Country of birth of mother (BPFP)

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Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period


This variable indicates the country in which a person’s mother was born.


All persons


Country of birth of mother is coded using the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016. The categories are listed in groups below. The full list is available from the Data downloads on this page. 

1 Oceania and Antarctica

2 North-West Europe

3 Southern and Eastern Europe

4 North Africa and the Middle East

5 South-East Asia

6 North-East Asia

7 Southern and Central Asia

8 Americas

9 Sub-Saharan Africa

 Supplementary Codes

Number of categories:

  • One-digit level: 12
  • Two-digit level: 39
  • Four-digit level: 293

See Understanding supplementary codes for more information.

Question(s) from the Census form

In which country was the person’s mother born?

How this variable is created

Country of birth of mother (BPFP) is a person variable that is created based on the response to country of birth of mother question. On the paper form, respondents may either use a mark box to indicate Australia or write the name of any other country in the text field. On the online form, the question uses a combination of mark boxes for the most frequent responses expected, accompanied by a text field to capture all other responses. The options are ordered based on the relative number of responses received in the 2016 Census.

Any typed country of birth response will also appear as an option for that person’s country of birth of mother.

The majority of responses for country of birth of person are captured automatically from the mark box response. Written responses are coded using a combination of automatic reading and coding processes. The remaining responses require manual coding processes when they cannot be coded or derived automatically.

If a person:

  • uses a former country name, it is coded to the current country name (for example, Siam would be coded to Thailand)
  • has marked Australia and given a text response, the responses are accepted in the order they appear on the form and the extra response is rejected
  • does not answer the question, and a mother has been identified for the family unit on the same Census form, then the mother’s birthplace is coded as the mother’s country of birth, for that respondent.

BPFP is coded using the SACC.  If a response is not listed in the classification, it is coded to 'Inadequately described'.

History and changes

A question relating to BPFP was first asked in the 1921 Census, but not included again until 1971 and has been included in all Australian censuses from 1971.

Prior to the 2001 Census, respondents were asked to write in their mother's birthplace as a text response.

From 2001 to 2011, the question was simplified to a simple mark box with two options for either Australia or Overseas. This was done following the introduction of a question on a person's ancestry.

For the 2016 Census, the question format was changed to again allow respondents to provide details for the country of birth of their mother where it was not Australia. Respondents were asked to use a mark box to respond for Australia, or a text field to specify any other country.

For the first time, the 2021 Census included instructions to provide guidance on situations where the birth parent is unknown and there is a second parent, or the person has same-sex parents.

There have been changes to the SACC for 2021:

  • 3302 'Czech Republic' has been changed to 'Czechia'
  • 9226 'Swaziland' has been changed to 'Eswatini'
  • 3206 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' has been changed to 'North Macedonia'
  • 2402 spelling of 'Faeroe Islands' has been changed to 'Faroe Islands'

Data use considerations

Data on country of birth provide important information on ethnicity when used with Ancestry multi response (ANCP), Language used at home (LANP) and Religious affiliation (RELP).

The non-response rate for Country of birth of mother (BPFP) was 5.6% in 2021. This is a decrease from 6.7% in 2016.

Related variables and glossary terms

Data downloads

Country of birth of mother classification

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