RELATED LINKS

What it used to cost - Historical statistics for Victoria, from the State Library of Victoria

Prices in Australia at the beginning and end of the 20th Century - A brief look at how the relative prices of many of today's common items have changed since Federation, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

Reserve Bank of Australia Inflation Calculator - A tool to calculate the change in the cost of purchasing a representative 'basket of goods and services' over a period of time

Screen Australia: Industry Statistics - Explore comprehensive statistics on the production and release of feature films, T.V. drama, documentaries and other screen content in Australia

OTHER HISTORICAL SOURCES

You might consider some non-official sources when looking for historical statistics, for example:

  • newspaper estimates (e.g. crowd sizes)
  • charitable institution figures
  • public opinion polls

Try searching the digitised newspapers at Trove for some of these figures. They will not be as reliable as official statistics, but may be useful.

Not sure where to start?

Colonial Period 1788 to 1900

The major official sources of Australian colonial statistics are available on microform as part of the ABS Colonial Microfiche collection. The Colonial Microfiche collection is available in the Newspaper and Microform Reading Room and in some State Library collections.

Colonial microfiche covers (among other subjects):

  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Agriculture
  • Birthplace
  • Census records
  • Domestic conditions
  • Immigration
  • Law and crime
  • Occupations
  • Population

When requesting access, you can first consult the Catalogue of Australian Statistical Publications 1804 to 1901 to see exactly what is available on the microfiche. You can also download the catalogue at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website.

A Statistical Account of the Seven Colonies of Australasia by T.A. Coghlan is also included in the Colonial Microfiche, and is available for download at the ABS website.

From 1901

The Historical microfiche series contains publications released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) since 1901 and publications issued by the State offices since 1984. An index to the microfiche series is also available.

Some titles from the series have been digitised and are available online at the ABS website

Useful titles, by State:

Many of these publications are available online at the ABS website.

Case Study

Prices in 1970

I am compiling a book for my 40th Class Reunion and would like to include some statistics on the price of food, houses, cars, fuel in Queensland in 1969-70 and the wages and salaries of both male and female workers in those years. Can you help me find this information?

We will need to consult different sources to find historical prices and wages:

  • We may also be able to find information from newspapers of the time, as advertisements will often display prices. The National Library and State Libraries have archived newspapers on microfilm, e.g. The Courier-Mail

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Year Books also have some information on prices around Australia, although these may not be for specific items. For 1970 we can try these downloads:

  • 1301.0 - Chapter 9 - Housing and Building: gives the value of new buildings approved, commenced, completed and under construction, as well as other relevant information.
  • 1301.0 - Chapter 10 - Labour, Wages and Prices: shows weekly wage rates by industry groups.
  Statistics

FEATURED RESOURCE

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Australians, Historical statistics

Vamplew, Wray. 1987, Australians, historical statistics / editor, Wray Vamplew Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates Broadway, N.S.W., Australia.

One of a series published to mark the bicentenary of Australia.

Includes historical statistics on:

  • People and Land
  • Wealth and Progress
  • Society, Politics and Religion

HOW DO YOU FIND HISTORICAL STATISTICS IN THE LIBRARY?

WHAT CAN YOU FIND ONLINE?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has full-text publications from 1994 onwards. The ABS Historical Publications web page includes useful links to other online resources. 

The ABS 2001 Yearbook Australia (Centenary of Federation) contains articles with summary historical statistics on a range of topics such as education, health and trade.

The Historical Census and Colonial Data Archive (HCCD) is a searchable archive of Australian Colonial census publications and reports.