History, surviving records and census substitutes.
Australian census history
At first musters were held in New South Wales and Tasmania. People were called to a gathering, and various details were recorded.
As the population grew, musters became too time-consuming and difficult to administer, and the colonial census was introduced. Each colony took census records independently, with different questions and on different dates.
After Australian federation the first national census was in 1911. Australian national census dates are irregular, the pattern having been disturbed by war and depression. The dates are:
3 April 1911
4 April 1921
30 June 1933
30 June 1947
30 June 1954
30 June 1961
30 June 1966
30 June 1971
30 June 1976
30 June 1981
30 June 1986
6 August 1991
6 August 1996
7 August 2001
8 August 2006
9 August 2011
Many individual Australian records have been destroyed. Historical census data is available from:
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Historical Census and Colonial Data Archive.
Some colonial census name records survive. They have been published in books, microfiche, CD and commercial online databases. When looking for colonial records it is important to understand how administration districts changed over time. See Australian civil administration.
National census records currently only give statistical information, not individual name records. Since 2001 individuals can nominate whether or not to allow their records to be released after 99 years.
Although many Australian census name records have not survived, census substitutes include:
Post-Federation electoral rolls are widely available and some colonial electoral rolls are also available. Coverage is limited to people eligible to vote, which has changed over time. Information includes name and address, and sometimes occupation and eligibility criteria.
Many directories were produced annually. Directories might not be complete because inclusion was not always compulsory or free. Information includes head of household name and address, and sometimes occupation.
Rate books were produced annually. Information can include name of occupant, owner, address, description of property and rates paid.