1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Banner: In history's page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Year Book Australia is truly a remarkable series. Reaching its hundredth year in 2008, the Year Book has shone a light on the whole nation, communicating information which benefits all Australians in all aspects of their lives.

One hundred years ago the first Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia was published by the then Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The preface notes that is was the first 'authoritative Year Book issued under the Federal Constitution'. The high value of the Year Book is attributable in no small degree to the reliability of the information it contains. Billy Hughes, Australian Prime Minister 1915-23, once said that 'There are only two people I trust - God and the Commonwealth Statistician'. The high quality of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) research has been well represented in its Year Books.

In addition to statistical data, each volume has highly informative analytic essays describing the social, political, economic and environmental contexts of the information. Many universities, schools and communities use essays from each Year Book to support education and community learning, benefiting from the high level of scholarship provided through the contributors to each volume.

Photograph: Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library
Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library

Since its establishment, the ABS has enabled Australians to understand how the nation works and about national activities in key areas. Its contribution to the building of the nation - its industries, education, community and national understanding - is truly outstanding. The commitment of the Bureau to making this information publicly accessible is exceptional.

It is a special pleasure to be invited by the ABS to introduce the one hundredth anniversary Year Book, particularly because of the role the Bureau has taken in working with Australian libraries to provide the community with access to their statistical publications. The Bureau’s Library Extension Program (LEP) has, since 1990, provided national, state, public, and university libraries with electronic and print publications for access by Australians. The LEP has recently been encompassed within a new Bureau initiative, the Information Skills Program, which has extended services to a broader range of libraries, including those in government and the private sector. The Information Skills Program also provides training to librarians and other clients in the informed use of the ABS website. The foresight of these programs has been demonstrated by the enthusiasm of libraries and their users to willingly participate.

There are over 1,700 public libraries in Australia (including national, state and local libraries). There are approximately 12 million registered users of these libraries, with approximately 100 million visits to libraries each year. There are more public libraries than McDonald's restaurants! Libraries support education, community activities, children’s reading, literacy, research and business. They are an essential part of the services supporting the development of the nation, particularly for rural and remote communities where there is limited access to information and community services. It is critical for libraries to continue to support all Australians by providing access to quality online resources.

During 2005, with the support of the Australian Government, the Bureau showed significant national leadership by providing free access to all their products, including the Year Book, online through the ABS website.

The LEP and free online access to ABS publications have helped Australian communities in all areas - metropolitan, regional and remote. Libraries have reported an increasing awareness by users of
how the Bureau’s information can support their work, education and community needs.

Photograph: Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library
Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library

In Brisbane, entrepreneurs have used information from the Bureau through the public library to establish businesses that meet local and national needs. In outer Melbourne, school children have benefited with improved academic results through use of Bureau publications in their assignments. In northern Queensland, access to environmental information from the Bureau has improved planning and local infrastructure development.

'Access to the Year Book and Bureau publications has opened a window for many in our community. The Year Book is an outstanding tool to help students and lifelong literacy.' Jan Richards, Manager, Central West Libraries Orange Regional Library, New South Wales

'The ABS Year Book is the best reference guide to Australia in our library. There is no substitute for it as a source of accurate, reliable information'. Ron Store, Manager, Thuringowa Public Library, Queensland

'No Australian can understand our nation without a Year Book on hand. ABS continues to inspire the nation with its analysis and comprehensiveness.' Alan Smith, Director, State Library of South Australia

Photograph: Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library
Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library

The Bureau’s initiative in offering free online access to their publications fulfils a need which was identified by the Senate's Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee report Libraries in the online environment (October 2003). The report highlighted the importance of developing greater access to government information in collaboration with Australian libraries. The Bureau’s approach is a partnership model which other agencies would do well to follow. Libraries have worked together to improve access to other online information resources for Australians.

Through Electronic Resources Australia, launched in May 2007, libraries of all types including national, state, public, university, technical and further education, school and special libraries, can purchase quality online resources in health, news and current affairs and encyclopaedias at a competitive price. Australians, however, will only be able to have broad equitable access to these resources when a new funding model exists. These resources complement that offered by the Bureau. More, however, needs to be done to enable Australians, wherever they are, to access quality online resources and to take advantage of the developing broadband infrastructure.

Photograph: Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library
Yearbooks at the Parliamentary Library

Having Bureau publications online and easily accessible from the library website has encouraged students to readily use this authoritative information in school assignments. For example, the Yarra Plenty Library in outer Melbourne has worked extensively with school libraries in the region to improve students' skills and their use of quality online resources including ABS publications.

Digitising print materials enables Australians, wherever they are, to use newspapers, books, journals, maps and pictures allowing broader access to our cultural heritage. In 2007 the Bureau digitised many of its pre-digital publications, including early editions of Year Book Australia, for which a nation will be truly grateful.

For a century now Australians have been able to use Year Book Australia as a resource to support their education, social, economic and community activities. It has enabled the whole nation to be not just informed, but to become the great nation it is today. 'Advance Australia Fair'!