Design principles of the ASGS
The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is constructed on the principle that it must fulfil broad user needs for geospatially enabled statistics, while also conforming to general classification principles.
The ASGS is designed to meet broad user needs for social, demographic and economic statistics. The regions of the ASGS below the State or Territory level are designed such that they are:
- useful and relevant for data dissemination
- flexible for aggregation into larger geographic units
- useful building blocks for user-defined regions
The ASGS is constructed on the basic classification principles that:
- members within one class are of the same type
- classes are uniquely defined so as to be mutually exclusive
- in total, the members in each class cover the entire class
As a result, the regions of each hierarchical structure of the ASGS are:
- of the same type, delimited by well-defined criteria
- clearly defined by precise boundaries
- uniquely identified by codes and names
- mutually exclusive
- in aggregate, cover the whole area to which that hierarchy applies
The ASGS Edition 3 was designed in a GIS environment starting with Mesh Blocks and working up to Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s), Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) and then other geographies. Before beginning any changes to the ASGS the ABS conducted a review which included consultation both with key stakeholders and via the ABS Consultation Hub. Outcomes of the consultation are available in the Review outcomes for Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), 2020 publication.
Any changes made to ASGS boundaries carefully balance the need to maintain stability and continuity with the previous versions of the ASGS with the need to keep the boundaries relevant. In aid of this, 2016 ASGS boundaries were used as the base dataset and changes were focussed in two types of areas. Firstly, design was targeted at specific areas identified by ASGS users including government and the public, where the ASGS was not meeting user needs. Secondly, design was targeted at priority growth areas identified using quarterly updates to the ABS Address Register. Priority areas were generally inner-city areas and around the edges of capital cities. Changes were determined using ABS population data, local planning information and aerial imagery in conjunction with the ASGS criteria outlined in this publication. Boundaries were preferentially aligned to land parcel and property boundaries and road datasets where possible. Main Structure boundaries were updated over a period of 18 months, accounting for changes to dwellings and population over this time to ensure that boundaries are as accurate as possible on the night of the 2021 Census of Population and Housing.
Definition of Australia
The ABS uses two definitions of Australia:
- Geographic Australia - used for social and demographic statistics.
- Australia's Economic Territory - used for economic statistics.
The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) uses the geographic definition of Australia, as set out in section 2B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which currently defines Australia or the Commonwealth as:
‘…the Commonwealth of Australia and, when used in a geographic sense, includes Norfolk Island, the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but does not include any other external Territory’.
Included in this definition of Geographic Australia are the:
- States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania
- Northern Territory
- Australian Capital Territory
- Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Territory of Christmas Island
- Jervis Bay Territory
- Norfolk Island
Historically, Norfolk Island has been excluded from the definition of Geographic Australia. However, in 2015 the Australian Government announced reforms to the governance of Norfolk Island and from 1 July 2016 the definition of Geographic Australia (as described above) includes Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island, the Jervis Bay Territory, the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island form the Other Territories category at the State and Territory level.
The ASGS excludes Macquarie Island, although it is legally part of Tasmania. Macquarie Island is an extremely isolated sub-Antarctic island in the Southern Ocean. It has no permanent population. Any population on Macquarie Island, for example on scientific expeditions, is recorded in the Census of Population and Housing and is included in the ‘Migratory - Offshore - Shipping’ Statistical Area Level 2 for Tasmania.
Australia’s Economic Territory
Australia’s Economic Territory is defined in the Standard Economic Sector Classification of Australia and is used solely for the production of statistics. Australia's Economic Territory differs from Geographic Australia in that it also includes:
- Australian Antarctic Territory
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands
- Territory of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Islands
- Coral Sea Islands
- Australian territorial enclaves overseas
The ASGS does not use Australia’s Economic Territory definition.
Exclusions from Geographic and Economic Australia
Both the geographic and economic definitions of Australia exclude foreign governments' territorial enclaves (for example embassies, consulates, scientific stations, information and immigration offices) located in Australia. Statistics are not collected or produced for the areas covered by these enclaves; however, for simplicity of production and use of the ASGS these areas are not excluded from the definition of ASGS regions or the geospatial representation of these ASGS regions in ABS products and services.
Glossary of key terms
Area is a generalised term that can be used when referring to part or parts of the Earth’s surface and is used interchangeably with regions throughout the ASGS publication.
Boundaries are lines drawn on the Earth’s surface to separate different areas or regions.
A functional area is the area from which people come to access services at a centre. This centre may be a rural town, a regional city, a commercial and transport hub within a major city, or the major city itself.
A term used to describe the defined areas that make up each of the ASGS structures. For example, Mesh Blocks are the smallest geographic areas defined by the ABS.
A term that in the context of the ASGS, refers to the individual structures that make up the classification.
The ABS approximation of locality relates to the Urban Centre and Locality (UCL) Structure where a Locality is generally a population centre of between 200 and 999 'usual residents', however, a Locality may contain a population exceeding 1,000 people if it does not meet the criteria for an Urban Centre.
Also see Suburbs and Localities.
Location is a general term to describe a place on or near the surface of the Earth. Location data is information that has any location component and is often used when referring to geospatial information.
An Australian postcode is a four digit code created and maintained by Australia Post to guide the delivery of mail. As this is a commonly recognised code, many people use it as a general geographic region for their data. The ABS creates approximate postcode boundaries using Mesh Blocks, called Postal Areas (POAs). Authoritative boundaries for postcodes are not publicly available, and postcodes are not recommended as a source of geocoding information.
Also see Postal Areas.
The ABS Postal Areas (POA) are part of the ASGS Non ABS Structures. Since the 2016 edition of the ASGS, POAs have been built up from Mesh Blocks. The allocation of Mesh Blocks to POAs was determined using the best available information on postcodes. Authoritative boundaries for postcodes are not publicly available, and postcodes are not recommended as a source of geocoding information.
Also see Postcodes.
Region is a general term for a geographic area or boundary of any type: for example Suburb, Local Government Area, Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) to Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4), Remoteness Areas. A region may include all or part of an urbanised area, including capital cities.
Regional is a term that refers to those areas that fall outside of a major city. Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia are categories within the ASGS Remoteness Structure.
Remote Australia is a category in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Remoteness Structure and has an SA1 average ARIA+ value greater than 2.4 and less than or equal to 5.92.
Rural is a term that refers to those areas which are not part of any ‘Urban' area in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Section of State (SOS) Structure. The Bounded Locality and Rural Balance categories of SOS make up 'Rural' Australia.
Social geography reflects the location of people and communities.
Statistical Areas are geographic units defined in the ASGS as a part of the Main Structure classification (for example Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1), Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) etc).
A statistical geography is a structure made up of individual geographic units which together cover the entire area on which statistics are collected, analysed and shared. For the ASGS the area covered is Geographic Australia.
See Suburbs and Localities.
Suburbs and Localities
Suburbs and Localities (SALs) are part of the ASGS Non ABS Structures. SALs are created to enable the release of ABS data on areas that, as closely as possible, approximate the suburbs and localities that are built and maintained by Geoscape Australia using government data. The ABS SALs are approximated using one or more Mesh Blocks from the ASGS.
SALs were referred to as State Suburbs (SSCs) in previous versions of the ASGS.
The ABS does not explicitly define towns. However, the ABS approximates urban areas and localities (or rural suburbs) with populations of over 200 people in Urban Centres and Localities (UCLs). There are many small towns with populations of less than 200 people which are not included as UCLs. These small towns and other urban areas are generally represented by State Government Localities, and these are represented in the ASGS in the Suburbs and Localities (SAL) classification (formerly referred to as State Suburbs (SSCs)).
Uniform Resource Identifier (URI)
An attribute on all ASGS boundaries which can be used in web linked data applications.
The ABS defines 'Urban' in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Section of State (SOS) Structure as areas which are not part of any 'Rural' area. The 'Major Urban' and 'Other Urban' categories of SOS are considered to make up 'Urban' Australia.
Urban Centre and Locality
The Urban Centre and Locality (UCL) Structure is part of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).
An 'Urban Centre' is generally a population centre with a 'core urban population' of 1,000 or more people. A 'Locality' is generally a population centre of between 200 and 999 people. People living in Urban Centres are classified as urban for statistical purposes, while those in 'Localities' are classified as rural.
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Capital Territory
Australian Drainage Division
Australian Electoral Commission
Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia
Australian Standard Geographical Classification
Australian Statistical Geography Standard
Commonwealth Electoral Division
Greater Capital City Statistical Area
Geocentric Datum of Australia 1994
Geocentric Datum of Australia 2020
Local Government Area
New South Wales
Natural Resource Management Region
Statistical Area Level 1
Statistical Area Level 2
Statistical Area Level 3
Statistical Area Level 4
Suburbs and Localities
State Electoral Division
Section of State
Section of State Range
State or Territory
State or Territory
Significant Urban Area
Urban Centres and Localities