4906.0.55.003 - Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2012  
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Contents >> Introduction



The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) was conducted from February to December 2012. Key findings from the survey are presented in Personal Safety, Australia, 2012 (cat. no. 4906.0) which was released in December 2013.

The survey collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15. It also collected detailed information about men's and women's experience of current and previous partner violence, lifetime experience of stalking, physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15, sexual harassment and general feelings of safety.

This was the second time the PSS has been conducted. The PSS was last run by the ABS in 2005. The PSS is based on the design of the Women's Safety Survey (cat. no. 4128.0) which was conducted in 1996, and has been adapted to include men's experience of violence.

The 2012 PSS meets the need for updated information on the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women in Australia and other related information regarding people's safety at home and in the community that has not been collected since 2005.

The need for data on the prevalence of violence and sexual assault is discussed in The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 - 2022, and in the following ABS Information Papers:

ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the auspices of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, provided funding for the 2012 PSS.

A Survey Advisory Group, comprising experts in the field of crime and violence, provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and academics in the field.

The ABS would also like to thank the people who completed the survey. Their participation has contributed valuable information that will help to inform public debate about violence and will help further development of policies and programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of violence.


The ABS was responsible for the development and conduct of the survey. As for all ABS surveys, extensive testing was carried out to ensure that the survey would collect objective and high quality data.

While the 2012 PSS was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, participation in the survey was not compulsory. The ABS sought the willing cooperation of households in the survey. An overall response rate of 57% was achieved for the survey, with 13,307 women and 3,743 men completing the survey nationally.

Measuring violence in the community through household surveys is a complex task. It tests people's memories by asking about events that occurred in the past, which may have been traumatic and which may have involved people closely related to them. The accuracy of the statistics can be affected if respondents feel threatened by the act of providing information or if they are concerned that the information might be used against the perpetrator. Through consultation with experts in the field and testing, the ABS gave much consideration to the type of information collected and the manner in which it was collected.

Standard ABS interviewing techniques were used but due to the sensitive nature of the information being collected, special procedures were introduced to ensure the safety of respondents, the safety of interviewers, and the reliability of the data provided. It was a requirement of the survey that all interviews were conducted in private, ensuring that other members of the household were not aware of the survey content or the responses given. If preferred by the respondent, the interview could be conducted over the telephone.

Experienced female interviewers from the ABS panel of household survey interviewers were used, although respondents were given the option of a male interviewer upon request. In addition to standard ABS training in the content and procedures for the survey, the interviewers received sensitivity and awareness training to increase their understanding of and ability to deal with issues related to violence against women and men.


Appropriate use and interpretation of the PSS results relies on a knowledge of what information was collected, how it was collected and how the information was used to produce final estimates.

Appendix 1 includes a list of new, revised and removed data items between PSS 2005 and PSS 2012. A comprehensive list of data items available from the survey and a copy of the survey questionnaire are available in the Downloads Tab.

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