1266.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/07/2016   
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In the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) a one-digit code is assigned to each broad group in the classification. A two or three-digit code is assigned to each narrow group, and a four-digit code is assigned to each religious group.

The ASCRG code scheme has been devised so that any future changes to the classification structure can be easily accommodated. For example, when a religious group is added to ASCRG it is allocated a previously unused code, and when a religious group is deleted its code is retired and not used again.

Broad group level

The first level of the classification, the broad group level, comprises seven categories and provides a broad overall picture of the religious affiliation of the Australian population. The broad groups covering the major religions are arranged alphabetically, and are represented by one-digit codes.

They are:

1 Buddhism
2 Christianity
3 Hinduism
4 Islam
5 Judaism
6 Other Religions
7 Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation

Narrow group level

Several narrow groups are represented by a three-digit code, the first digit indicating the broad group to which they belong. For example, within the Christianity broad group (code 2), Anglican is code 201, Baptist is code 203, and Brethren is code 205.

Religious group level

At the third and most detailed level, religious groups are represented by a four-digit code. The first three digits represent the broad and narrow groups to which they belong.

For example:
Religious groups 2012 Anglican Church of Australia, and 2013 Anglican Catholic Church, both fall within the Anglican narrow group (code 201) and the Christianity broad group (code 2).

2 Christianity
201 Anglican
2012 Anglican Church of Australia
2013 Anglican Catholic Church
2019 Anglican, nec

Why there are two-digit and three-digit codes in narrow groups?

Narrow groups generally consist of nine or less religious groups and are generally expressed as three-digit codes. However, some exceptions to this coding scheme were necessary to allow for narrow groups which comprise more than nine religious groups to be represented, for example, Pentecostal Religions (code 24), and Other Protestant Religions (code 28).

For example:
The Pentecostal narrow group is represented by code 24, within which 19 religious groups are represented by four-digit codes ranging from 2401 Apostolic Church (Australia), to 2499 Pentecostal, nec.

2 Christianity
24 Pentecostal
2401 Apostolic Church (Australia)
2402 Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God)
2403 Bethesda Ministries International (Bethesda Churches)
2404 C3 Church Global (Christian City Church)
2406 International Network of Churches (Christian Outreach Centres)
2407 CRC International (Christian Revival Crusade)
2411 Foursquare Gospel Church
2412 Full Gospel Churches of Australia (Full Gospel Church)
2413 Revival Centres
2414 Rhema Family Church
2415 United Pentecostal
2416 Acts 2 Alliance
2417 Christian Church in Australia
2418 Pentecostal City Life Church
2421 Revival Fellowship
2422 Victory Life Centre
2423 Victory Worship Centre
2424 Worship Centre Network
2499 Pentecostal, nec

The 2016 review extended the use of two-digit narrow groups to Miscellaneous Religions (code 69) and all the narrow groups in the expanded broad group 7 'Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation'.

If processing or storage systems require all categories at a particular level of the classification to use the same number of digits, it is recommended the codes of these two-digit narrow groups are backfilled by use of the digit zero e.g. 240 Pentecostal, 280 Other Protestant, 290 Other Christian.


'Not elsewhere classified' (nec)

Some narrow groups include residual 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) religious group categories. These categories are represented by four-digit codes consisting of the two or three-digits of the narrow group code, followed by the digits 99 or 9. All religious groups which are not separately identified in the classification are notionally included in the nec category of the narrow group to which they relate. The classification currently has 14 nec categories at the religious group level for narrow groups where ABS experience indicates they are required.

'Other' or 'Miscellaneous'

In some broad groups, codes are also reserved for residual categories at the narrow group level. These codes consist of the broad group code followed by 9 or 99. These categories are termed 'Other' or 'Miscellaneous' categories and consist of separately identified religious groups which do not fit into other narrow groups on the basis of the classification criteria. The classification currently contains three such residual categories.

Additional residual categories

Provision exists in the code structure for the creation of additional residual categories. If experience indicates the need for further residual categories, the ABS will create them and add them to the classification structure. Residual categories are part of the classification structure and should not be created or used merely to 'dump' responses containing insufficient data to code to a separately identified category of the classification.


Supplementary codes are used to process inadequately described responses in statistical collections and are listed separately in the ASCRG data cube.

Supplementary codes are not part of the classification structure. Supplementary codes exist for operational reasons only, and no data would be coded to them if sufficiently detailed responses were obtained in all instances.

The codes are of three types:
  • four-digit codes ending with one or more zeros
  • four-digit codes commencing with three zeros
  • to meet specific needs.

Supplementary codes ending in zero

Codes ending in zero are described as 'not further defined' (nfd) codes and are used to code responses to a question about religious affiliation which cannot be coded to the four-digit (religious group) level of the classification but which can be coded to a higher level of the classification structure.

For example, responses which cannot be identified as relating directly to a particular religious group, but which are known to be within the range of religions relating to a particular narrow group, are coded to that narrow group. Such responses are allocated an nfd code consisting of the two or three-digit code of the narrow group followed by 00 or 0.

Similarly, responses which do not contain sufficient information to be related directly to a particular religious group, or to a narrow group, but which are known to be within the range of religions relating to a particular broad group, are coded to that broad group. Such responses are allocated an nfd code consisting of the one-digit code of the broad group followed by 000. For instance, the response 'Christian' does not contain sufficient information to be related directly to a religious group or a narrow group, but it can be coded to broad group 2 Christianity, which encompasses all Christian religions. It is allocated the code 2000 Christianity, nfd.

Religion responses which can only be coded at the broad or narrow group levels of the classification can be processed within a collection and coded at the four-digit level using a supplementary code based on the broad or narrow group code.

There are some cases where the classification structure would, in theory, support the creation of a supplementary nfd code not already included in the range of valid supplementary codes. For example, no nfd code has been created for narrow group 207 Catholic. The response 'Catholic' is allocated to the category 2071 Western Catholic.

Supplementary codes starting with zero

Four-digit codes commencing with 000 are supplementary codes included for operational purposes to facilitate the coding of responses which present particular problems in that they cannot be allocated one particular religious group, narrow group or broad group code, for example, inadequately described religious affiliations.

Currently the only supplementary codes, for operational purposes are:
  • 0000 Inadequately described (this code replaces former supplementary code 0003 Not Defined)
  • 0001 Not stated.

Three supplementary codes have been removed. They are:
  • 0002 Religious Belief, nfd
  • 0004 New Age, so described
  • 0005 Theism.

Analysis of data from the 2005 and 2011 Censuses of Population and Housing, which had been attributed to these supplementary codes, indicated that there was scope to incorporate the data collected in the expansion of broad group 7, which has been renamed 'Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation'. This change should make the data output more useful.

Supplementary codes for specific needs

In ASCRG 2011 Second Edition Revision 1, a number of supplementary codes were included to meet specific needs. They were:
  • 2001 Apostolic Church, so described
  • 2002 Church of God, so described
  • 2003 Australian Christian Churches, so described
  • 2004 New Church Alliance, so described.

An analysis of 2011 Census of Population and Housing data indicated most of the data coded to 2001, 2002 and 2004 could be coded to '2000 Christian, nfd'. Code '2003 Australian Christian Churches, so described' was implemented when there was some uncertainty about the use of this term. Analysis of the 2011 Census of Population and Housing responses indicated that the data should all be coded to the religious group which has formally changed its name from 'Assemblies of God' to 'Australian Christian Churches' (code 2402). Therefore, these codes have been removed from the list of supplementary codes.

Effectively, as a result of the 2016 review analysis, the four supplementary codes for specific needs have been made redundant.