4906.0.55.003 - Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/11/2017   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All



The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) was conducted from November 2016 to May 2017. Key findings from the survey are presented in Personal Safety, Australia 2016 (cat. no. 4906.0).

The survey collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15. It also collected detailed information about men's and women's experience of:

  • Current and previous partner violence and emotional abuse since the age of 15
  • Experiences of stalking since the age of 15
  • Physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15
  • Witnessing violence between a parent and partner before the age of 15
  • Lifetime experience of sexual harassment
  • General feelings of safety

This was the third time the PSS has been conducted. The PSS was last run by the ABS in 2012, and prior to that in 2005. The PSS is based on the design of the Women's Safety Survey (cat. no. 4128.0) which was conducted in 1996, and has been adapted to include men's experience of violence. This publication includes some comparisons with PSS 2005, 2012 and Women's Safety Survey 1996 data where appropriate.

The 2016 PSS meets the need for updated information on the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women in Australia and other related information regarding people's safety at home and in the community that has not been collected since 2012.

The need for data on the prevalence of violence and sexual assault is discussed in The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 - 2022, and in the following ABS Information Papers:

There are no generally agreed or accepted standards for defining what constitutes violence. In developing the concepts and definitions used in the survey, the ABS was assisted by a Survey Advisory Group, which included members with legal and crime research backgrounds. Where appropriate, the definitions used were based on actions which would be considered as offences under State and Territory criminal law.

The ABS publishes data relating to crime from different sources, including both administrative and survey data. Different methodologies result in different statistics. For example, statistics from police records are different from those reported in household surveys because not all incidents are reported to the police. Also, responses in surveys may be affected by the ways in which questions are asked. Some of these measurement issues are discussed in: Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey data, June 2011 (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001).


Appropriate use and interpretation of the 2016 PSS results relies on knowledge of what information was collected, how it was collected and how the information was used to produce final estimates.

A comprehensive list of the survey questionnaire and data items is available in the Downloads tab of this User Guide.

This User Guide has also been developed to help facilitate correct understanding and interpretation of the published data.


ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, provided funding for the 2016 Personal Safety Survey.

The Survey Advisory Group provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and relevant academics.

The ABS would also like to thank the people who completed the survey. Their participation has contributed valuable information that will help to inform public debate about violence and will help further development of policies and programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of violence.