1249.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/07/2016   
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The Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) has a three level hierarchical structure that consists of broad groups, narrow groups, and cultural and ethnic groups.

Broad group

The broad group level is the highest level of the classification. Each of the nine broad groups of the classification contain between two and five geographically proximate narrow groups.

Narrow group

The narrow group level is the middle level of the classification. Each of the 28 narrow groups of the classification contain between one to 33 cultural and ethnic groups.

Cultural and ethnic group

The cultural and ethnic group level is the base level of the classification. There are 277 cultural and ethnic group categories including 24 residual ('not elsewhere classified') categories. Residual categories are explained in 'About Codes'.

Hierarchical levelExample

Broad group7Southern and Central Asian
Narrow group71Southern Asian
Cultural and ethnic group7101Anglo-Indian


The classification criteria are the principles by which the base level categories of the classification are formed and then aggregated to form broader or higher-level categories in the classification's structure. Ordinarily, one of the principles of classification design is that the categories should be mutually exclusive. That is, the categories should be distinct from one another and should not overlap. Adhering to this principal in relation to cultural and ethnic groups can be problematic as the criteria for identification with a particular group are varied.

Two classification criteria are used in ASCCEG to form the three hierarchical levels:
  • Geographic proximity of cultural and ethnic groups in terms of the location in which they originated or developed. This refers to the geographic area of the world in which a cultural or ethnic group first became, or was first recognised as, a distinct entity.
  • Similar social and cultural characteristics. These include the characteristics described in the 'Overview, Definition of Ethnicity'. The primary elements of similarity used to form and aggregate cultural and ethnic groups are languages spoken and religion practised. Other characteristics considered are family and social customs, historical links, and national identities. Characteristics such as food, music and art traditions also serve as indicators of cultural and social similarity.

The classification criteria have been applied to produce a classification structure that can be described in conventional terms:
  • cultural and ethnic groups are aggregated to form narrow groups on the basis of geographic proximity and similarity in terms of cultural and social characteristics
  • narrow groups are aggregated to form broad groups on the basis of geographic proximity and a degree of similarity in terms of their cultural and social characteristics.

Some classificatory decisions are noteworthy:

The cultural identities of the peoples of Australia are recognised within ASCCEG. It would be inconsistent and impractical in a classification designed to collect data within the Australian context to not have 'Australian Peoples' and 'Australian' included in the classification. Australia has been inhabited by the Indigenous people for over 40,000 years and it is fitting that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples be recognised with appropriate categories in the narrow group 'Australian Peoples' and since European settlement, over 200 years ago, a distinct Australian cultural identity has emerged prompting the inclusion of 'Australian' in that narrow group.

Cultural and ethnic group 3308 'Russian' has been classified in Broad Group 3 'Southern and Eastern European' on the grounds of cultural similarity with other European cultural and ethnic groups even though much of Russia lies geographically in Asia. As a general rule, cultural and ethnic groups which originated and are located in Russia have also been classified to Europe. It is acknowledged, however, that this is not necessarily the best solution for all cultural and ethnic groups east of the Urals, many of whom are more culturally Asian than European. The principle that has been adopted for the classification of groups in Russia east of the Urals, is that those which speak Altaic or Iranic languages are classified to Narrow Group 72 Central Asian, while those which speak Ugro-Finnic languages are classified to Narrow Group 33 Eastern European.

Jewish has been included in Broad Group 4 'North African and Middle Eastern'. It is acknowledged that many Jewish people in Australia might not have ties with the Middle East and might consider classification within one of the European broad groups as more correct. However, following consultation with representatives of the Jewish community at the time ASCCEG was developed, it was decided to adhere to the classification criterion for geographic proximity and include 'Jewish' in 'North African and Middle Eastern' as this is where the Jewish culture originated.

Many people relate to more than one cultural or ethnic group and will give a multiple response to a question on ancestry, ethnicity or cultural identity. If meaningful and useful data is to be collected, the classification must be used to capture each element of a multiple response. Often a response will indicate an identification with a country in a national or cultural sense and will also acknowledge continuing ties with other ethnic or cultural groups e.g. Irish Australian, Italian Australian. Data collection models should be developed to capture multiple responses.


ASCCEG is primarily a classification for collecting statistical data within the Australian context.

Theoretical and conceptual considerations for developing ASCCEG were constrained by the need to ensure:
  • the practical usefulness of the classification for collecting ancestry data from both statistical and administrative sources in Australia
  • the analytical usefulness of data collected within the framework of the classification
  • the number of Australians identifying with cultural and ethnic groups within each category at each level of the classification
  • the identification of groups which could be significant for policy setting and service delivery purposes.

The effect of these constraints on the classification has been that:
  • some cultural and ethnic groups which are significant in a world context are not separately identified in the structure
  • some broad groups are limited in the number of narrow groups they subsume
  • cultural and ethnic groups which are not separately identified are included in the most appropriate residual or not elsewhere classified (nec) category.

The coverage, balance and robustness of the classification structure is such that it can accommodate changes to Australia's cultural and ethnic composition, and can be used to facilitate comparisons with cultural and ethnic data from other countries.