Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is the Australian Bureau of Statistics' new geographical framework and it is effective from July 2011. The ASGS replaces the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). The ASGS has been utilised for release of data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing. However, 2011 Census data is also available on ASGC Statistical Local Areas (SLAs). The vast majority of ABS spatial data will be based on the ASGS by 2014.

A summary of ABS publications impacted by the transition to the ASGS is provided by the ASGS Implementation Schedule for ABS Publications web page.

The first ABS publication to release statistics to ASGS regions was Building Approvals, Australia, Jul 2011 (cat. no. 8731.0).

The ABS publication Local Government and ABS, 2012 (cat. no. 1376.0) contains a feature article 'Exploring the New ABS Geography with Buildings Data'. The article outlines four case studies of 'New House Building Approvals' data illustrating, with maps, the impact of change in statistical geography from the ASGC to the ASGS.

Improved data sources and technology has allowed the ABS the opportunity to create a better Geography optimised for the release of ABS statistics. A new robust and stable structure means that changes over time are minimised, assisting in the maintenance of quality time-series data. In addition, the ASGS, together with improved methods of calculation, allows for more accurate correspondences to translate ABS data to non-ABS administrative and geographic regions.

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Structure Diagram

ASGS 2011 Structure and Summary.pdf

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Roadshow Presentation

ASGS Roadshow Presentation.pdf

Understanding ABS Statistical Geography Video Tutorial

Understanding ABS Statistical Geography

Duration: 10:10 minutes Size:

Video transcript - Understanding ABS Statistical Geography.pdf


The ASGS brings all the regions used by the ABS to output data under the one umbrella. They are divided into two broad categories:

1. ABS Structures, those regions which are defined and maintained by the ABS.
2. Non-ABS Structures, those regions defined and maintained by other organisations, but for which the ABS supplies data.


The ABS Structures are a hierarchy of regions developed for the release of ABS statistical information. Their components are described below.

Main Structure
Mesh Blocks (MBs) are the smallest geographical region in the ASGS. There are approximately 347,000 covering the whole of Australia. They broadly identify land use via categories such as residential, commercial, agriculture and parks etc. Mesh Blocks are very small and are the building blocks for all the larger regions of the ASGS. Only limited Census data (total population and dwelling counts) are released at the Mesh Block level.

Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) have been designed as the smallest unit for the release of Census data. SA1s generally have a population of 200 to 800 persons, and an average population of about 400 persons. They are built from whole Mesh Blocks and there are approximately 55,000 SA1s covering the whole of Australia.

Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) are a general-purpose medium sized area built from whole SA1s. Their aim is to represent a community that interacts together socially and economically. SA2s generally have a population range of 3,000 to 25,000 persons , and have an average population of about 10,000 persons. The SA2 is the lowest level of the ASGS structure for which Estimated Resident Population (ERP), Health and Vitals and other non-Census ABS data are generally available. There are 2,196 SA2s covering the whole of Australia.

Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3s) provide a standardised regional breakup of Australia. The aim of SA3s is to create a standard framework for the analysis of ABS data at the regional level through clustering groups of SA2s that have similar regional characteristics. SA3s are built from whole SA2s and in general have populations between 30,000 and 130,000 persons. They are often the functional areas of regional cities and large urban transport and service hubs.

Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s) are the largest sub-State regions. They are designed for the output of Labour Force Survey data and reflect labour markets within each state and territory within the population limits imposed by the Labour Force Survey sample. SA4s provide the best sub-state socio-economic breakdown in the ASGS. SA4s are built from whole SA3s and cover the whole of Australia. There are 88 SA4s.

Greater Capital City Statistical Area Structure
Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSAs) represent the socio-economic extent of each of the eight state and territory capital cities. They include the people who regularly socialise, shop or work within the city, but live in the small towns and rural areas surrounding the city.

Significant Urban Area Structure
Significant Urban Areas (SUAs) represent concentrations of urban development with populations of 10,000 people or more using whole Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s). They do not necessarily represent a single Urban Centre, as they can represent a cluster of related Urban Centres with a core urban population over 10,000. They can also include related peri-urban and satellite development and the area into which the urban development is likely to expand.

Indigenous Structure
Indigenous Locations (ILOCs) are aggregates of one or more SA1s. ILOCs generally represent small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with a minimum population of 90 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander usual residents. An ILOC is an area designed to allow the release of Census statistics relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a high level of spatial accuracy whilst maintaining the confidentiality of individuals. For the 2011 Census, 1116 ILOCs have been defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia.

Indigenous Areas (IAREs) are medium sized geographical units designed to facilitate the release of more detailed statistics. IAREs provide a balance between spatial resolution and increased granularity of attribute data. They are created by aggregating one or more ILOCs. For the 2011 Census, 429 IAREs are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia.

Indigenous Regions (IREGs) are large geographical units loosely based on the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission boundaries. They are created by aggregating one or more IAREs. The greater population of IREGs enables greater cross classification of variables when compared with IAREs and ILOCs. For the 2011 Census 57 IREGs are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia. IREGs do not cross state or territory borders.

Urban Centres and Localities and Section of State Structures
Urban Centres and Localities (UCLs) and Section of State (SOS) represent areas of concentrated urban development. They consist of Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) aggregated together to form regions defined according to population density and other criteria. The structure defines Urban Centres and rural Bounded Localities.

Remoteness Structure
The Remoteness Areas (RAs) divide Australia into broad geographic regions that share common characteristics of remoteness for statistical purposes. The Remoteness Structure divides each state and territory into several regions on the basis of their relative access to services. There are six classes of RA in the Remoteness Structure: Major Cities of Australia, Inner Regional Australia, Outer Regional Australia, Remote Australia, Very Remote Australia and Migratory. RAs are based on the Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) produced by the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.

Diagram 1 depicts the various ABS Structures, their component regions and how they interrelate.

Diagram of ASGS ABS Structures


Non-ABS Structures are approximated by and built directly from ASGS regions, primarily Mesh Blocks or SA1s. The Non-ABS Structures include important regions such as Local Government Areas (LGAs), Postal Areas, state gazetted suburbs and electoral divisions. LGAs remain part of the ASGS and the ABS will continue to support LGAs with the data it currently provides.

The Non-ABS Structures comprise eight hierarchies of regions which are not defined or maintained by the ABS, but for which the ABS is committed to providing a range of statistics. They generally represent administrative regions and are approximated by Mesh Blocks, SA1s or SA2s. They are:
  • Postal Areas
  • State Suburbs
  • Commonwealth Electoral Divisions
  • State Electoral Divisions
  • Australian Drainage Divisions
  • Natural Resource Management Regions
  • Tourism Regions
  • Local Government Areas.

Diagram 2 depicts the various ASGS Non-ABS Structures, their component regions and how they interrelate.

Diagram 2 depicts ASGS non-ABS Structures


The first ASGS publication 1270.0.55.001 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2011 was released in December 2010 and contains the digital boundaries, labels and codes for the Mesh Blocks, the Statistical Area units and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas.

The publication 1270.0.55.002 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 2 - Indigenous Structure, July 2011 was released 20 September 2011.

The Non-ABS Structures publication 1270.0.55.003 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 3 - Non ABS Structures, July 2011 was released 22 July 2011 and contains the digital boundaries, labels and codes for the Non-ABS Structures listed above.

The fourth ASGS publication 1270.0.55.004 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 4 - Significant Urban Areas, Urban Centres and Localities, Section of State, July 2011 was released 16 October 2012.

The fifth ASGS publication 1270.0.55.005 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure, July 2011 was released 31 January 2013.

The regions defined in the ABS Structures will not change until the next Census in 2016. The Non-ABS Structures are updated only when the ABS considers that there are major changes to the administrative boundaries they represent. The changes are approximated with whole Mesh Blocks or SA1s.


If you have any questions regarding the ASGS please email