Population groups

Where available, this report presents data for a number of population groups. Population groups include those disaggregated by: socioeconomic areas, remoteness areas, disability status, country of birth and language spoken, and Indigenous status. Methods of presenting data by population groups can vary between data sources. Population groups may also be measured differently across data sources and will not be directly comparable.

Socioeconomic disadvantage

The Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) are summary measures of socioeconomic disadvantage, and summarise a range of socioeconomic variables associated with disadvantage. Socioeconomic disadvantage is typically associated with low income, high unemployment and low levels of education. Throughout Australia’s children, socioeconomic disadvantage data is typically reported using the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (IRSD). The Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage (IRSD) is a general socio-economic index that summarises a range of information about the economic and social conditions of people and households within an area. Unlike the other indexes, this index includes only measures of relative disadvantage. A low score indicates relatively greater disadvantage in general. A high score indicates a relative lack of disadvantage in general. 

In some data sets, other measures of socioeconomic disadvantage are used instead.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) Student Attendance Data Collection

ACARA measured socio-educational advantage (SEA) as a student level score of socio educational advantage constructed from information (obtained from school enrolment records) relating to parents’ occupation, school education and non-school education.

The Australian Child Wellbeing Project (ACWP), 2014

Data on socioeconomic status of schools are reported by using the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD) of geographic areas, where sampled schools were located. The IRSD index used deciles to rank Australian geographic areas within states/territories by relative socioeconomic disadvantage through taking into account access to material and social resources and ability to participate in society. To avoid comparisons by state/territory or school sector, a decision was made for weighting purposes to remove state/territory and sector from the cross classification, and to focus on the distribution of the sample data across geographic location, Socio-Economic Indexes for Area level and student gender. The original ten SEIFA categories of relative disadvantage were recoded into three new categorical variables of school-level socio-economic background as follows:

  • Low: SEIFA deciles 1–3;
  • Middle: SEIFA deciles 4–7;
  • High: SEIFA deciles 8–10.

The National Child Oral Health Study (NCOHS), 2012–14 and the AIHW Child Protection Collection 2019–20

In the National Child Oral Health Study and the AIHW Child Protection Collection 2019–20, the analysis focused on the Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD). The IRSAD is a continuum in which lower values indicate more disadvantaged areas (areas with a relatively higher proportion of people with low income and more people with unskilled occupations) and higher values indicate more advantaged areas (areas with a relatively high proportion of people with high income and skilled occupations). For this analysis, the IRSAD were assigned to the postcode of each school’s location.

Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), 2016

Socioeconomic affluence and disadvantage in PIRLS was established by asking school principals to report on the socioeconomic composition of their school by indicating what percentage of students came from economically affluent homes and what percentage came from economically disadvantaged homes. The responses to these questions were then used to create three categories of school socioeconomic composition:

  1. More affluent: more than 25 per cent of the student body comes from economically affluent homes and not more than 25 per cent from economically disadvantaged homes
  2. More disadvantaged: more than 25 per cent of the student body comes from economically disadvantaged homes and not more than 25 per cent from economically affluent homes
  3. Neither more affluent nor more disadvantaged: all other response combinations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Throughout Australia’s children, where analysis excludes cases where Indigenous status is not stated or inadequately described, the categories used for presentation of the data are Indigenous children and Non-Indigenous children. Where analysis includes these cases where Indigenous status is not stated or inadequately described, the categories used for presentation of the data are Indigenous children and Other children.

AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection

In the AIHW Perinatal collection, data on Indigenous births relate to babies born to Indigenous mothers only, and exclude babies born to non-Indigenous mothers and Indigenous fathers. Therefore, the information is not based on the total count of Indigenous babies. Excludes births to mothers for whom Indigenous status was not stated.              


Remoteness is classified according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard 2016 Remoteness Areas structure, usually based on location of current residence. Data on the location of usual residence may be collected differently across data sources. ABS correspondences are used to mathematically reassign data from one geographic region to another, for example, Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) to Remoteness Areas.

Family type

In Australia’s children, family type is used to categorise the composition of households with children, and the relationships between children and carers. 

The presentation of data by family type is available for a selection of data sets.

ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

The 'Family composition of household' is classified according to families with two parents or carers and families with one parent or carer. Families with two parents or carers is further split into original, step, blended or other families corresponding to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Family blending classification variable introduced in the 2006 Census. These categories are defined as: original families—contain at least one child who is the natural, adopted or foster child of both parents in the couple and no step children (the 2006 Census uses the label ‘Intact’ rather than ‘Original’); Step families—contain at least one resident step child, but no child who is the natural or adopted child of both parents; Blended families—consist of two or more children, where at least one child is the natural or adopted child of both parents, and at least one who is the step child of one of them; Other families—consist of no children who are the natural, adopted, foster, or step child of either parent or carer, and include families with children being raised by their grandparents or other relatives.

Grandparent families are formed either temporarily or permanently when the parent or parents of a child/ren are unable or unwilling to care for them and a grandparent/s takes on the role of primary care giver (COTA 2014).

ABS National Health Survey (NHS), 2017–18

Family composition refers to the composition of the household to which the respondent belongs to. In the National Health Survey, households are categorised as persons living alone, couple only, couple with child/ren, and other households. For more details, see Census of Population and Housing above.

Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)

For each family unit identified in the household, a family type is defined. Households with multiple families will have more than one family type assigned in each household. Household type combines information about the structure of the family and whether other related or unrelated individuals are present. Standard ABS definitions for relationships and families have been used. If a household is coded as having children under 15, it may also contain dependent students or non-dependent children. If a household is coded as having dependent students, it may also contain nondependent children, but it does not contain children under 15. A couple may be either in a registered marriage or de facto relationship. A lone parent family consists of a parent and a child, though the child cannot have a child or partner of their own. For households where there were two ex-partners and children, the mother and children are considered a lone parent family and the father is considered to be an ‘other related’ individual. For households with children under 15 that are not the natural, step, adopted or foster child of anyone in the household (i.e. they do not have a parent in the household), the child forms a relationship with an adult in the household.


The ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers is used to present data on Children with disability. Other definitions of disability are used for presentation of data from other sources.

The Australian Child Wellbeing Project (ACWP)

In the ACWP, disability was defined based on students self-reporting that they either:

  • had a disability (such as, hearing difficulties, visual difficulties, using a wheelchair, mental illness) for a long time (more than 6 months); or
  •  had a disability that made it hard (or stopped them) doing everyday activities, communicating or interacting with others, or doing activities other children their age could do.

ABS National Health Survey, 2017–18

A disability or restrictive long-term health condition exists if a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder has lasted, or is expected to last, for six months or more, which restricts everyday activities.

A disability or restrictive long-term condition is classified by whether or not a person has a specific limitation or restriction. The specific limitation or restriction is further classified by whether the limitation or restriction is a limitation in core activities, or a schooling/employment restriction only.

There are five levels of activity limitation (profound, severe, moderate, mild and school/employment restriction only). These are based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any core activities (mobility, self-care and communication). A person's overall level of core activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in any of these activities.

Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD)

In the NCCD, disability is recorded where:

  • the student’s impairment meets the Disability Discrimination Act 1992; AND
  • the functional impact of the student’s disability results in the school actively addressing or supporting the student’s specific individual education needs arising from their disability.

The level of adjustment that students with disability are defined as follows:

  • extensive adjustments—essential specific measures are required at all times to address the individual nature and acute impact of the student’s disability and the associated barriers to their learning and participation.
  • substantial adjustments—address the specific nature and significant impact of the student’s disability. These adjustments are designed to address the more significant barriers to their engagement, learning, participation and achievement.
  • supplementary adjustments—are provided when there is an assessed need at specific times to complement the strategies and resources already available (for all students) within the school.

Birthplace or language spoken

In Australia’s children, data are reported on languages spoken by children and their families across a range of variables, including: language spoken at home, first language spoken, language proficiency.

In some data sets, this information is available in additional detail.

ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

In the Census, there are four country of birth data items available from the census. In 2016, country of birth of person (BPLP) records an individual's specific country of birth, as it has in previous Censuses. The countries of birth of a person's father and mother are recorded in Country of Birth of Father (BPMP) and Country of Birth of Mother (BPFP). In 2016, specific countries will be recorded for these variables. There is a fourth data item, country of birth of parents (BPPP). It is derived from BPMP and BPFP and records a person's parents' birthplaces as combinations of Australia/Overseas, not as specific countries. If a person has a 'Not stated' response for BPFP and/or BPMP then BPPP is coded to 'Not stated'. This is unchanged from 2011.

The Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (ABS cat. no. 1269.0) is used to classify responses for country of birth data items. If a person uses a former country name, it is coded to the current country name. For example, Siam would be coded to Thailand. If country of birth of Person is not stated on the Census form, system edits derive it from other answers within the Census form. If country of birth is unable to be derived it is coded to 'Not stated'. People born in Australia are not required to complete the year of arrival question on the form.

ABS National Health Survey (NHS), 2017–18

In the NHS, each respondent was classified to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (ABS cat. no. 1269.0); a hierarchical classification based on the concept of geographic proximity. Countries were coded according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (ABS cat. no. 1269.0).

In the NHS, main language spoken at home was obtained for all selected persons. In 2017–18 NHS, if under 2 years of age the question asked which language the child will mainly speak at home. Language was classified at the finest level of the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016 (ABS cat. no. 1267.0). 

Respondents aged 2 years and over, who reported they mainly spoke a language other than English at home, were asked how well they spoke English. Responses were recorded as reported by respondents against the categories: 

  • very well
  • well
  • not well
  • not at all.

Children aged 2 years and over identified as not yet speaking (coded as 'Non-verbal, so described') or people for whom sign language or Auslan (Australian Sign Language) was their main language were assigned the category of Not known / Does not speak.

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), 2018

In the AEDC, data are collected about a child’s country of birth and English as a second language status. AEDC demographic variables such as geography, language spoken at home and country of birth have been coded primarily using statistical classifications, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Socio-economic Indices for Areas (SEIFA), Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), and Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL). The variables related to language are used to derive an indicator that identifies the child as being from a language background other than English. Children in this category can be proficient or not proficient in English.

Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)

In HILDA, data are collected about a respondent’s country of birth. Countries outside Australia can be categorised into ‘Main English-speaking’ countries or Other. Data are also collected about the country of birth for the respondent’s parents. Additional data are collected about year of arrival and languages spoken.