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From 1822 the statistics in the colony were collected and published by the New South Wales Colonial Secretary's Office. The publication was called the Returns of the Colony, but is now commonly referred to as the ‘Blue Books’. Local officials gathered the information which was then sent to the Colonial Secretary's Office. This included information about revenue and expenditure, population, imports and exports, taxes, land, agriculture and prisoners. The Colonial Secretary’s Office carried out the first census in 1828.
In 1848 the Registrar General took over the collection of statistics in the colony. In 1859 a new publication, the New South Wales Statistical Register replaced the ‘Blue Books’ as the main statistical publication (the ‘Blue Books’ continued as a register of public service personnel). The Registrar General continued to publish the register until 1886 when the first Government Statistician, Timothy Augustine Coghlan, was appointed and the collection of statistics was transferred back to the Colonial Secretary's Office.
The NSW Bureau of Statistics was set up in 1908 to collect statistics for the state. In 1956 the Commonwealth assumed all major state and national statistical responsibilities under the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956 but the bureau continued to publish the Year Books and Statistical Bulletins into the 1970s.
The new Commonwealth Bureau was established under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, with George Handley Knibbs as the first Commonwealth Statistician. Statistical functions were divided between the State and Commonwealth bureaus. In 1956 the Commonwealth assumed all major state and national statistical responsibilities under the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956.
In 1974 the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics was renamed the Australian Bureau of Statistics with the task to make statistics more accessible to the public and businesses.