1270.0.55.001 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2016   
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The ABS uses two definitions of Australia:

  • Geographic Australia, used for social and demographic statistics
  • Economic Australia, used for economic statistics.


The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) uses the Geographic definition of Australia, as set out in section 2B 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 Norfolk Island, the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but does not include any other external Territory’.

Included in this definition of Geographic Australia are the:
  • States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  • Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Territory of Christmas Island
  • Jervis Bay Territory
  • Territory of Norfolk Island

Historically, Norfolk Island has been excluded from the definition of Geographic Australia. However, in 2015 the Australian Government announced reforms to the governance of Norfolk Island and from 1 July 2016 the definition of Geographic Australia (as described above) has been updated to now include the Territory of Norfolk Island. In line with this change, the 2016 ASGS has been updated to include the Territory of Norfolk Island within the 'Other Territories' category along with Jervis Bay Territory, the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island.

The ASGS excludes Macquarie Island, although it is legally part of Tasmania. Macquarie Island is an extremely isolated sub-Antarctic island in the Southern Ocean. It has no permanent population. Any population on Macquarie Island, for example scientific expeditions, is recorded in the Census of Population and Housing and is included in the Migratory - Offshore - Shipping Statistical Area Level 2 for Tasmania.

Jervis Bay Territory was previously included with the ACT for statistical purposes. However, because of its administrative association with the ACT and it’s relatively small size it did not meet confidentiality requirements for statistical output. Following the granting of self-government to the ACT in May 1989, this situation was reviewed. From the 1 July 1993 edition of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification, Jervis Bay Territory, along with the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island formed part of a new category, Other Territories, at the State/Territory level. This convention has continued with the ASGS.


Economic Australia is defined in the Standard Economic Sector Classification of Australia (cat. no. 1218.0) and is used solely for the production of statistics. Economic Australia differs from Geographic Australia in that it, in addition to the areas covered in Geographic Australia, includes:
  • Macquarie Island
  • Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands
  • Australian Antarctic Territory
  • Coral Sea Islands Territory
  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands
  • Joint Petroleum Development Area
  • Australian territorial waters
  • Australian territorial enclaves in foreign countries, such as Australia's embassies, consulates, trade offices, etc.

The ASGS does not use the Economic definition of Australia.


Both the Geographic and Economic definitions of Australia exclude foreign governments' territorial enclaves (for example embassies, consulates, scientific stations, information and immigration offices, etc.) located in Australia. Statistics are not collected or produced for the areas covered by these enclaves; however, for simplicity of production and use of the ASGS these areas are not excluded from the definition of ASGS regions or the geospatial representation of these ASGS regions in ABS products and services.