1200.0.55.009 - Ancestry Standard, 2014, Version 2.1  
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This document was added 04/04/2017.



Classification criteria are the principles by which classification categories are aggregated to form broader or higher level categories in a classification structure.

The classification criteria and the way they have been applied have produced a classification structure that can be described in conventional terms: cultural and ethnic entities grouped to form narrow groups on the basis of geographic proximity and similarity in terms of cultural and social characteristics; and narrow groups aggregated to form broad groups on the basis of geographic proximity and a degree of similarity in terms of their characteristics.

More details regarding the classification criteria are included in the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) (ABS catalogue number 1249.0).


The ASCCEG is to be used when collecting, aggregating and disseminating data relating to the variable Ancestry. The ASCCEG is designed to be used in the classification of information relating to ancestry. The term 'ethnicity' is used in the context of the ASCCEG, but only to describe a shared identity or similarity of a group of people on the basis of one or more factors e.g. shared history, cultural traditions, religion and/or language. In this sense, the term 'ethnicity' can, of course, be applied to all members of the Australian population. 'Australian' or 'Aboriginal' are valid descriptors of ethnicity.

The classification has a three level hierarchical structure. The third and most detailed level of the classification consists of base or third-level units which are ethnic origin or cultural groups. Included in the third-level units are a number of 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) categories, which contain ethnic origin or cultural groups that are not listed separately in the classification.

The second level of the classification comprises narrow groups of ethnic origin and cultural groups which are similar in terms of the classification criteria (geographic proximity in terms of the areas in which they originated, a long shared history, and similarity in terms of social and cultural characteristics).

The first and most general level of the classification comprises broad groups of ethnic origin and cultural groups. Broad groups are formed by aggregating geographically proximate narrow groups.

In the classification, one digit codes, two digit codes and four digit codes are assigned to the first level, second level and third level categories of the classification respectively. The first digit identifies the broad group in which each cultural and ethnic origin group or Narrow Group is contained. The first two digits taken together identify the narrow group in which each base level cultural and ethnic group is contained. The four digit codes represent each of the base level cultural and ethnic origin groups. For example, the code 2 represents the Broad Group North-West European; the code 21 represents the Narrow Group British which is included within North-West European; and the code 2101 represents English which is included in the Narrow Group British.

The following example demonstrates the code scheme for the narrow groups and cultural and ethnic groups included under the broad group North-West European:

Channel Islander
2199British, nec
23Western European
2399Western European, nec
24Northern European
2499Northern European, nec

The full standard classification and code structure are included in the ASCCEG.

The standard input categories for the Ancestry question module are the base-level units of the ASCCEG and are represented by their four digit codes. For operational reasons, supplementary codes also exist to enable inadequately described responses to be processed within a collection and coded at the four digit level.


For each narrow group of the classification structure, a four digit code, consisting of the two digits of the narrow group followed by the digit '99', is reserved as a residual 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) category. Cultural and ethnic origin groups which are not separately identified in the classification structure are included in the residual (nec) category of the narrow group to which they refer. Residual categories are only identified in the classification structure if they are needed. The classification currently identifies 23 residual categories.

In each broad group, codes are also reserved for residual categories at the narrow group level. These codes consist of the broad group code followed by '9'. These categories are termed 'other' and consist of separately identified cultural and ethnic groups which do not fit into any of the narrow groups contained within the broad group on the basis of the classification criteria. The classification contains 2 such residual categories.

Residual categories are part of the standard classification and should not be created or used to code responses which contain sufficient information to be accurately assigned to another category of the classification. For more details regarding the residual categories and codes used when coding ancestry, see the ASCCEG.


Supplementary codes are used to process inadequately described responses in statistical, administrative and service delivery collections. These codes are of three types:
  • The four digit codes ending with two or three zeros are described as 'not further defined' (nfd) codes and are used to code responses to a statistical or administrative question which cannot be accurately coded to one of the base level units of the classification but which can be coded to a higher level category.
  • The four digit codes commencing with three zeros are supplementary codes included for operational purposes to allow the coding of survey responses and other data that cannot be allocated a code at any level of the classification structure.
  • The four digit codes commencing with '09' are used to code responses and other data relating to specific and recognised entities which are not discrete cultural and ethnic groups according to the ASCCEG principles and which cannot be allocated an nfd code as described above.

Supplementary codes are not part of the main classification structure. They exist for operational reasons only, and no data would be coded to them if sufficiently detailed responses were obtained in all instances. More details regarding the supplementary codes (e.g. 'not further defined' (nfd), 'inadequately described' and 'not stated') used when coding ancestry are included in the ASCCEG.