Place of usual residence (PURP)

Latest release
Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period


This variable records the geographic area in which a person usually lives. It may or may not be the place where the person was counted on Census Night. The base area for Place of usual residence (PURP) is a mesh block (MB). These can be aggregated to form higher Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) areas.

For details of these areas refer to the ASGS.


All persons


Code             Category
 In addition to the ASGS geographic areas, the following categories are also included:
 Migratory, off-shore and shipping
 No usual address
VVVVOverseas visitor

Number of categories:  Total number of categories will depend on the geographic level chosen

See Understanding supplementary codes for more information.

Special purpose code definitions

Special purpose codesDefinition
MigratoryUsed to code people who are in transit on long distance trains, buses, aircraft and long-haul road transport vehicles on Census Night.
Off-shoreUsed to code people who are on oil rigs and drilling platforms etc. on Census Night.  Also used for expeditioners in the Australian Antarctic Territory.
ShippingUsed to code people who are on board vessels in Australian waters, in or between Australian ports on Census Night.
No usual addressUsed to code people who have no fixed address, such as travellers who move across Australia.

Question(s) from the Census form

What is the address of this dwelling?

Where does the person usually live?

How this variable is created

For people who are at home on Census Night, Place of usual residence (PURP) is automatically derived from their place of enumeration.  

People who usually lived overseas are coded as ‘Overseas visitors’.

People who have 'no usual address' are instructed on the Census form to write 'None' in the suburb/locality field for the usual address question. Each state/territory has one Statistical area 1 (SA1) and Statistical area 2 (SA2) imputed specifically for these responses.

Shipping SA1s and Offshore SA1s are also valid for PURP.

For people who live elsewhere in Australia, address details that are provided on the form are coded to mesh block (MB) where possible using automatic or clerical processes. MBs are the smallest geographical unit in the ABS and form the basis for the larger regions of the ASGS.

Where incomplete address of usual residence is given, PURP is imputed at different geography levels using the ASGS. The variable Imputation flag for place of usual residence (IFPURP) indicates if a person's PURP was imputed in the Census, and to what level. For more information about imputation, see imputation in the Census Glossary.

Migratory SA1s are invalid for place of usual residence and such responses are imputed to a valid spatial SA1.

History and changes

A question relating to place of usual residence was first asked in the 1971 Census and has been asked at every Census since then. Prior to the 1961 Census, questions did not differentiate between place of enumeration and place of usual residence.

Since the 2001 Census, an additional note was included: 'For persons who usually live in another country and who are visiting Australia for less than one year, mark 'Other country'.

The categories in this variable have changed to reflect the updated ASGS used for the 2021 Census. Provision is also made for persons who indicate that they have no usual place of residence.

Prior to 2016, usual address information for persons staying in a non-private dwelling (hotel, hospitals) on Census Night was recorded on a Summary form by a Census Field Officer. In 2016, under the new enumeration method, usual address information was no longer collected during the non-private dwelling enumeration process. If a form was not returned by a respondent in a non-private dwelling, demographic information including their usual address was imputed based on people in similar non-private dwellings. 

For 2021, instructional text was added to aid people without a fixed or return address by including examples ‘due to family conflict’ or ‘eviction’.

Data use considerations

The technical definition of usual residence refers to the address at which a person lives or intends to live for six months or more. However, the data is self-reported and sometimes, the address that is reported may be what respondents consider their 'usual address' rather than the technical definition. People visiting Australia from another country for less than one year are considered overseas visitors.

Using the Imputation Flag for Place of Usual Residence (IFPURP), the non-response rate for Place of usual residence (PURP) at the Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) geographic level was 4.3% in 2021. This is a decrease from 5.4% in 2016. 

The non-response rate at the Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) geographic level was 4.4% in 2021. This is a decrease from 5.5% in 2016. For more information on imputation, see Census Methodology.

Related variables and glossary terms

Back to top of the page