Early Australian census records

Illuminate Australian society and your family history using census records from 1788 to 1901

Census history

Before you start your research, it is useful to understand why, how and when censuses have been collected.

'The first population counts of Australia were known as musters and were made as early as 1788. Musters involved all members of the community gathering at specified locations to be counted. These were important as a means of matching food and other supplies to the number of people needing them. The first census in Australia as we now know them [recording people at their dwelling] was held in New South Wales in November 1828. Each of the colonies conducted its own censuses until 1886.

On 3 April 1881, the first simultaneous census of the British Empire covering the United Kingdom, India and the Crown Settlements (including Australia) was taken. This census produced the first set of colony population figures for the same day' (source)

The following resources give you further information about the history of census collection in Australia.

Census dates

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' website includes the date of each muster or census.