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Office of Economic and Statistical Research
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Q150 Digital Books Section Details
Name: Queensland Past and Present: 100 Years of Statistics, 18961996
Section name: Chapter 1, Queenslands Statistical History,
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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/ The State of Queensland 2009
QUEENSLAND'S STATISTICAL HISTORY
On 16 December 1896 the Queensland Governor, Lord Lamington, gave royal assent to theStatistical Returns Act 1896 (Qld). The Queensland Legislature passed the Act 'for the purposeof collecting and publishing statistical information relating to pastoral, agricultural, mining,manufacturing or other producing interests.. .n The Act was the first Queensland legislationthat specifically related to the collection, compilation and management of official statistics.Prior to 1896 statistics were collected either incidentally to government administration or underlegislation that related only to the registration of births, deaths, marriages and land titles, tothe colonial census and to livestock statistics.
The Statistical Returns Act 1896 provides a key reference point from which to examine theprevious history of statistics in Queensland, the colonies and, from federation in 1901, Australiaas a whole. The Act also marks the start of the development of a statistical reporting authorityfor the Queensland Government in the form of the Government Statistician's Office. The onehundred year history of the Government Statistician's Office has seen its role change fromsole provider of official statistics for the pre-federation colony to one of complementing andsupplementing in respect of Queensland, the vastly expanded range of statistics provided forthe nation as a whole by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This chapter examines Queensland's statistical history prior to the Statistical Returns Act 1896and traces the State's statistical reporting authorities to 1996. It also presents an overview ofpublications by Queensland's Registrar-General and Government Statistician.
EARLY STATISTICS IN AUSTRALIA
Statistics have been part of the Australian administrative process since the British Governmentfirst considered the establishment of a settlement in New South Wales. The purpose of thesettlement was to be an economic means of disposing of convicts and as a trading outpost, butonly time and comprehensive accounts and records would show whether the experiment was asuccess. Major Robert Ross wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty on 13 April 1787, enclosinga return that outlined details of the impending voyage to New South Wales of six convicttransport ships.2 The return included the number of naval staff, quantity of supplies and numberof convicts to be transported. These early statistics show that the First Fleet carried 982 persons,
Sydney Cove, 1788. The first statistical returns of the new colony were dispatched byGovernor Arthur Phillip in July 1788.
Table 1.1 Convicts on the First Fleet by ship and sex, 15 April 1787Male Female
Ship Males Females children children Total number
Scarborough 205 205Alexander 198 198LadyPenrhyn 1 104 2 3 110Charlotte 86 20 1 1 108Friendship 15 19 3 97Prince of Wales 10 1 11
Total 565 153 6 5 729
Source: Historical Records' of New South Wales, series 1, vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 79.
QUEENSLAND PAST AND PRESENT
comprising 253 in four companies of marines (including 30 wives and 12 children) and 729convicts. The number of male and female convicts and their children on each ship is shown intable 1.1.
The first colonial statistician was the first Governor, Arthur Phillip.3 His statistical dutiescommenced once the First Fleet left England. He was required to submit regular returns onthe fleet's passengers, including those who were sick or who died on the voyage. As at 30August 1787, for example, 81 persons were sick, comprising 17 marines and 64 convicts, andincluded 30 with scorbutic ulcers and 30 convalescents (table 1.2). Sixteen persons had died infour and a half months since departure, including one child.
An accurate record of supplies had to be kept both during the voyage and after landing. Royalinstructions issued to Phillip on 17 April 1787 required him to:
use every proper degree of economy, and be careful that the Commissary so transmit an account ofthe issues from time to time to the Commissioners of our Treasury, to enable them to judge of thepropriety or expediency of granting further supplies. The clothing of the convicts and the provisionsissued to them, and the civil and military establishments, must be accounted for in the same manner.4
QUEENSLAND'S STATISTICAL HISTORY
After the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney, Phillip's dispatch to the Home Secretary on 9 July1788 included a statistical account of the population (including sickness and deaths), livestockand supplies.5 The collection of statistical data continued to be the responsibility of the Governorof the colony. Statistical returns on many aspects of life in early New South Wales are found inthe Governors' dispatches to the Secretary of State.
Until New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania were granted responsiblegovernment in 1855, statistics were compiled in the colonies at the instruction of the BritishGovernment. Some of the statistical data relating to Australia was published in official sources,which included the Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons. The British tradition ofpublishing statistical information in the official documents of the Legislature was followed inAustralia, and continues to be the case with the inclusion of statistical data from governmentdepartments and agencies in reports tabled in Commonwealth and State Parliaments. TheSydney Gazette, first published in 1803, provided another source of statistical information incolonial times.
One of the earliest works that specifically included statistics relating to New South Wales wasWilliam Charles Wentworth's Statistical, Historical, and Political Description of the Colony ofNew South Wales... published in 1819. His objective in writing the book was to 'promote thewelfare and prosperity of the country'.6 Wentworth's book influenced various publications onAustralia, including two on Queensland by John Dunmore Lang: Cooksland in North-Eastern
Table 1.2 Report on sickness on the First Fleet by ship, status and illness, 30 August1787
Lady PenrhynMarines (b)Convicts
Prince of WalesMarines (c)Convicts
Venereal Cholera Convales-Fever disease Dysentery morbus cents
2 21 - 1 4
4 1 31 1 6
_ _ _ _ i
2 1 1
21 2 5
1 1 3
8 7 5 1 30
(a) Since 13 May 1787.(b) The convalescent was Captain Campbell.(c) The death was that of a child of a marine.
Source: Historical Records of New South Wales, series 1, vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 111.
QUEENSLAND PAST AND PRESENT
Australia: the Future Cotton-Field of Great Britain: Its Characteristics and Capabilities forEuropean Colonization . . . published in 1847, and Queensland, Australia: A Highly EligibleField for Emigration and the Future Cotton-Field of Great Britain published in 1861.
As the settlement grew and the complexity of government administration increased, governmentdepartments and a public service were established to support the Governor's role. Statisticalreturns of agriculture, livestock, duties levied, population, and persons holding civil and militaryappointments were compiled by the New South Wales Government and forwarded to theSecretary of State for War and Colonies in London.
The British Government set up administrative processes to regularise and formalise thecollection, compilation and distribution of statistical data from the colony. In 1822 the ColonialOffice required colonial governors of all British dominions to provide an annual statisticalreturn of their respective colonies. These returns became known as the Blue Books, becauseof the colour of the reports' covers. The format of the reports was uniform throughout theBritish Empire. The colonial governors provided information on standard forms sent out bythe Colonial Office. The need for the returns was explained by Earl Bathurst:
I have had occasion to remark that a want of a regular form of transmission of detailed informationrespecting the financial resources of His Majesty's Colonies, and the several branches of theirexpenditure, is a deficiency which creates much inconvenience to the Public Service.7
Detailed financial information in the Blue Books was im