1216.0 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), July 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/10/2011  Final
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Contents >> Introduction >> Principles of the ASGC


The ASGC is constructed on the principle that it must fulfil user needs for spatial statistics while also conforming to general classification principles.

Classification principles

The ASGC is constructed on the basic classification principles that members within one class are of the same type, classes are uniquely defined so as to be mutually exclusive and, in total, the members in each class cover the entire class.

As a result, the geographical units of each hierarchical level in each classification structure of the ASGC are:

  • of the same type, delimited by well-defined criteria
  • clearly demarcated by precise boundaries
  • uniquely identified by codes and names
  • mutually exclusive
  • in aggregate cover the whole area to which that hierarchy applies.

User needs

The ASGC is designed to meet user needs for social, demographic and economic statistics. The smallest unit of the ASGC is the SLA which are designed such that they are:
  • useful and relevant for data dissemination
  • flexible for aggregation to larger units
  • useful building blocks for user-defined regions.

SLAs aggregate to other larger areas of the ASGC. Each geographical area serves a specific purpose and meets user needs.


For ASGC purposes, the ABS uses the definition of Australia as set out in section 17(a) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 which currently defines Australia or the Commonwealth as meaning:

‘…the Commonwealth of Australia and, when used in a geographical sense, includes the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but does not include any other external Territory.’

Following the incorporation of the Territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands into geographic Australia (by the Territories Law Reform Act, No. 104, 1992, which amended the Acts Interpretation Act 1901), these two territories were included in the ASGC from 1 July 1993. Other external territories (such as Norfolk Island) remain excluded. In addition, the treatment of Jervis Bay Territory in the ASGC changed from 1 July 1993.

Jervis Bay Territory was previously included with the Australian Capital Territory for statistical purposes because of its administrative association with the Australian Capital Territory and because its relatively small size prevented it from meeting confidentiality requirements for statistical output. Following the granting of self-government to the Australian Capital Territory in May 1989, the situation was reviewed and from the 1 July 1993 Edition of the ASGC, Jervis Bay Territory, along with the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, formed part of a new category, Other Territories, at the state/territory level. Although included as part of the ASGC, all three of these territories are currently regarded as out-of-scope for ABS censuses and surveys except for the Census of Population and Housing, population estimates, and Cause of Death.

There are a number of other definitions of Australia used for specific purposes by the ABS. For example the definition of Economic Australia, for international reporting purposes, is defined in the Standard Economic Sector Classification of Australia (cat. no. 1218.0) as the area under the effective control of the Australian government and includes Norfolk Island.

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