4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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Australia is a vast country that has many different regions - from inner city to remote areas. These areas vary greatly in terms of:

  • geographical location and size
  • remoteness - access to services and opportunities
  • connections to other regions
  • population size and characteristics
  • local economy - major industries, businesses, employment
  • the natural environment - including climate, natural features, and natural resources
  • built environment and infrastructure.

Availability of information at a regional level is important in understanding local circumstances of communities across Australia for:
  • improved planning for regional economies and communities
  • targeted service delivery
  • community level decision making.


Improving wellbeing of people and communities is a common aspiration of Australian society, regardless of where people live and work. The social, cultural, economic, and environmental conditions where people live their lives has a large impact on their quality of life. These factors contribute to overall wellbeing, both of individuals and the communities of which they are a member. It is important to understand how different regions are able to respond, cope with and recover from the pressures of change. Changes at the regional level may have a substantial impact in the region without having a noticeable national impact.

Regions around the country face the challenges of:
  • managing resident population growth or decline and population ageing
  • responding to major and minor natural disasters, and other more gradual environmental changes
  • managing the population flows through or within a region
  • improving livability - provision of services, culture and leisure activities, infrastructure and desirability of the region as a place to live, work or visit
  • strengthening the local economy and employment opportunities
  • managing impacts to the local environment.

Associated with this are challenges of managing:
  • differences in social, economic and health outcomes across regions
  • the changing demand for education and health services with population ageing
  • regional migration patterns - including for young people, older people, people looking for employment opportunities, people looking for a sea change or tree change
  • cultural and social barriers to accessing services and infrastructure
  • the capacity for community level decision making.


Regional Australia is a term commonly used to refer to the areas of Australia outside the major cities and their immediate surrounds. However, from a statistical perspective the term 'regional' refers to any region below state and territory level. This includes urban, rural, metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, including capital cities.

There are many ways to identify a region within a country. For example, it can be identified according to its administrative boundaries, whether it represents an electoral district, according to the space where people travel to work, according to the geographical features or economic functions. It is important to explicitly set out what is meant by the term 'regional' and understand how it relates to the collection and disaggregation of information by geographical area. It is important to choose a regional scale which reflects both the area of interest and the level oft progress for that area.

There are many ways in which populations can be counted for a region, including:
  • resident population - people who usually live in a region
  • point-in-time populations, including any short-stay residents and temporary visitors, such as holiday makers
  • service populations, those who come to the area and receive services over a period of time
  • the "ratepayers" who own businesses or homes in a region (but may not live there permanently)
  • the labour force in a region, including commuters and long distance commuters (Fly-in-Fly-out (FIFO) workers)
  • short-term occupants of an area - including workers, shoppers, students and other visitors.

Resident and service populations may be defined in different ways and it is important to be clear about what is the population of interest.

There are a number of key challenges in the provision of data for small geographic areas including:
  • the cost of collecting and/or producing small area data
  • practical difficulties related to collecting information in remote geographical locations
  • the extent to which any data set may be reliably output at regional levels can be restricted because the size of the population may be too small to analyse without risking a breach of privacy, or because the data source may not have sufficient administrative records or survey sample to undertake reliable analysis for a region
  • ensuring that socio-economic data sets (data for people, dwellings and businesses) are consistently geospatially enabled so the data released can be integrated with data from other socio-economic datasets and used for spatial analyses (see Statistical Spatial Framework for more information on geospatially enabling data)
  • the many ways in which people relate to the regions in which they live, work, visit, shop, holiday in, or travel through. Understanding and measuring service populations, or population flows through or within a region can be more challenging, compared to resident population data which is readily available
  • the difficulty in allocating the economic activity of businesses and governments to regions. The regional distribution of business activity and inter-regional trade are often unknown and can only be estimated. Businesses may have many regional outlets or production centres and may interact with many different customers, suppliers, distributors or producers across different regions. Some businesses are inherently mobile, such as the transport industry, or are distributed services, such as a mobile phone network, and are difficult to pin down to any particular region. The way in which economic activity is allocated regionally for analysis depends on what is of interest (e.g. employment, production, business performance, or regional economic diversity)
  • understanding the interconnectedness of regions. People travel between regions, perhaps living in one region and working in another, socialising and spending money, accessing services (such as education and health) or enjoying the natural environment in other regions. The social, economic and environmental progress in one region can be related to, and affected by, what happens in other regions. It is important to consider the jurisdictional boundaries, links between regions, relationship and dependencies between different regions, and the movement of people across boundaries.


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) - The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is the ABS' geographical framework. The ASGS brings all the regions for which the ABS publishes statistics within the one classification framework.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, July 2011, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001) - This publication details the various structures and regions of the ASGS.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Spatial Framework - This Framework provides Australia with a common approach to connecting people-centric (socio-economic) information to a location, and improves the accessibility and usability of this location-enabled information.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Research Paper: A Review of Selected Regional Industrial Diversity Indexes, (cat. no. 1381.0.55.001) - Contains information on methods for measurement of industry diversity with examples using Population Census data.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Population Grid, (cat. no. 1270.0.55.007) - A population grid presenting Usual Resident Population (URP) data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing using 1km2 grid cells across Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1999, Service Population Pilot Study: An Investigation to Assess the Feasibility of Producing Service Population Estimates for Selected LGAs, (cat. no. 3117.0) - This paper provides some useful explanations of the concept of service populations.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Perspectives on Regional Australia: Comparing Census Night and Usual Resident Populations in Local Government Areas, (cat no. 1380.0.55.009) - This article uses Census data to compare two different types of populations in local government areas (LGAs) - the population that usually lives in an LGA and the population that was there on Census Night in 2011.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006-2011, Perspectives on Regional Australia, Population Growth and Turnover in Local Government Areas (LGAs), (cat. no. 1380.55.007) - Contains an analysis of population change for regions, using Population Census data.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Glossary of Statistical Geography Terminology, (cat. no. 1217.0.55.001) - Contains brief explanations and definitions of various geographical terms and classifications used in ABS products.

Productivity Commission, May 2014, Geographic Labour Mobility - This study examines patterns of mobility, impediments and enablers, and their effect on the ability to meet Australia's continually changing workforce and employment needs.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), How's life in your region? - A web tool for measuring wellbeing in a particular region and comparing it with other OECD regions based on nine topics central to the quality of people's lives.

An Australian Government Initiative, MyRegion - Provides useful information on regions in Australia by state and territory.


Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

The ASGS brings all the regions for which the ABS publishes statistics within the one classification framework and is used by the ABS for the collection and dissemination of geographically classified statistics. It is the framework for understanding and interpreting the geographical context of statistics published by the ABS. The ABS also encourages the use of the ASGS by other organisations to improve the comparability and usefulness of statistics generally.

Remoteness Structure

The Remoteness Structure for the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) 2011, has five categories based on an aggregation of geographical areas which share common characteristics of remoteness, determined in the context of Australia as a whole. These categories are:
  • Major cities of Australia
  • Inner regional Australia
  • Outer regional Australia
  • Remote Australia
  • Very remote Australia.
The five categories are generally aggregated in some way for use in output.

The remoteness structure uses the Accessibility / Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+), which is widely used within the Australian community and has become recognised as a nationally consistent measure of geographic remoteness. ARIA+ is published as a 1 kilometre grid or matrix that covers the whole of Australia and is a continuous varying index with values ranging from 0 (high accessibility) to 15 (high remoteness).


Usually referring to geographic areas that are smaller than states or territories. Such regions can include:
  • statistical areas, such as Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and Statistical Areas level 1, 2, 3, and 4, which are defined in the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS);
  • administrative regions, such as Local Government Areas;
  • environmental regions, such as Natural Resource Management Regions;
  • service regions, such as Medicare Local Areas.

Geospatially enabled data

Geospatially enabled data is data that is associated with a location or region on or near the surface of the Earth. Geospatially enabled data often relates to the natural and built environment, but also includes observations of people and organisations, and the social and economic outcomes of human activity. Socio-economic data is often associated with points (defined latitude and longitude coordinates) or specific regions (designed to meet administrative or statistical requirements and defined by sets of coordinates).


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC).


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).

National Statistical Service, Statistical Spatial Framework.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Regional development.

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