1003.0 - ABS News for Libraries, Nov 2007  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/12/2007   
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Shortcut: Finding Historical Statistics

Currently all ABS publications from 1994 onwards are available full-text on the ABS website.
This guide will help you find data from earlier publications:

Is there any historical data online?

Some historical demographic data is available online in
Australian Historical Population Statistics (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001)
  • this publication includes data from 1788 onwards, covering population size & growth, distribution, age-sex structure, births, deaths, migration and divorces.

Limited historical agricultural data is available online in:
Historical Selected Agricultural Commodities, by State (1861 to present), 2005 (cat. no. 7124.0)

What data is not yet online?

Other historical data is available in print publications. The entire collection of ABS publications from 1901 to 1993 is also available on microfiche.
  • These can be accessed from ABS collections in each State Library or the National Library of Australia, and many University Libraries also hold ABS publications in print or microfiche.
  • You can request copies or loans of items you require by an Interlibrary loan or document delivery request (check Libraries Australia to see which libraries have holdings). The ABS Library also has a deposit collection of all ABS publications.

How do I know which publication has the data I need?

There is a Historical Publication Index on the ABS website.
This is the online version of the Index to the Historical Microfiche series 1901 - 1993 (cat. no. 1123.0)
  • These indexes list the national output of the ABS, and its predecessor the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, from 1907 to 1993.
  • You can search by topic to locate individual publications, and track title changes, dates published, frequency, and catalogue numbers.

How do I find Colonial Statistics?

Before Federation in 1901, official statistics were collected by the six individual colonial statistical bureaus and their precursors.
  • A useful overview of colonial statistics can be found in the feature article Australian Statisticians and the Development of Official Statistics in Year Book Australia, 1988 (cat. no. 1301.0)
  • Colonial statistics include early censuses, Blue Books, State Statistical Registers and other items.
  • These are held in print in a variety of library collections including the National Library of Australia, State Libraries and the ABS.
  • In 1989 a microfiche of colonial statistics was produced, incorporating over 250,000 pages of information stored on more than 3,000 microfiche.
  • It was accompanied by a brief index: the Catalogue of Australian Statistical Publications 1804 to 1901 (cat. no. 1115.0).
  • The Catalogue provides a title and subject index to colonial statistics, so can be used to identify publications you may wish to request to access from a library; or as a guide for accessing the microfiche.

How do I find Historical Census Data?

Data from the 2006, 2001 and 1996 Censuses are available from the Census Homepage.

Census data 1911-1991
  • The first census conducted by the Commonwealth of Australia was in 1911.
  • Subsequent censuses were conducted in 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954 and 1961.
  • From 1961 a census has been conducted every five years.
  • Data from these censuses are available in a range of print publications - the Historical Publications Index, or Index to the Historical Microfiche series 1901 - 1993 lists these publications. Accessible in print or the Historical Microfiche series.
  • The Australian Social Science Data Archive (ASSDA) has a current digitisation project underway to make historical census data freely available online. Some historical Census data (1966-1991) is currently available to ASSDA member organisations online.
  • Some additional detailed Census data is available from the ABS, for example small area data, & cross-classified data not found in print output publications. This data can be requested on a fee-for-service basis from ABS Information Consultancy Services.

Colonial Census Statistics
  • Colonies conducted their own censuses from 1828 to 1886
  • The first simultaneous census of Australia was conducted in 1881 as part of the Census of the British Empire.
  • Much colonial census data is included in the Blue Books and various Statistical Registers of the colonies.
  • Colonial census publications are also included in the Colonial microfiche collection.
  • The microfiche collection includes the 1901 Census, which was the first and only Census to be carried out individually by each of the newly federated States.
  • Some colonial census data will be made available online from the Australian Social Science Data Archive (ASSDA) website in 2008 http://assda.anu.edu.au/
  • For data from early colonial musters, see the resources listed in the National Library of Australia guide Australian Censuses, Musters and Population Counts.
  • Summary demographic data is available online in Australian Historical Population Statistics (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001).

Coming soon
Year Book Australia editions will be available full-text online back to the first 1901-1907 edition. These previous issues will be released to the website on 26 January, 2008 (Australia Day).

Historical Census data from the Colonial period will soon be freely available online from the Australian Social Science Data Archive (ASSDA) website, from early 2008.

Need further assistance?
Contact the ABS National Helpline.