Understanding the new ABS Geography part 4. SA3s and SA4s

Understanding the new ABS Geography part 4. SA3s and SA4s

The ABS is introducing a new geographic classification, which means the geography for which statistics are generated from a wide variety of collections, including the Census, is going to change radically. This is Part 4 in our series about what the new geography looks like and how it will affect you.


Before you start, you may like to catch up with the previous posts on this topic.

Part 1: The new geography standard – what is it and how does it affect me?

Part 2: Introducing the SA1, your new Collection District

Part 3: Replacing SLAs with SA2s

You may also like to read the final post on the new ABS geography:

Part 5: New ABS Geography part 5: Greater Capital Cities – are they greater?

Moving up the line to SA3s

In these earlier posts we have been through the SA1 and SA2 units, which replace Collection Districts and Statistical Local Areas respectively. As we move up the hierarchy, the size of units gets larger. SA3s and SA4s are made up of whole SA2s. The areas that they cover is a little hard to describe, but roughly equate to something like the old “Statistical Subdivisions”, which were not widely used.

If an SA2 equates to a suburb or group of suburbs, SA3s are larger aggregations of suburbs, towns or small regions. In fact in many cases they roughly correspond to local government areas – in Melbourne there are SA3s for “Monash” and “Port Phillip” for example, while in Sydney, “Bankstown” is an SA3, while three SA3s cover the City of Blacktown. Of course, because Local Government Areas are not an official part of the new classification, these areas aren’t always an exact match to the LGA – eg. Port Phillip SA3 includes the Fishermans Bend area of the City of Melbourne, while Bankstown SA3 excludes the suburbs of Chester Hill and Sefton.

ABS have said that Local Government Area data will still be available as aggregates of Mesh Blocks, and of course .id will continue to match client boundaries exactly in our online community profile ( and population forecasts ( The naming can be a little confusing, however.

Bigger again to SA4s

SA4s are the next level up from SA3s. These used to be Statistical Divisions, and in regional areas, the SA4s still relate roughly to those areas. So they are broad regions within a state, such as Geelong Region (Vic), Hunter Region excluding Newcastle (NSW), Gold Coast (QLD), and Wheat Belt (WA).

Within metropolitan areas, and large regional centres, there is more detail than the old Statistical Divisions, as they are designed for the dissemination of labour force data. The labour force collection is a monthly survey which includes the unemployment rate and a wealth of other information. It is planned that data from this survey will be available at the SA4 level.

So within Greater Melbourne there are actually 9 SA4s, while Perth and Adelaide have 5 each. To replace the old Capital City Statistical Division, which we normally use as a benchmark for all our city-based clients, ABS have introduced the “Greater Capital City” area which will be the subject of Part 5 in this series.


The image above shows the full extent of the new geography. For more information visit the ABS Geography page.

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Glenn Capuano - Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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