1249.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/07/2016   
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The Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) is the Australian statistical standard for classifying statistics by cultural and ethnic groups. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) endorses the use of this classification when collecting, aggregating and disseminating data relating to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Australian population. In addition to its use by the ABS, the ASCCEG is also designed for use in the broader Australian statistical community, including government agencies, private companies and community organisations. Use of ASCCEG by statistical, administrative and service delivery agencies improves the comparability and compatibility of data about ethnicity collected from different sources.

The ABS published the first edition of ASCCEG in October 2000. A second edition was published in 2005 and revisions to the second edition were published in 2011 and 2016.

The identification of cultural and ethnic groups in the classification, and the way in which they are grouped, does not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the ABS regarding the recognition of any group by governments, organisations or individuals, or the status accorded them. Nor does it imply the expression of any opinion concerning the relative merit or importance of particular cultural and ethnic groups or the peoples who belong to them.


ASCCEG is designed to be used for the classification of information relating to topics such as ancestry, ethnic identity, and cultural diversity. Although these topics have elements of difference, it is considered that the concept common to them all, and underpinning the classification, is ethnicity.

The words 'ethnicity' and 'ethnic' are associated with many different meanings. The Macquarie Dictionary (on line Edition 2016) provides the following Australian context:
1. relating to or peculiar to a human population or group, especially one with a common ancestry, language, etc
2. relating to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc, of such groups
3. of or relating to members of the Australian community who are migrants or the descendants of migrants and whose first language is not English
4. recognisable as coming from an identifiable culture.

For the purposes of ASCCEG, 'ethnicity' refers to the shared identity or similarity of a group of people on the basis of one or more factors. These factors were enunciated by the 1986 Population Census Ethnicity Committee (ABS Cat. No. 2172.0), chaired by the late Professor W.D. Borrie CBE, in The Measurement of Ethnicity in the Australian Census of Population and Housing report to the Australian Statistician (the Borrie Report). "The Committee considered that the most enlightening attempt to define an ethnic group is that contained in a United Kingdom Law Lords statement" (reported in Patterns of Prejudice, Vol 17, No. 2, 1983). The Law Lords noted the key factor as being the group regarding itself and is regarded by others, as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics, not all of which have to be present in the case of each ethnic group.

Several distinguishing characteristics were cited, including:

  • a long shared history, the memory of which is kept alive
  • a cultural tradition, including family and social customs, sometimes religiously based
  • a common geographic origin
  • a common language (but not necessarily limited to that group)
  • a common literature (written or oral)
  • a common religion
  • being a minority (often with a sense of being oppressed)
  • being racially conspicuous.

Since publication of the Borrie Report in 1984, the multicultural nature of Australian society has further developed; however, the approach to the definition of ethnicity in the Borrie Report is still relevant and serves the purposes of ASCCEG.

The approach of defining ethnic or cultural groups in terms of one or more relevant characteristics allows the notion of ethnicity to be viewed in broad sub-concepts. The Borrie Report describes these as a self perceived group identification approach, and an approach that is more historically determined. In ASCCEG, ethnicity is based on the self perceived group identification approach for a number of reasons:
  • Self perceived group identification measures the extent to which individuals associate with particular cultural or ethnic groups. A measure of active association produces data which is more useful in terms of policy and service delivery needs. An historically determined approach would produce data which relates individuals to groups with which they no longer have a particular affinity and with which they may have little social, cultural or economic similarity.
  • The method used to collect information on ethnicity or ancestry in the ABS and other organisations is self-perception based on a self assessed response to a direct question. No attempt is made to historically determine the origins of individuals. It is important for the concept underpinning the classification and the categories of the classification to be in harmony with this approach.
  • The use of self-perception results in the need to include a number of categories in the classification that equate to national cultural identities e.g. Australian.

Considering ethnicity as a multi dimensional concept based on a number of distinguishing characteristics using a self-perception approach allows for a practical and useful classification attuned to generally accepted notions of what constitutes ethnicity and cultural identity. This approach supports the collection and use of data in statistical, administrative and service delivery settings.


The scope of ASCCEG is all cultural and ethnic groups in the world as defined above. In practice, only those cultural and ethnic groups with significant numbers of persons resident in Australia are separately identified in the classification. Those groups not separately identified are included in the most appropriate residual (not elsewhere classified) category of the classification. Residual categories are explained in 'About Codes'.

The code structure of the classification allows for the addition of cultural and ethnic groups as needed.

The classification is not intended to classify people, but rather to classify all claims of association with a cultural or ethnic group.