGS] is quite different from the previous standard, but most of the administrative regions [including Local Government Areas and Postal Areas] that we use regularly will continue to be available from the Census. The new standard geography to be used by ABS is detailed in the ABS Geography page at:


If you want some further assistance in accessing these materials, please contact WESTIR on (02) 9635 7764.

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