3228.0.55.001 - Population Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/06/2009   
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Contents >> Overview >> Estimated resident population


1.15 After the 1981 Census the concept of what constitutes the population of Australia and the states and territories was changed so that it was defined in terms of the number of usual residents - these new estimates (termed the estimated resident population, or ERP) were adopted as the official population series. Prior to this the population had been defined as the number of people actually present at a given time - at the time of the Census this meant the number of people actually counted and therefore included foreign tourists but excluded Australians abroad. Population estimates based on the concept of usual residence were constructed back to 1971.

1.16 Estimates of the resident population are compiled initially at the Census date by firstly adjusting the Census count of residents upwards to compensate for net underenumeration in the Census, and then further adjusting (also upwards) to include an estimate of the number of Australian residents who were temporarily overseas on Census Night.

1.17 A detailed account of the introduction of the ERP series is available in Methods and Procedures in the Compilation of Estimated Resident Population 1981 and in the Construction of the 1971-81 Time Series (cat. no. 3103.0).

1.18 Estimates of the resident population are updated quarterly at the state/territory level and annually at the SLA and LGA levels.

1.19 During the 1980s these statistics were further expanded with the addition of three new annual series (included in the following table). A complete listing of the population estimates series now published by the ABS is given in Table 1.2, with additional unpublished estimates available as indicated in the footnotes.

1.2 Published population estimates series, Geography by availability

Geography and population estimates series Availability of published estimates(a)

National and state/territory
Total population Quarterly
Age and sex Annual(b)
Age, sex and marital status Five-yearly
Age, sex and country of birth Annual(c)
Age, sex and Indigenous status Annual experimental estimates(d)
Statistical local area (SLA) and local government area (LGA)
Total population Annual
Age and sex Annual

(a) Quarterly estimates are available as at 31 March, 30 June, 30 September and 31 December. Annual and five-yearly estimates are available as at 30 June.
(b) Unpublished quarterly estimates also available.
(c) Population estimates by country of birth at the state/territory level are only available for Census years.
(d) Population estimates for the Indigenous population are experimental and are published every five years (after Census results are released).

Estimating population for the territories

1.20 Prior to the 1996 Census, no external territories were included in geographical Australia although Census data were collected for Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Following amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 effective from July 1992, the two external territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands became part of geographical Australia. Since the 1996 Census, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and the Jervis Bay Territory (previously linked to the Australian Capital Territory for statistical purposes) comprise a pseudo 'ninth state/territory' of Australia. They are included in state nine 'Other Territories'.

1.21 Although the Census and Statistics Act does not require quarterly estimation of the population for the territories, estimates for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories are produced as these territories are included in the geographical area of Australia, and, with the states, sum to the Australian population.

1.22 Estimates for the remaining Australian External Territories are updated annually as at 30 June unless a more recent estimate is required for electoral apportionment purposes under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Australian External Territories include Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Australian Antarctic Territory and Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands. It does not include Norfolk Island which is a self-governing territory of Australia (see the Norfolk Island Act 1979).

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