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3228.0.55.001 - Population Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2009  
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Contents >> Overview >> Population musters and colonial censuses

POPULATION MUSTERS AND COLONIAL CENSUSES

1.4 Basic enumerations of the population have been made since the early days of European settlement in Australia. These early enumerations were known as 'musters'. The first official 'muster' was taken in 1788 soon after a new settlement at Sydney Cove was formed, and in 1803 the first 'muster' of convicts in Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania) was conducted.

1.5 A Census conducted in New South Wales in 1828 became the first in a regular series in that colony and periodic censuses were taken in the other Australian colonies. The dates of these colonial censuses are shown in Table 1.1. The first simultaneous censuses of all the Australian colonies were taken in 1881 - this also formed part of the first simultaneous Census of the British Empire. The first national Census for Australia was taken in 1911. This national Census was followed by others in 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954 and 1961. Since 1961 censuses have been conducted at five-yearly intervals.

1.6 Censuses provide comprehensive data on the Australian population, cross-classified by a wide range of socio-economic characteristics and for a variety of geographic areas. It is also the optimal source for small area data and sub-populations. These data are referred to as 'Census counts' and are available as at Census dates only.

1.1 Population censuses in Australia - 1828 to 2006

Census date
Year
NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.

1828
November
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1833
2 September
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1836
2 September
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1841
2 March
. .
. .
. .
. .
27 September
. .
. .
. .
1844
. .
. .
. .
26 February
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1846
2 March
. .
. .
26 February
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1847
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
31 December
. .
. .
. .
1848
. .
. .
. .
. .
10 October
. .
. .
. .
. .
1851
1 March
. .
. .
1 January
. .
1 March
. .
. .
. .
1854
. .
(a)26 April
. .
. .
30 September
. .
. .
. .
. .
1855
. .
. .
. .
31 March
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1856
1 March
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1857
. .
29 March
. .
. .
. .
31 March
. .
. .
. .
1859
. .
. .
. .
. .
31 December
. .
. .
. .
. .
1861
7 April
7 April
(a)7 April
7 April
. .
7 April
. .
. .
. .
1864
. .
. .
1 January
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1866
. .
. .
. .
26 March
. .
. .
(b). .
. .
. .
1868
. .
. .
2 March
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1870
. .
. .
. .
. .
31 March
7 February
. .
. .
. .
1871
2 April
2 April
1 September
2 April
. .
. .
(b). .
. .
. .
1876
. .
. .
1 May
26 March
. .
. .
(b). .
. .
. .
1881
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
. .
3 April
1886
. .
. .
1 May
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
. .
1891
5 April
5 April
5 April
5 April
5 April
5 April
5 April
. .
5 April
1901
31 March
31 March
31 March
31 March
31 March
31 March
31 March
. .
31 March
1911
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
3 April
(a)3 April
3 April
1921
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
4 April
1933
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1947
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1954
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1961
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1966
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1971
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1976
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1981
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1986
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
30 June
1991
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
1996
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
6 August
2001
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
7 August
2006
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August
8 August

. . not applicable
(a) Previously included with New South Wales.
(b) The Northern Territory was included with South Australia for the censuses of 1866, 1871 and 1876. The Northern Territory was not transferred to the Commonwealth until 1 January 1911.
Source: Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 53, 1967; ABS, Informing a Nation: the Evolution of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1905-2005, cat. no. 1382.0, 2005; ABS, Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing, ABS Views on Content and Procedure , 2006, cat. no. 2007.0, 2003.



Publication of population estimates

1.7 In 1910, on the basis of the early 'musters' and other colonial records, an annual series of population totals for the states was published for all years commencing from 1788, the year of the first European settlement in Australia (Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, 1910). This series is still maintained by the ABS as the electronic product Australian Historical Population Statistics (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001). Population totals disaggregated by sex are available from 1796 onwards.

1.8 Annual estimates of the population by single year of age and sex for Australia as a whole commenced in 1921 and for the states in 1961. Quarterly updates have been required by law for states since 1977 (see sub-section 9(2) of the Census and Statistics Act 1905).

1.9 Annual estimates of the total population in local government areas (LGAs) have been published for New South Wales from 1911, Victoria from 1875, Queensland from 1911, South Australia from 1915, Western Australia from 1926, Tasmania from 1923 and the Northern Territory from 1981. Estimates of the total population in localities for the Australian Capital Territory have been published from 1968.

1.10 Annual estimates of the total population in statistical local areas (SLAs) have been published since 1986.

1.11 The ABS is currently building a new Australian statistical geography. From 2011 this new statistical geography will replace the current Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). See the Review of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification, 2007 (cat. no. 1216.0.55.001) for more information.





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