What are non-ABS structures?

The non-ABS structures are regions that are defined by other agencies for administrative purposes (e.g. Local Government Areas (LGAs), Commonwealth Electoral Divisions). The ABS approximates these regions by using whole ABS statistical geography units. The non-ABS structures are approximated by Mesh Blocks (MBs), Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s) or Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) from the main structure of the ASGS. This enables the ABS to release data on areas that, as closely as possible, represent these commonly used geographic boundaries.

Table 1 summarises the names of the non-ABS structures, the administrative or environmental areas they represent and the ASGS building blocks used to approximate the boundaries.

Diagram 1 illustrates how the non-ABS structures relate to other ABS and non-ABS structures.

Table 1: Non-ABS structures and administrative or environmental areas they represent.
Non-ABS structure name Administrative or environmental area ASGS building block used for approximation
Local Government Areas (LGAs) Gazetted Local Government Areas Mesh Block
Postal Areas (POAs) Australia Post postcodes SA1
State Suburbs (SSCs) Gazetted Localities SA1
Commonwealth Electoral Divisions (CEDs) Federal Electoral Divisions SA1
State Electoral Divisions (SEDs) State Electoral Districts SA1
Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs) Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions SA1
Australian Drainage Divisions (ADDs) Australian Drainage Divisions SA1
*Tourism Regions (TRs) Tourism Regions SA2

*Census data are not released on TR boundaries.


Diagram 1 ASGS non-ABS structures
Diagram illustrating the relationship of Non-ABS Structres to other ABS and Non-ABS Structures.

Text only version of Australian Statistical Geography Standard: Structure and Summary for Census.

How are the non-ABS structures approximated?

The ASGS building blocks (MB, SA1 and SA2) are used to approximate the non-ABS structures to allow Census data to be released on versions of these boundaries. This means that the non-ABS structures are not an exact match of the administrative or environmental boundaries they represent and users need to be aware of this.

As an example, in the case of State Suburbs, each SA1 was allocated the name of the Gazetted Locality that was estimated to contain the highest proportion of the ‘population’ in that SA1. This often results in different boundaries for the SSCs and the respective Gazetted Locality. It also means there are Gazetted Localities which will not appear in the SSC classification. This occurs in cases where:
  • an SA1 covers two or more Gazetted Localities and the SA1 can only be allocated to one Gazetted Locality
  • more than one SA1 partially covers a Gazetted Locality but all the SA1s are allocated to other Gazetted Localities with which they also share area.

This situation may also occur with other non-ABS structures.

Local Government Area (LGAs)

Local Government Areas (LGAs) are an ABS approximation of officially gazetted LGAs as defined by each state and territory’s Local Government Department. The LGA boundaries are approximated using MBs.

LGAs cover incorporated areas of Australia. Incorporated areas are legally designated parts of a state or territory over which incorporated local governing bodies have responsibility. There are major areas within Australia which are not administered by incorporated bodies (northern parts of South Australia, all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories) and these are identified as ‘Unincorporated’.

A wide range of Census and non-Census data will continue to be available for LGAs, including Estimated Resident Population.

For more details on LGAs refer to the ‘Local Government Areas’ fact sheet available through the ‘ASGS Fact Sheets’ chapter of the ABS Statistical Geography website: http://www.abs.gov.au/geography.

Postal Area (POAs)

Postal Areas (POAs) are an ABS approximation of Australia Post postcodes. The POA boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

A postcode is a four digit number used by Australia Post to assist with mail delivery. Australia Post does not currently define geographic boundaries for postcodes. However, a number of organisations create geographic boundaries that aim to define the geographic extent of the mail delivery area for each postcode.

Defining postcodes with a geographic boundary is an imprecise process and this is demonstrated by the fact that there are variations in boundaries released by different organisations.

Users should be aware of the imprecise nature of both postcodes and POAs when working with data on these geographic areas.

Census data will be available for POAs.

For more details on POAs refer to the ‘Postcodes and Postal Areas’ fact sheet available through the ‘ASGS Fact Sheets’ chapter of the ABS Statistical Geography website: http://www.abs.gov.au/geography.

State Suburbs (SSCs)

State Suburbs (SSCs) are an ABS approximation of Gazetted Localities. The SSC boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

Gazetted Localities are the officially recognised boundaries of suburbs (in cities and larger towns) and localities (outside of cities and larger towns). Since 1996 these boundaries have been formalised for most areas of Australia through a program coordinated by the Committee for Geographical Names in Australasia (CGNA) under the umbrella of the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM).

Gazetted Localities cover most of Australia. Presently there remain areas of rural South Australia and rural Australian Capital Territory that are undefined. Various islands offshore from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania and some inshore water areas and islands are also undefined.

Census data will be available for SSCs.

For more details on SSCs refer to the ‘Gazetted Localities and State Suburbs’ fact sheet available through the ‘ASGS Fact Sheets’ chapter of the ABS Statistical Geography website:http://www.abs.gov.au/geography.

Commonwealth Electoral Divisions (CEDs)

Commonwealth Electoral Divisions (CEDs) are an ABS approximation of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) federal electoral division boundaries. The CED boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

An AEC electoral division is an area legally prescribed for the purpose of returning one member to the House of Representatives, Australia's Federal Lower House of Parliament. Boundaries are based on the AEC electoral division boundaries current on Census Night 9 August 2011. CEDs may change as the AEC revise their boundaries.

Census data will be available for CEDs.

State Electoral Divisions (SEDs)

State Electoral Divisions (SEDs) are an ABS approximation of state electoral districts. The SED boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

A state electoral district is an area legally prescribed for the purpose of returning one or more members to the state and territory Lower Houses of Parliament. Boundaries are based on the state electoral districts current on Census Night 9 August 2011. SEDs may change as states and territories revise their boundaries.

Census data will be available for SEDs.

Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs)

Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs) are an ABS approximation of Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions. The NRMR boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

NRM regions are managed by the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. They are administrative regions primarily used to report on the Australian Government's ‘Caring for our Country’ investments, but are also used for environmental and agricultural reporting. They are based on catchments or bioregions. NRM regions change occasionally when states and territories revise their boundaries.

Census data will be available for NRMRs.

Australian Drainage Divisions (ADDs)

Australian Drainage Divisions (ADDs) are an ABS approximation of drainage divisions. The ADD boundaries are approximated using SA1s.

Drainage divisions are defined by major landscape features and climatic zones to form broad hydrological regions as represented in the Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric (Geofabric) version 1 developed by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Census data will be available for ADDs.

Tourism Regions (TRs)

Tourism Regions (TRs) are an ABS approximation of Tourism Regions. The TR boundaries are approximated using SA2s. No Census data are released on these boundaries.

Tourism Regions are provided by Tourism Research Australia (TRA), part of the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Data for the survey of Tourist Accommodation, Australia (cat. no. 8635.0) from the March Quarter 2012 through to the December Quarter 2012 will be released on the 2011 TR boundaries. Census data have never been released on TRs; however, 2011 Census data will be available at SA2 which in turn can be aggregated up to TRs using Census products such as Census TableBuilder.

For more details on TRs refer to the ‘Tourism Regions’ fact sheet available through the ‘ASGS Fact Sheets’ chapter of the ABS Statistical Geography website: http://www.abs.gov.au/geography.

Where can I get the non-ABS structure boundaries?

Non-ABS structure boundaries are available in MapInfo Interchange and ESRI Shapefile formats and can be downloaded from the ‘ABS Geography Publications’ chapter of the ABS Statistical Geography website: http://www.abs.gov.au/geography.

DataPacks contain 2011 Census Community Profile data for all of Australia and corresponding digital boundary map files. To find out more about DataPacks, visit the DataPacks page.

Non-ABS structures boundary updates

As the non-ABS structures represent regions that are subject to ongoing change, the ABS may release revised publications for ASGS non-ABS structures. The individual structures will only be updated where significant change has occurred in the past year.

Where can I get further information?

Information on how Census data will be released under the ASGS is available in the online ABS publication: Census of Population and Housing: Outcomes from the 2011 Census Output Geography Discussion Paper, 2011 (cat. no. 2911.0.55.003).

For more details about the non-ABS structures and future releases please refer to Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 3 – Non ABS Structures, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.003).

Any questions or comments can be emailed to geography@abs.gov.au.