1249.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2019  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/12/2019   
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About the classification

The ASCCEG is the Australian statistical standard for classifying cultural and ethnic groups. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) endorses the use of this classification for collecting, aggregating and disseminating data relating to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Australian population. Use of the 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 the ASCCEG in October 2000. A second edition was published in 2005 and revisions to the second edition were published in 2011, 2016 and 2019.

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.


The words 'ethnicity' and 'ethnic' are associated with many different meanings. For the purposes of the ASCCEG, 'ethnicity' refers to the shared identity or similarity of a group of people on the basis of one or more distinguishing characteristics.

These characteristics include:

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.

The description of ethnicity and distinguishing characteristics were established in the report of the 1986 Population Census Ethnicity Committee, chaired by the late Professor W.D. Borrie CBE (published in ABS cat. no. 2172.0 - The Measurement of Ethnicity in the Australian Census of Population and Housing) (the Borrie Report). The key factor for the inclusion of an ethnic group is the group regarding itself and being 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.

Self-perceived group identification has influenced the content of the ASCCEG more so than historical origins. Cultural and ethnic groups are included to enable:

    Measurement of the extent to which individuals associate with particular groups. Measuring active association produces data for groups which is useful for policy and service delivery needs. This means a number of categories that equate to national cultural identities are included, for example, Australian. A stronger emphasis on historical origins would have resulted in data for more groups with which individuals may have no or little social, cultural or economic affinity.
    The recommended method of collecting ethnicity or ancestry statistics in the ABS and other organisations. It is a self-assessed response to a direct question. No attempt is made to historically determine the origins of individuals.

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 a concept of what constitutes ethnicity and cultural identity. This approach supports the collection and use of data in statistical, administrative and service delivery settings.

Since the Borrie Report was published, the multicultural nature of Australian society has further developed but the approach to the definition of ethnicity in the report is still relevant and serves the purposes of the ASCCEG.

Scope of the classification

The scope of the 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 or identification with a cultural or ethnic group.

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