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During 2006–07, the ABS continued to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion by increasing accessibility to the outputs of statistical activities. Results of collections are usually released through publications, spreadsheets and datacubes. Outputs can be accessed via the ABS website, and hard copy publications are still available for some releases.
In addition, confidentialised unit record files are created for some collections and can be accessed, under strict conditions, by authorised users.
Dissemination methods are underpinned by the ABS’ core value of independence and impartiality. The ABS complies with this value by:
The following sections cover some of the methods for accessing ABS statistics, new releases in 2006–07, and uses of ABS statistics.
ACCESSING ABS STATISTICS
The ABS website remains the primary access point for the majority of users of ABS information, with site users accessing ABS web pages 101 million times in 2006–07. This was an increase of 30.2 per cent from 2005–06, and it is substantially due to the change in ABS’ pricing policy, which now provides free access to all statistics on the website, an increase in the number of pages available and the first release of the 2006 Census results.
During 2006–07 a number of improvements were made to the ABS website. These include:
PROMOTION OF RELEASES
The ABS seeks to encourage informed and increased use of statistics by promoting key releases such as the Year Book Australia, Measures of Australia’s Progress and Australian Social Trends, as well as generally promoting the wider range of ABS products and services.
The 2006 Census was launched by the Treasurer, the Hon Peter Costello, MP. The Treasurer also launched the release of the results from the census in June 2007. At these launches, the Treasurer spoke about how the census provides a foundation picture of Australia, and how the census results are the basis of data used by governments at all levels to make planning decisions about policy and the provision of services.
The annual Year Book, released this year on 24 January 2007, is the flagship publication of the ABS and provides a comprehensive and detailed annual statistical review of Australia
The Year Book Australia 2007 (cat. no. 1301.0) was launched at Bondi Beach in Sydney by the Governor-General as patron of Surf Life Saving Australia. The Year Book paid special tribute to surf lifesavers, who have been saving lives on Australian beaches for 100 years. The International Council for Science, in conjunction with the World Meteorological Organization, established an International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007–08, the 125th anniversary of the first polar year, and the fiftieth anniversary of the International Geophysical Year in 1957–58. To mark the IPY, the Year Book also reflected on the prominent role that Australia and Australians have played in Antarctica over the history of its exploration.
Another way the ABS promotes available statistics and assists users in accessing them is through seminars and training courses for government and other users. During 2006–07, sessions focused on the capability of the ABS website; raising the level of awareness of, and responsible use of, ABS microdata; increasing awareness and interest in information consultancies; and promoting census products and services.
STATISTICS FOR SCHOOLS
There have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving the statistical literacy of teachers and students, and increasing the use of ABS data in schools. The CensusAtSchool project is a voluntary internet-based education project that continues to be popular. Students respond to questions about themselves by completing an online questionnaire. Over 2700 schools registered to take part in CensusAtSchool, with more than 110 000 students completing the questionnaire.
Over 2700 schools registered for the CensusAtSchool project
Building on the success of CensusAtSchool, the ABS hosted an international workshop during the year with representatives from Canada, France, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Delegates discussed ways of expanding this project internationally, enabling which students to access data about themselves and their fellow students from around the world. The main outcome of the workshop was the establishment of an international committee to oversee international growth of the CensusAtSchool project, with some initial work on developing common questions and a single entry point for the project.
A further ABS initiative is the StatSmart project, which involves a major collaboration between the ABS, University of Tasmania, University of New England, Noel Baker Centre for Mathematics and Key Curriculum Press. It is a longitudinal research project looking at effective statistical teaching and learning in the school sector. The project will run over three years and involve over forty primary and secondary teachers from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The project aims to collect empirical data that will support strategies for improving statistical education in schools, and the statistical literacy of teachers and students.
The ABS has also released a new suite of innovative web pages for teachers and students, to promote the understanding and use of statistics in schools. Divided into separate sections for teachers and students, the pages offer a range of learning resources, including classroom activities, learning tools, professional development materials, games and specially selected ABS publications and datasets.
The ABS provides an information consultancy service for more complex requests for data, where these cannot be satisfied by information on the ABS website. This charged service provides data tailored to clients’ needs. An example of this service is international trade data which are provided via a subscription service where data are delivered on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis according to the client’s specifications.
ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIALISED UNIT RECORD FILES: SPECIALIST DATA FOR SPECIALIST RESEARCHERS
Microdata, which are the most detailed statistical information available from the ABS, can be accessed in the form of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs). These are a valuable source of data for specialist researchers in government departments, universities and other organisations.
CURFs are produced at different levels of detail:
CURFs are available for thirty-four ABS surveys and, as of 1 July 2006, are standard ABS statistical products. During 2006–07, the ABS released twelve new CURFs, including eight Expanded CURFs. A further eight historical CURFs were released on RADL™ for the first time in 2006–07. There are now 100 CURFs available on RADL™.
The price reduction on 1 July 2006, from $8000 to $1320 per CURF, has been welcomed by the research community and has led to a greater number of users accessing CURF microdata during 2006–07.
While the use of CURFs on CD-ROM remains very popular, with around half of all CURF use in this format, researchers are also increasingly using RADL™ to access both Basic and Expanded CURFs. There are now 909 researchers from eighty organisations registered to use RADL™.
RADL™ has continued to develop, with feedback from clients, an important driver for its future enhancement. RADL™ now supports the SAS, SPSS and Stata statistical languages and has an ongoing development program to improve usability and functionality. Analysis undertaken during 2006 showed that RADL™ response times have improved since earlier years, with the results of RADL™ tasks now taking an average of two minutes to be returned to clients.
A further means of accessing microdata is the ABSDL. This is a secure room or area, which is available on all ABS premises. ABSDL enables access to more sensitive data and analysis than RADL™. Any output removed by clients of ABSDL is vetted to ensure respondents cannot be identified.
The ABS website lists published results of research for which CURFs have been used. It includes academic papers published in journals and conference proceedings, higher degree theses, monographs and reports.
In 2006, the auditing of jobs in RADL™ identified irregularities in a very small number of jobs submitted. Further investigation showed that researchers at a particular research school had used unit record files in ways that were not permitted. The investigation also showed that there had been no breach of confidentiality of respondents, with the use being solely for analytical purposes. Regardless of this, the ABS considered the actions of the researchers to be of great concern, and suspended access for those involved. The incident was subsequently the subject of an article in the Australian newspaper in February 2007. The ABS takes great care to ensure that the unit record data accessed by researchers is strongly protected. While the actions of the researchers were of concern, the incident showed that the system of checks was effective in identifying any irregularities. As a result of the incident, changes were made to RADL™.
CLIENT SERVICES CHARTER
The client services charter, which describes the relationship between the ABS and users of its products and services, offers guidance to clients wishing to provide compliments or register complaints, on any aspect of client relationships or services. The charter, together with other relevant corporate information, is available on the ABS website and from ABS offices.
The ABS also has charters for respondents in business and household surveys. For more information see Chapter 11 Provider/respondent relationships.
RELEASES IN 2006-07
The ABS releases a wide range of information from its collections through publications (in electronic, and in some cases, paper format), spreadsheets and datacubes. Most users of ABS statistics rely on releases in these forms, and the ABS is always seeking to expand and improve the range available. In particular, in 2006–07 the ABS continued to expand the range of data available through spreadsheets and datacubes.
The number of datacubes and spreadsheets increased from 5373 in 2005–06 to 7546 in 2006–07 (40 per cent increase). The increase in datacubes and spreadsheets on the ABS website since 2003–04 is shown in Table 13.1.
Table 13.1: ABS datacube and spreadsheet releases by year and frequency
The number of publications released in 2006–07 was 711, which is a decrease from 781 in 2005–06 (8.9 per cent). This decrease in publication numbers is due to the increase in the amount of data that is released as datacubes and spreadsheets. Table 13.2 shows the number of ABS releases by year.
Table 13.2: ABS publication releases(a) classified by subject matter, year and frequency
(b) Catalogue numbers assigned to the Reserve Bank of Australia spreadsheets
A major release during 2006–07 was the data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Other examples of new releases in 2006–07 include:
The Health and Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women: A Snapshot, 2004–05 (cat. no. 4722.0.55.001)
This snapshot provides an overview of the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Topics covered include health status, long-term health conditions, mortality, health risk factors, exposure to violence, social and emotional wellbeing, health-related actions, health screening, and contraception.
Experimental Estimates of Regional Water Use, Australia, 2004–05 (cat. no. 4610.0.55.002)
In recent times, there has been an increase in demand for water use data at geographic levels lower than state and territory. This publication presents estimates of total water use for 200 Australian water management areas, for 2004–05.
Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 4906.0)
This publication presents information about men’s and women’s experience of physical or sexual assault, or threat by male and female perpetrators.
Principal Agricultural Commodities, Australia, Preliminary, 2005–06 (cat. no. 7111.0)
This publication contains preliminary estimates of principal agricultural commodities and livestock numbers for 2005–06.
Domestic Use of Water and Energy, Western Australia (cat. no. 4652.5)
This publication includes the results of a survey that provided a snapshot of Western Australia’s household water and energy use, and identified consumption behaviour and perceptions.
Tasmanian Key Indicators (cat. no. 1304.6)
This is a web-based product containing the latest social and economic summary data on Tasmania, including labour force, wages and prices, tourism, finance, consumption and investment, state accounts, population, living arrangements, mortality, education and health. The data are also presented in spreadsheet format.
USE OF ABS STATISTICS
Statistics produced by the ABS are widely used to support decision making and research. Some examples include:
NATIONAL INFORMATION AND REFERRAL SERVICE
The National Information and Referral Service (NIRS) is the main entry point to the ABS for basic information and statistical inquiries from external customers. As shown in Table 13.3, the number of telephone calls and emails to NIRS increased in 2006–07. This is partially due to increased inquiries following the 2006 Census enumeration and output activities.
Table 13.3 provides additional information on the ways that people access ABS dissemination services.
Table 13.3: Number of accesses, by type of access, 2003–04 to 2006–07
(b) Includes twenty-seven secondary distributors who incur a licence fee for on-selling purchased data
(c) Recalculation of the RADL™ usage figures has shown that slightly fewer organisations and individuals actively used RADL™ over the period 2003–04 to 2005–06 than was shown in previous issues of this report. The number of statistical programs executed remains unchanged over the same period
(d) Organisations active on RADL™ refers to organisations with users who executed statistical programs in RADL™ during the period shown
(e) Individuals active on RADL™ refers to registered RADL™ users who executed statistical programs in RADL™ during the period shown
The ABS received widespread media coverage throughout the year, with the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the Agricultural Census being undertaken in 2006–07, and the results of both released in the same financial year. Metropolitan television and radio coverage alone accounted for just over 16 000 mentions of ABS statistics during 2006–07. First results of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing were released on 27 June 2007. In the week that followed, the ABS received close to 4000 metropolitan television and radio mentions.
In 2006–07, the ABS issued approximately 160 media releases, promoting ABS flagship releases such as Australian Social Trends, Year Book Australia and Measures of Australia’s Progress, as well as approximately 303 media releases promoting the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Table 13.4 Number of ABS media releases issued, 2001–02 to 2006–07