1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2005-06  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2006   
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Contents >> Section 5 - Performance Information >> Chapter 15 - Statistical standards and infrastructure

Chapter 15 - Statistical standards and infrastructure


A key function of the ABS is to ensure appropriate use of statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies. This is specified as part of the ABS' role in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975.

The development and use of statistical standards and infrastructure underpin statistical work in the ABS. The use of a comprehensive set of robust statistical standards is essential to provide an integrated and meaningful statistical picture of society and the economy. It makes it possible to draw all the data about a particular topic or population together in a significant way from the full range of statistical data sources.

There are various aspects of statistical standards and infrastructure needed for the effective collection and release of data, including:

    • classification schemes that categorise data element concepts (for example, industry, occupation)
    • definitions of the concepts underpinning data elements (for example, dependency, usual residence)
    • definitions of statistical units (for example, business, family, income unit)
    • tools to enable coding of data to standard classifications, and
    • metadata repositories to store the information about data.
The ABS develops national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, which are applied, as appropriate, to all ABS statistical collections, including business and household surveys. The ABS takes a leading role to encourage other Australian, state and territory government agencies to adopt these standards, frameworks and methodologies in their statistical activities. Extensive information about ABS standards is available on the ABS web site (see Methods, Classifications, Concepts and Standards).

The ABS also works closely with other agencies involved in the development of standards and frameworks, for example, minimum data sets for administrative collections are used jointly in publications with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies align with international equivalents, and the ABS assists in the development of many key international statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies. For more information on the ABS involvement in international standards development, see chapter 16.


In 2005–06, a key focus was revision of the standard classifications for industry and occupation. These revisions were in line with revisions to international standards, and were completed in time to be used in coding of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The revisions of both classifications were done as joint projects with Statistics New Zealand (Statistics NZ), and also involved a number of stakeholders within Australia.
    • The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 (ANZSIC 2006) (cat. no. 1292.0) was released on 28 February 2006, along with a number of support tools including a search facility on the ABS Web site. More information about this classification is available in chapter 4 and in the special article on ANZSIC in chapter 7.
    • The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations 2005 (cat. no. 1220.0) is scheduled for release in September 2006. More information about ANZSCO is available in chapter 5 and in the Information paper: ANZSCO – Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations 2005 (cat. no. 1221.0), released online in September 2005.

In 2005–06, a number of other projects updating standards were completed, in time for their use in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. These included:
    • loading of the revised suite of Standards for Statistics on the Family, Household and Income Unit to the ABS web site in July 2005, replacing Standards for Statistics on the Family
    • release of the second edition of Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) (cat. no. 1249.0) in July 2005
    • release of the second edition of Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) (cat. no. 1266.0) in December 2005
    • release of the second edition of Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) (cat. no. 1267.0) in July 2005.
Along with the release of the publication for each of the three revised classifications, the ABS also released sets of coding indexes, and tables linking the new editions to the first editions.


Metadata is information used to find data, to assist a user to understand that data (ie definitions and descriptions), or to guide a user in the appropriate use of that data (quality). Currently, much of the metadata for ABS collections is stored in local facilities (ie associated with the collection), and is sometimes difficult to reuse between processes, or as a corporate resource across collections. In recent years, the ABS has developed an end-to-end (E2E) Metadata Management Strategy to establish a metadata environment that:
    • supports ABS statistical business objectives
    • enables better dissemination outcomes
    • is efficient, effective and user-friendly
    • promotes accountability over the life-cycle of metadata, and
    • provides a metadata resource as an information system in its own right.
This strategy will have considerable benefits for users of ABS statistics, making it easier for them to find, understand and use ABS statistics effectively. It will also align the ABS metadata environment with the associated international standards for metadata, such as the standard for data element definitions (ISO/IEC-11179).

Within the ABS, good progress has been made in relation to the implementation of the E2E Metadata Management Strategy. In 2005–06:
    • the Economic Standards area completed registration of definitional metadata for a number of collections in preparation for migration to the Input Data Warehouse (IDW). The IDW is a managed unit record data store that aims to service collection activities (including editing), analysis, research and management needs between initial data capture until movement of data to the managed output data store
    • the Integrated System for Household Surveys project team completed the design of the Questionnaire Development Tool, which will interface to the ABS Corporate Metadata Repository for creating and re-using data element definitions, and this tool is now being built.

The Australian Standard Geographic Classification describes the geographic infrastructure (data, systems, standards and products) necessary to collect and disseminate statistics that have a spatial component.

During 2005–06, the Geography area of the ABS produced the 2006 edition of the Australian Standard Geographic Classification (ASGC) (cat. no. 1216.0), which will be used for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and by a range of clients that need to relate their information to standard geography. The Geography area also coordinated the design of approximately 39,000 collector districts and produced approximately 100,000 maps to be used for the 2006 Census.

The Northern Territory office of the ABS provided advice and assistance to the Department of the Chief Minister on the Northern Territory Government project to adopt standardised regional and sub-regional statistical reporting boundaries for the Northern Territory, ensuring alignment with Northern Territory Statistical Subdivisions and Statistical Local Areas for the 2006 Australian Standard Geographical Classification.

Image: Staff from the ASB SA Office reviewing maps for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing dress rehearsal held in August 2005

Staff from the ABS SA office reviewing maps for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing dress rehearsal held in August 2005.

Mesh blocks

The ABS has developed a new geographical unit known as mesh blocks, which will be much smaller than the current smallest spatial unit – the collection district. It is estimated Australia will be divided into around 294,000 mesh blocks compared to 39,000 collection districts.

In September 2005, the ABS released Information paper: Draft Mesh Blocks 2005 (cat. no.1209.0.55.001), together with geographic information system (GIS) data for the whole of Australia, seeking views from interested parties on the draft mesh blocks. These views will be taken into account in finalising the design of mesh blocks for the 2006 Census.

Currently there is a wide range of geographic units in use in Australia, and many organisations have adopted their own geographical units to suit their needs, often without reference to units that are used by others. As a result, data cannot be readily integrated and compared between organisations. The development of mesh blocks will help address this problem, as they will be able to be aggregated to any geographical region. It is planned that mesh blocks will become the basic building block for all statistical, political and administrative regions in Australia, resulting in more accurate demographic analysis, which in turn will lead to improved government policy formulation and service delivery.

A facility has been developed to assign a statistical local area, collection district or mesh block code to an address or a list of addresses. This service will be available to external users who register with the National Data Network, in the second half of 2006, and it will enable them to allocate mesh block codes for their own datasets. The ABS is also looking at other ways to make the facility available more widely.

While the purpose of mesh blocks will be primarily as building blocks for more aggregated geographical units, some data may be output on a mesh block basis. However, their small size means that the detail of data available at mesh block level will be limited to ensure that confidentiality is protected. Basic demographic data from the 2006 Census, however, will be available at that level.

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