Our reference service
The National Library's reference librarians can't conduct extensive, time consuming, research. In many cases, statistics research requires more time than we are able to give.
We can often suggest resources for you to use, or direct you to industry groups which may have statistical information.
You can find some of these suggestions in this guide.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines statistics as the 'science which deals with the collection, ordering, and use of information in the form of numbers and amounts.'
It may be necessary to obtain statistical data to support or illustrate your research. This guide is intended to help you with this.
What the Library holds
You may find statistics in different formats:
- Print; e.g. government documents and historical census reports
- Microform; e.g. census results tables on microfiche
- CD ROMs; historlcal reports sometimes have CD ROM versions
- Online; Library records may link directly to the Australian Bureau of Statistics
- Other online resources from the Library's eResources collection
Australian Bureau of Statistics
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the lead source for a range of Australian statistics. Full-text publications from 1994 onwards are available on the ABS website, and there is a growing number of historical statistics.
Use the left menu on the ABS home page for popular statistics and key products. For example, Year Books are available in full-text and can be useful for historical and current statistical information.
Detailed instructions on how to find statistics on the site is on the How do I search the website? page, but below is a quick guide to navigating a product page. You can use Prisoners in Australia as an example:
- Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate to the item you need. Not all tabs are used for every ABS entry
- The 'Summary' tab gives an introduction and Table of Contents
- The 'Past and future releases' tab shows previous years (from 2000 in this example)
- You can see the Prisoners in Australia publication by using the 'Downloads' tab; download the 'Data Cube' for the section you need, or the whole publication as a pdf.
- 'Explanatory notes' may include details of the scope of the publication, the type of information gathered, methodology, abbreviations and symbols used in the document
- 'Related information' may include links to similar ABS releases. You may also find related links under the 'Explanatory notes' tab.
Please note that the ABS website is often updated and some of the links given in this guide may change. Use the Help link for further information about the ABS, how to use their products, and contact details.
Ask a librarian
Make a reference enquiry
+61 2 6262 1266
Statistics in Australia
Australia has one of the most accessible and comprehensive collections of official statistics in the world...Nevertheless, official coverage has been limited to fields that administrations felt should be quantified...Statistics, official or otherwise, like any other historical source, should be viewed with a critical eye.
Vamplew, Wray. 1987, Australians, historical statistics, Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, Broadway, N.S.W., Australia