Census of Population and Housing 1971: Explanatory Notes

Definition of Dwelling

Characteristics of Dwellings

Geographic distribution
Criteria for the delimitation of urban boundaries

1971 Census publications

The Householder's Schedule

The Householder's Schedule used for the 1971 Census of Population and Housing represents a major departure in design from that used at the 1966 and earlier Censuses. The single large sheet used previously, with provision for a maximum of 8 persons, was replaced by a booklet-type schedule with extensive use of the tick-box type question. In this schedule, the first page (page 1) provided for a list of persons in the dwelling, pages 2 and 3 contained questions relating to the dwelling, while the remaining 16 pages provided for two pages of questions to be completed in respect of each person listed on page 1 (A copy of the schedule is in C71SCHED.PDF).

The ordering of the questions was designed to minimise the number of questions to be answered by any one person. For persons under 5 years of age a maximum of 12 questions required an answer and 15 questions applied to those under 15 years of age. Males were not required to answer questions on issue and duration of marriage (Question 11) and only employed persons completed details of hours worked, occupational status, industry and occupation (Questions 15-18).


Age (Column 4, page 1 of Schedule)
Before the 1954 Census, cases where age was not given were distributed to specific ages subsequent to tabulation in accordance with the frequency of stated ages. In the 1954 and later Censuses, ages were allocated by first establishing the minimum age range within which the correct age most probably lay (as indicated by answers to other questions on the Schedule) and then by selecting an age, within that range, from a table of random ages based on the most currently available data on age distribution.

Marital status (Column 5, page 1 of Schedule)
The status referred to is that at the time of enumeration regardless of any previous status. In the very small proportion of cases where the question on marital status was not answered a status was allocated as follows:

Males under 18 years and females under 17 years were allocated to 'never married' unless there was definite evidence to the contrary in other answers on the Schedule. For other persons 'never married' was imputed if Questions 10 and 11 were not answered, 'widowed' if 10(b) was answered, and 'now married' if the answer was 'yes' to the question 'Is this person at present married?' in Question 11(a). Otherwise a marital status was selected from a random list according to age, compiled from the most currently available data on the distribution of the population by age and marital status.

Usual major activity (Question 2, page 4 of Schedule)
The classification of persons according to their stated usual major activity should not be confused with the labour force classification which is based on the actual activity of persons during the specific week prior to the Census. Thus the number of persons classed as working represents those people who usually do so and therefore is unlikely to agree with the number of persons in the labour force.

Nationality (Question 3(b), page 4 of Schedule)
British nationality includes all persons who, by virtue of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 (Section 7 and Regulation 5A), are deemed to be British subjects. In a small number of cases persons of British nationality and birthplace have inadvertently been shown as having 'other nationality' rather than 'British'.

Period of residence (Question 3(c), page 4 of Schedule)
For the first time in Australian censuses, overseas-born persons were asked whether they were a resident of, or a visitor to, Australia. The number of years an overseas-born person has been a resident of Australia has been defined as commencing from the date of first arrival as a resident.

Religion (Question 6, page 4 of Schedule)
Section 21 of the Census and Stafistics Act 1905-1966 provides that 'No person shall be liable to a penalty for omitting or refusing to state the religious denomination or sect to which he belongs or adheres' which accounts for the rather high incidence of 'not stated'. In 1971 at the request of a number of users, the instruction 'if no religion write "none"'was added to the question. The result has been a significant rise in the 'no religion' category compared to previous censuses and a fall in the 'not stated' category.

Schooling (Question 7, page 4 of Schedule)
At the 1966 Census persons were asked to state the highest level of schooling completed. For the 1971 Census the question was redesigned to obtain a measure of the highest level attended. Persons no longer at school were requested to mark the grade in the current local system corresponding to the highest grade which they had attended.

Education systems differ between the Australian States and the question on schooling was varied appropriately in Schedules used in different States. The following table was used to assign grades (or forms) in each State or Territory to an approximately comparable level.

State or Territory Grade or form reported
NSW, VIC, ACT, TAS 1 & 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3 4 5 & 6
QLD 1 & 2 & 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12
SA, NT 1 & 2 & 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5
WA 1 & 2 & 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 & 6
Level Assigned 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10

Primary School
Secondary School

The category 'Child not yet attending school' includes children aged 0-4 years and a small number of 5 and 6 year olds who had not commenced schooling. Persons aged 5-15 years who failed to answer the question were allocated a level based on the modal level for that age in each State using the most currently available information on the distribution of the school population by age and level.

1966 Residence (Question 9, page 4 of Schedule)

The details shown for 1966 residence in the tables relate only to those persons aged 5 years and over who were enumerated in 1971 at their usual place of residence (see Column 6, page 1 of Schedule). Centres with a population of 1,000 or more, and a small number of holiday resorts below this figure, are included under 'urban'. The balance of the population is treated as rural. The category 'other and not stated' includes persons whose residence in 1966 was overseas and also persons who failed to give details of the location of their place of residence in 1966.

Qualifications (Questions 12 and 13, page 5 of Schedule)

The levels of qualifications held, or being studied, were determined as follows:

Trade formal recognition of competency in a skilled manual occupation which is usually obtained through an apprenticeship and satisfactory progress in part-time studies concurrently with practical training (e.g. plumber, fitter, compositor, carpenter, hairdresser).
Technician a level which requires theoretical knowledge, as well as practical skills, e.g. wool classing or nursing. Certificates issued by technical colleges following periods of 4 or 5 years part time study after passing intermediate or final secondary school examinations are classified as 'technician'.
Non-degree tertiary a level relating to qualifications obtained following substantial advanced study beyond matriculation conferred by institutions and professional associations, e.g. Associate of Australian Society of Accountants, Diploma in Business Studies, Teaching Certificate, Diploma of Engineering.
Bachelor degree usually conferred by a university following a period of at least 3 years full-time study or equivalent part-time study and includes post-graduate diplomas.
Higher degree conferred by a university in recognition of substantial studies beyond the Bachelor level.

Some qualifications could not be classified to any of the above levels. Most of these relate to short specialised courses in such fields as typewriting and shorthand, farm book-keeping, dressmaking, automotive maintenance.

The labour force and occupational status (Questions 14 and 16, page 5 of Schedule)

The term 'labour force' is used throughout 1971 Census publications in place of 'work force' in conformity with the Bureau's quarterly population survey and with international usage.

The labour force is defined as those persons 15 years of age and over who answered 'yes' to any of the four parts of Question 14. Thus the labour force comprises those persons who worked, those who had a job from which they were temporarily absent, those who were temporarily laid off without pay for the whole of the reference week and those who did not work, did not have a job and were actively looking for work.

Persons helping but not receiving wages or salary who usually worked less than 15 hours a week are excluded from the labour force. Bonded trainees (including trainee teachers) and cadets engaged in full-time study at educational institutions are also excluded, even though such institutions were conducted by their employer.

The unemployed members of the labour force are those persons who answered 'No' to Questions 14(a) and 14(b) and 'Yes' to Question 14(d) AND those who answered 'Yes' to Question 14(a), 'No' to Question 14(b) and 'Yes' to Question 14(c). Thus the unemployed consist of those persons who did not work during the reference week and either looked for work (having no job) or were temporarily laid off from a job.

The approach adopted in the 1971 Census for determining the labour force conforms closely to the recommendations of the Eighth International Conference of Labour Statisticians held in Geneva in 1954 and to the approach used at the 1966 Census.

According to the definition any labour force activity during the previous week, however little, results in the person being counted in the labour force. Thus many persons whose main activity is not a labour force one (e.g. housewife, full-time student) are drawn into the labour force by virtue of part-time or occasional labour force activity in the previous week. Answers to Question 2 on the Schedule indicate that there were substantially more of such persons at the Census of 1971 than at the Census of 1966 and that they were predominantly females.

On the other hand, the definition excludes persons who may frequently or usually participate in the labour force but who in the previous week happened to have withdrawn from the labour force. Answers to Question 2 on the Schedule indicate that there were substantially more of such persons at the Census of 1971 than at the Census of 1966, especially among males.

A similar definition of the labour force is used in the quarterly population sample survey conducted by the Bureau by the method of personal interview. This survey is used to measure changes in the labour force from quarter to quarter in the intercensal period. Evidence from post-enumeration surveys and pilot tests indicates that the personal interview approach tends to identify a larger number of persons as in the labour force than does the filling in of the census questions on the Schedule by the householder and that this tendency has increased between the 1966 and 1971 Censuses.

The above considerations should be borne in mind if comparisons of the total labour force or labour force participation rates are made between the 1966 and 1971 Censuses, or between the 1971 Census and the 1971 labour force quarterly estimates.

The relationship between the terms 'occupational status', 'employment status' and 'labour force status' as used in 1971 Census publications is illustrated by the following classifications:

Occupational status Employment status Labour force status
1. Employer Employed In the labour force
2. Self-employed
3. Employee
4. Helper
5. Looking for first job Unemployed
6. Other unemployed
7. Not in the labour force Not in the labour force Not in the labour force

Industry (Question 17, page 5 of Schedule)

Industry is defined as the branch of productive activity, business or service carried out by the establishment in which a person is employed. For the 1971 Census the classification of industry was based on the Preliminary Edition of the Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC). For the purposes of the population census an 'undefined' category was added, where appropriate, to individual Divisions, Subdivisions and Groups of the classification to facilitate the coding of imprecise or generalised descriptions of industrial activities on the census schedules.

At the 1966 and previous Censuses, industry was determined from the respondent's own stated description of the 'kind of industry, business or service' in which he worked. With the adoption of ASIC for the 1971 Census comparability with previous censuses is greatly impaired, not only because of changes in the classification itself but also because in 1971 the industry coding in general was not determined from the stated description. Instead the name and address of the establishment at which the respondent worked (Question 17(a), (b), (c)) in general provided the industry code for employees of that establishment. However, in a number of cases, due to deficient replies concerning name and address of employer or because the establishment had not been pre-coded for industry, recourse still had to be made in coding to the respondent's own description (Question 17(d)) of the industry in which he worked.

Occupation (Question 18, page 5 of Schedule)

Occupation is defined as the type of work performed by an employed person and should not be confused with the type of productive activity, business or service carried out by the establishment in which a person works, e.g. a carpenter employed by a steel making establishment would have the occupation of 'carpenter' and industry 'steel manufacture'; an electrician working at an oil refinery would have the occupation of 'electrician' but his industry would be that of 'oil refining' (see Industry).

In accordance with the International Standard Classification of Occupations the structure of the Australian classification used for the 1971 and previous censuses is based primarily on the nature of the work done. The 1971 classification was prepared from the International Standard Classification of Occupations 1958 (revised 1966). The changes in the revised classification were given careful consideration in the preparation of the 1971 Australian classification. A number of new entries have been created to maintain convertibility to the international classification and others created to give more precise codes in certain occupation groups.


An occupied dwelling is defined as any habitation occupied on Census night by a household and may comprise the whole or only a part of a building. A household is a person or group of persons living and eating together. The number of occupied dwellings and the number of households are therefore identical.

An unoccupied dwelling is defined as a structure built specifically for private living purposes and which is habitable, though unoccupied at the time of the Census.

Non-private dwellings are those dwellings which provide group accommodation such as hotels, motels, hostels, and staff quarters' and institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, boarding schools, etc., and which were occupied on Census night. For such dwellings no details of the characteristics other than class of dwelling were sought.

Persons classified as 'campers out' include those living temporarily in tents, caravans or houseboats or who were camped out on Census night. Such persons are regarded as not living in dwellings for Census purposes and consequently no dwelling details are shown in this publication in respect of these persons. In Bulletin 6, however, due to a processing difficulty, a notional dwelling has been allocated to each person or group of persons camping out. These have been included in Bulletin 6 with non-private dwellings and amount to 2,383 in Australia as a whole.

Note that tents, huts, caravans and houseboats used to provide permanent or semi-permanent accommodation are classified as dwellings.


Class of dwelling (Question D1, page 2 of Schedule)
For the 1971 Census the question on the Schedule was expanded by means of illustrations and descriptions to assist householders in assigning their dwelling to an appropriate dwelling type. This was particularly necessary to enable identification of villa units, an important type of medium-density dwelling which has become common in Australian cities since the 1966 Census. The terms used to describe this type of dwelling vary over Australia and the Census Schedule used in each State and Territory was varied appropriately. The term 'villa unit' covers dwellings described variously as villa unit, town house, cottage unit, villa development, cottage flats.

In cases where the question was not answered a class was allocated on the basis of other information on the Schedule and answers given for adjacent dwellings.

Material of outer walls (Question D3, page 3 of Schedule)
At the 1966 and 1971 Censuses, cases where no answer was given were allocated a material based on the answer given for the geographically nearest dwelling of the same class.

Number of rooms (Question D4, page 3 of Schedule)
For census purposes 'rooms' exclude bathrooms, toilets, pantries, laundries, storerooms, halls and rooms used only for business purposes, but include permanently enclosed sleep-outs. Combined purpose rooms such as a living-dining room were treated as one room.

When no answer had been given to this question a number was allocated on the basis of the answer given for the geographically nearest dwelling of the same class, except in the case of improvised homes, caravans, houseboats, etc. when a number was allocated from a table of random numbers based on the distribution of the number of rooms recorded in those types of dwelling at the 1966 Census.

Nature of occupancy (Questions D10 and D11(a)(b), page 3 of Schedule)
At the 1966 Census 'tenant of employer' was combined with 'tenant other'. With the separate identification of 'tenant of employer' in 1971, data for 'tenant other' is not comparable between the two Censuses.

Unoccupied dwellings - reason for being unoccupied (back page of Schedule)
For dwellings not occupied on the night of the Census, collectors were required to indicate on the Schedule the class of dwelling and, as far as they could determine it, the basic reason why the dwelling was unoccupied.

Household Classification (derived mainly from Column 2, page 1 of Schedule)
A 'household' is defined as a 'person or group of persons living and eating together'. Within a household there can be more than one distinct family unit and these units are identified using blood and marriage relationships as indicated by Column 2 on the Schedule and other information such as name, sex, age and marital status.

Separate family units within a household are classified into two types:

Primary Family Units (PFU's) are those family units where the head of the family is also the head of the household. Such families may consist of only one person.

Secondary Family Units (SFU's) are all other family units within the household. Such families are defined as having at least two persons of immediate family relationship (husband, wife, son, daughter).


Persons who on Census night were on board ships in Australian ports or travelling between two Australian ports, or who were enumerated on long distance trains, buses or aircraft are classed as 'migratory' and excluded from the figures for individual geographical areas. They are, however, shown in aggregate under the category 'migratory', and are included in the State totals.

Urban centres and other bounded localities
The concepts and methods used in 1971 in defining urban centres were similar to those used at the 1966 Census, the main changes being:

(a) The elimination of the 'indentation' provision. At the 1966 Census an indented area was included within the urban centre if the distance across the 'neck' was less than one mile;

(b) A re-interpretation of the 'enclosure' rule. At the 1966 Census land was included within the urban centre if it was completely surrounded by the urban centre itself (or in part by the sea or a wide unbridged river). In 1971, if one part of this surround was the sea or a wide unbridged river this rule was not applied.

At the 1971 Census these concepts were used to determine the urban boundaries of all those centres expected to reach 25,000 population in 1971.

Around other urban centres and non-urban localities, boundaries were delineated, where possible, when the population was expected to reach at least 200 by 1971. For this purpose, the most recent available aerial photography was used in order to identify as closely as possible the periphery of the built up area.

Major urban
The term 'major urban' was introduced at the 1971 Census and denotes all urban centres with a population of 100,000 or more. The population and dwellings in all other urban centres below this size are included under 'other urban'. The balance of the State or Territory other than migratory (see above) is classified as rural.


The criteria used for delimiting urban centres, as determined by the Thirty-First Conference of Statisticians, October 1969, were as follows.

At each Census of Population and Housing a boundary shall be defined in accordance with these Resolutions for each population cluster of 1,000 or more population (and, for known holiday resorts of less population, if they contain 250 or more dwellings of which at least 100 are occupied). These clusters shall be named 'urban centres' and the population and dwellings enumerated in them shall be classified as urban for statistical purposes.

Around each urban centre with a population of at least 100,000 a further boundary shall be defined, after consultation with planners, to contain the anticipated development of the urban centre and associated smaller urban centres for a period of at least twenty years. Such a boundary should delimit an area which is now, or is expected to be, socially and economically oriented towards the urban centre. It shall consist of complete local government areas if possible. This fixed boundary (as distinct from the urban boundary which is moving) will delimit an area which, for general statistical purposes, is free from the practical problems imposed by the moving boundary, but which nevertheless represents the city in a wider sense.

In delimiting urban centres with 25,000 or more population:

(a) All contiguous Census Collector's Districts which have a population density of 500 or more persons per square mile (approximately 193 persons per square kilometre) shall be included. Consequently, State, Statistical Division, Local Government Area and other administrative boundaries shall be disregarded;

(b) A Collector's District which is known to contain a high proportion of holiday homes shall be classified as urban if the dwelling density is 125 dwellings per square mile (approximately 48 dwellings per square kilometre) or greater;

(c) A Collector's District consisting mainly of land used for factories, airports, small sports areas, cemeteries, hostels, institutions, prisons, military camps or certain research stations shall be classified as urban if contiguous with Collector's Districts which are themselves urban;

(d) Any Collector's District which consists mainly of land used for large sporting areas, large parks, explosives handling and munitions areas, or holding yards associated with meatworks and abattoirs shall be classified as urban only if it is bordered on three sides by Collector's Districts which are themselves urban;

(e) Any area which is completely surrounded by Collector's Districts which are urban must itself be classified as urban;

(f) Where an urban centre of 25,000 or more population is separated from another urban centre by a gap in actual development of less than two miles (by the shortest rail or road distance), the gap shall be bridged by classifying a connecting Collector's District or Districts as urban, and therefore treating the urban centres as one; if the gap is two or more miles (and whether or not it is comprised mainly of reserved land or a natural barrier) the urban centres shall remain separate;

(g) Any area included in an urban centre in 1971 or thereafter under the provisions of this Resolution shall continue to be so included unless the population of the urban centre falls below 25,000, in which case this Resolution will cease to apply;

(h) Large peripheral Collector's Districts in growth areas shall be fragmented; and so far as the availability of visible boundary features allows, the fragments so created shall be as near square-shaped as possible and of such a size that they will contain a collector's workload when fully developed. For the purposes of delimiting urban centres such fragments shall be regarded as Collector's Districts.

In delimiting urban centres with less than 25,000 population:

(a) The urban centres shall be delimited subjectively (by the inspection of aerial photographs, by field inspection and/or by consideration of any other information that is available);

(b) All continuous urban growth is to be included (which, in small urban centres, would not necessarily occur if the density criterion were applied), together with any close but non-contiguous development which could be clearly regarded as part of the centre. However, cognisance shall be taken of Resolution 3, where appropriate, particularly in urban centres which are approaching a population of 25,000.

In selecting the boundaries for the splitting of Collector's Districts, cognisance shall be taken, where appropriate, of the boundaries of land-use zones.

1971 Census publications

The publication programme for the 1971 Census of Population and Housing comprises a series of 14 Bulletins. Bulletins 1-7 consist of a series of separate parts for each State and Territory and one for all Australia, except that in Bulletin 6 the Northern Territory part is combined with that for the Australian Capital Territory, and there is no all Australia part to Bulletin 7. Bulletins 8-14 consist of only one part. The title and content of each Bulletin are as follows:

Bulletin 1. Summary of Population.

Summary characteristics: age, marital status, birthplace period of residence, nationality, usual major activity, 1966 residence,religion, level of schooling, educational institution, qualifications, occupational status, occupation, industry.

Bulletin 2. Summary of Dwellings.

Class of dwelling cross-classified by : number of rooms, number of bedrooms, nature of occupancy, electricity and gas, bathroom and kitchen facilities, sewage disposal, inmates by number of rooms, inmates by number of bedrooms.

Bulletin 3. Demographic Characteristics.

Age and marital status cross-classified by : usual major activity, employment status, birthplace of parents, birthplace, nationality.

Bulletin 4. Birthplace.

Country of birth cross-classified by : age, marital status, nationality, period of residence, level of schooling, qualifications, occupational status, occupation, industry.

Bulletin 5. The Labour Force.

Employment status cross-classified by age and marital status. Occupation cross-classified by : occupational status, age, birthplace, qualifications. Industry cross- classified by : occupational status, age, birthplace, qualifications.

Bulletin 6. Population and Dwellings in Local Government Areas and Urban Centres.

Bulletin 7. Characteristics of the Population and Dwellings - Local Government Areas.

Single characteristics : age, religion, marital status, nationality, birthplace, period of residence, 1966 residence, usual residence, usual major activity, level of schooling, qualifications, occupational status, industry, occupation, class of dwelling, rent, reason unoccupied, number of rooms and bedrooms, nature of occupancy, facilities, sewage disposal, motor vehicles, material of outer walls.

Bulletin 8. Characteristics of the Population and Dwellings - Commonwealth Electoral Divisions.

The topics in this Bulletin are identical to those in Bulletin 7.

Bulletin 9. The Aboriginal Population.

Characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Bulletin 10. Families and Households.

Bulletin 11. Fertility.

Bulletin 12. Geographic Distribution.

Bulletin 13. Maps.

Each State, showing Local Government Areas and Statistical Divisions plus maps of principal urban centres.

Bulletin 14. Catalogue of 1971 Census Tabulations.

Index of all tabulations, published and unpublished, produced from the 1971 Census.


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