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2901.0 - Census Dictionary, 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/05/2011   
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2011 Census Dictionary >> Glossary >> Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)


Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is the new geographical standard developed by the ABS for the collection and dissemination of geographic statistics. It is a hierarchically structured classification with a number of spatial units to satisfy different statistical purposes.
    The ASGS areas used for the Census are:
      • Mesh Block (MB);
      • Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1);
      • Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2);
      • Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3);
      • Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4);
      • State/Territory (STE);
      • Australia (AUS);
      • Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA);
      • Urban Centre/Locality (UC/L);
      • Section of State Range (SOSR);
      • Section of State (SOS);
      • Indigenous Location (ILOC);
      • Indigenous Area (IARE);
      • Indigenous Region (IREG);
      • Significant Urban Areas (SUA); and
      • Remoteness Area (RA).
    The following are non-ABS structures. These structures contain regions that the ABS does not define or maintain.
      • Local Government Area (LGA);
      • Postal Areas (POA);
      • Commonwealth Electoral Division (CED);
      • State Electoral Division (SED);
      • State Suburb (SSC);
      • Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMR);
      • Australian Drainage Divisions (ADD); and
      • Tourism Regions (TR).

    Mesh Block (MB)

    Mesh Blocks are the smallest geographical unit the ABS has released. They were developed to fulfil the need for more accurate small area statistics and will improve the relationship between small area geography and the social, physical and economic realities of the landscape. It is hoped that the Mesh Blocks will become the basic building blocks of all statistical, political and administrative geography in Australia for 2016.

    The Mesh Blocks were developed using recommendations from a panel of experts. The Mesh Block is the smallest unit within the new Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), their boundaries are contiguous and cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps. There are approximately 347,600 Mesh Blocks.

    Mesh Blocks are so small that they can aggregate reasonably accurately to many different geographical regions, administrative, management and political boundaries. Thus, by coding statistics to Mesh Blocks, it will be possible to produce summary statistics for a whole range of geographical regions not currently represented in statistical geography. For further information see Information Paper: Mesh Blocks, Australia, 2003 (cat. no. 1209.0) and Information Paper: Draft Mesh Blocks, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 1209.0.55.001).


    Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1)

    The Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) is the second smallest geographic area defined in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), the smallest being the Mesh Block. The SA1 has been designed for use in the Census of Population and Housing as the smallest unit for the processing and release of Census data. For the 2011 Census, SA1s will also be the basis of output for most data, the exception being some Place of Work destination zones. For 2011, SA1s also serve as the basic building block in the ASGS and are used for the aggregation of statistics to larger Census geographic areas.

    An SA1 is represented by a unique seven digit code.

    SA1s are designed to remain relatively constant over several Censuses. Future change will largely be dealt with by splitting existing SA1s. For the 2011 Census, there are approximately 54,000 SA1s throughout Australia (this includes the other territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Jervis Bay). SA1s cover the whole of Australia with no gaps or overlaps.

    Special SA1s:
      • Zero population SA1s are created in areas that are expected to have little or no permanently residing populations. Data from these areas are reassigned to a populated alternate SA1.
      • Shipping SA1s contain people who are enumerated aboard ship in Australian waters. This includes commercial cargo vessels, passenger liners, ocean going passenger/car ferries, and dredges. People enumerated on board commercial vessels between Australian ports are also attributed to Shipping SA1s. Foreign crews on ships are excluded from Census enumeration. There is one Shipping SA1 for each state, the Northern Territory and Other Territories.
      • Off-Shore SA1s contain people who are enumerated on off-shore oil rigs, drilling platforms and the like. There is one Off-Shore SA1 for each state and the Northern Territory. Census data from respondents who completed their Census forms in the Australian Antarctic Territory are coded to an additional Off-Shore SA1 in Tasmania.
      • Migratory SA1s contain people who are enumerated on an overnight journey by train or bus. There is one Migratory SA1 for each state, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.


    Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2)

    The Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) is an area defined in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), and consists of one or more whole Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s). Wherever possible SA2s are based on officially gazetted State suburbs and localities. In urban areas SA2s largely conform to whole suburbs and combinations of whole suburbs, while in rural areas they define functional zones of social and economic links. Geography is also taken into account in SA2 design.

    SA2s cover, in aggregate, the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps.


    Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3)

    Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3s) are built from aggregations of whole Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) boundaries to represent regions of between approximately 30,000 people and 130,000 people to cover the whole of Australia. These boundaries reflect a combination of widely recognised informal regions as well as existing administrative regions such as State Government Regions in rural areas and local Government Areas in urban areas. SA3 boundaries fit within whole Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) boundaries.


    Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4)

    Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s) are designed to reflect one or more whole labour markets for the release of Labour Force Survey data. SA4s are required to have large populations of over 100,000 people in order to enable accurate labour force survey data to be generated on each SA4. For this reason, in rural areas SA4s generally represent aggregations of multiple small labour markets with socioeconomic connections or similar industry characteristics. Large regional city labour markets (150,000 people) are generally defined by a single SA4. Within major metropolitan labour markets SA4s represent sub-labour markets.

    SA4s are aggregations of whole Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3) boundaries and fit within whole State and Territory boundaries.


    State/Territory (STE)

    The State/Territory is the largest spatial unit in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

    There are six states and five territories in the ASGS: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory and the external Territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

    Jervis Bay Territory, and the Territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are grouped as one spatial unit at the State/Territory level in the category of Other Territories.

    States/Territories consist of one or more Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s). In aggregate, they cover Australia without gaps or overlaps.


    Australia (AUS)

    For ASGS purposes, the ABS uses the definition of Australia as set out in section 17(a) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 and as amended by the Territories Law Reform Act, No. 104, 1992.

    Australia since 1993, includes:
      • New South Wales,
      • Victoria,
      • Queensland,
      • South Australia,
      • Western Australia,
      • Tasmania,
      • Northern Territory,
      • Australian Capital Territory,
      • Jervis Bay Territory, and
      • the external territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands

    It excludes Norfolk Island and the other Australian external territories of Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and Coral Sea Territory.


    Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA)

    The Capital Cities represent the socioeconomic area of each of the eight State and Territory Capitals. The Capital City boundaries are built from aggregations of whole Statistical Areas Level 4 to facilitate the comparison of labour force data with other economic data such as the Consumer Price Index, released on Capital Cities. The Capital City boundaries represent a broad socioeconomic definition of each city, they contain not only the urban area of the city but also areas of non-urban land where much of the population has strong links to the capital city, through for example, commuting to work.


    Urban Centre/Locality (UC/L)

    An Urban Centre is generally defined as a population cluster of 1,000 or more people. A 'bounded locality' is generally defined as a population cluster of between 200 and 999 people. People living in Urban Centres are classified as urban for statistical purposes while those in 'Bounded Localities' are classified as rural (i.e. non-urban). Each Urban Centre and/or Locality (UC/L) is bounded (i.e. a boundary for it is clearly defined) and comprised of one or more whole Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s). UC/Ls are defined for each Census and are current for the date of the Census. The criteria for bounding UC/Ls are based on the Linge methodology.


    Section of State Range (SOSR)

    This geographical classification represents a further break down of the SOS categories.

    Major urban is broken down into a further 3 SOSR categories of urban centres based on the population ranges of: 1,000,000 or more, 250,000 to 999,999 and 100,000 to 249,999.

    Other urban is broken down into a further 5 SOSR categories of urban centres based on the population ranges of: 50,000 to 99,999, 20,000 to 49,999. 10,000 to 19,999, 5,000 to 9,999 and 1,000 to 4,999.

    Bounded Localities is further divided into 2 SOSR categories based on a population range of: 500 to 999 and 200 to 499.

    The SOS Rural Balance and Migratory categories are not further broken down by SOSR.


    Section of State (SOS)

    This geographical classification uses population counts to define Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) as urban or rural and to provide, in aggregate, statistics for urban concentrations and for bounded localities and balance areas.

    SOS represents an aggregation of non-contiguous geographical areas of a particular urban/rural type. Sections of State categories comprise Major Urban (population clusters of 100,000 or more), Other Urban (population clusters of 1,000 to 99,999), Bounded Locality (200 to 999), Rural Balance (remainder of state/territory) and Migratory, and in aggregate cover the whole of Australia.


    Indigenous Location (ILOC)

    Indigenous Locations (ILOCs) are aggregates of one or more Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) and ideally have a minimum of 100 Indigenous usual residents. ILOCs aggregate to Indigenous Areas (IAREs), and cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps.

    A range of Indigenous statistics are available by ILOCs including Indigenous Quickstats.


    Indigenous Area (IARE)

    Indigenous Areas (IAREs) are aggregates of one or more Indigenous Locations (ILOCs) and ideally have a minimum of 250 Indigenous usual residents. IAREs aggregate to Indigenous Regions (IREGs), and cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps.

    A range of Indigenous statistics are available by IAREs. Indigenous Profiles and Quickstats are also produced for IAREs.


    Indigenous Region (IREG)

    Indigenous Regions (IREGs) are aggregates of Indigenous Areas (IAREs). Indigenous Regions aggregate to the State and Territory level and cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps.

    A range of Indigenous statistics are available by Indigenous Region including Indigenous profiles and Indigenous Quickstats.


    Significant Urban Areas (SUA)

    Significant Urban Areas (SUA) represent aggregations of whole Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) boundaries and are used to define and contain major urban and near-urban concentrations of over 10,000 people. They include the urban population, any immediately associated populations, and may also incorporate one or more closely associated Urban Centre and/or Locality (UC/L) and the areas between. They are designed to incorporate any likely growth over the next 20 years.

    Significant Urban Areas do not cover the whole of Australia, and may cross State boundaries.


    Remoteness Area (RA)

    Within the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), the Remoteness structure comprises six categories, each of which identifies a non-contiguous region in Australia, being a grouping of Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) sharing a particular degree of remoteness. The degrees of remoteness range from 'Major Cities' (highly accessible) to 'Very Remote'.

    The degree of remoteness of each SA1 was determined using the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA). SA1s have then been grouped into the appropriate category of Remoteness to form non-contiguous areas within each state.

    Maps are available from ABS Information Consultancy.


    Local Government Area (LGA)

    A Local Government Area (LGA) is a geographical area under the responsibility of an incorporated local government council, or an incorporated Indigenous government council. The LGAs in Australia collectively cover only a part of Australia. The main areas not covered by LGAs are northern parts of South Australia, a large part of the Northern Territory, the western division of New South Wales, all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories.

    The number of LGAs and their boundaries can change over time. Their creation and delimitation is the responsibility of the respective state/territory governments, and are governed by the provisions of state/territory local government and other relevant Acts.

    The types of LGAs in each state and the Northern Territory are:
      • New South Wales: Cities (C) and Areas (A);
      • Victoria: Cities (C), Rural Cities (RC), Boroughs (B) and Shires (S);
      • Queensland: Cities (C), Shires (S), Towns (T) and Regional Councils (R);
      • South Australia: Cities (C), Rural Cities (RC), Municipalities/Municipal Councils (M), District Councils (DC), Regional Councils (RegC) and Aboriginal Councils (AC);
      • Western Australia: Cities (C), Towns (T) and Shires (S);
      • Tasmania: Cities (C) and Municipalities (M); and
      • Northern Territory: Cities (C), Towns (T), Municipalities (M) and Shires (S).


    Postal Areas (POA)

    Postal Areas are ABS approximations of Australia Post postcodes, created by allocating whole Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) on a 'best fit' basis to postcodes.

    Census Postal Areas exclude non-mappable Australia Post postcodes such as:
      • post office box postcodes;
      • some delivery route postcodes, which are also covered by other postcodes (a situation which often occurs in rural areas); and
      • some postcodes which, because of the application of the 'best fit' principle, do not get an SA1 allocated to them.

    This means that there are more Australia Post postcodes than Census Postal Areas.

    Every SA1 is allocated one valid Australia Post postcode as the Postal Area for that SA1. When a person is enumerated in that SA1, the Postal Area is allocated to the person as their Postal Area of enumeration.

    When a person's address is coded to their SA1 of Usual Residence, the Postal Area of the SA1 is allocated to the person as their Postal Area of Usual Residence.


    Commonwealth Electoral Division (CED)

    A Commonwealth Electoral Division (CED) is an area legally prescribed for the purpose of returning one or more members to the federal lower house of parliament. CEDs are approximated by aggregating the data for Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) that best fit the area.

    Commonwealth Electoral Divisions have different boundaries to State Electoral Divisions (SEDs), except in Tasmania and the ACT where they are the same. CEDs cover all of Australia.


    State Electoral Division (SED)

    A State Electoral Division is an area legally prescribed for the purpose of returning one or more members to the state or territory lower houses of parliament. Queensland has only one house of parliament at the state level, with each member representing an electoral district. State Electoral Divisions are approximated by aggregating the data for Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) that best fit the area.

    State Suburb (SSC)

    This is a Census-specific area where Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) are aggregated to approximate suburbs. It is available for the whole of Australia, but in rural areas SSC poorly represent the gazetted localities.

    Note that the Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) are aligned closely with suburbs in urban areas.

    Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMR)

    Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs) are based on catchments or bioregions. The Australian government, in association with state and territory governments, has identified 56 regions covering all of Australia. They are used to administer and report on aspects of environmental policy including sustainable farming and biodiversity.

    Australian Drainage Divisions (ADD)

    Australia's drainage divisions are defined by the Australian Water Resources Management Committee (WRMC) and have been the basis for the study of Australian hydrology since the early 1960s. The 12 ADDs are part of the Non-ABS Structures and are approximated from Statistical Areas Level 1.

    Tourism Regions (TR)

    The ABS and other organisations publish tourism data by Tourism Regions (TR). TRs are not defined by the ABS and are therefore identified as a non-ABS (administrative) region in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). The TRs are updated annually. They each consist of a group of Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s). In the past they consisted of a group of Statistical Local Areas (SLAs), however this has changed with the release of the ASGS.

    TRs consist of aggregates of whole SA2s and cover the whole of geographic Australia. There are several TRs within each State/Territory except for the ACT which only has the TR of Canberra. The TRs do not include the Other Territories (OT) or the Off-Shore Areas and Migratory SA2s. The SA2s for the 'Great Barrier Reef Islands' are not true SA2s. These SA2s are listed against the TR of '3R160, Great Barrier Reef'.

    The ASGS facilitates the standardisation of terminology and comparability of data.

    For more information, please refer to the ABS Geography page.

    See also Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), Statistical Local Area (SLA).






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