Updated ABS boundaries for 2016

Edit July 2017 – It seems a lot of people are still coming to this page from search engines. If this is you, hi! If you are using Tableau 10.2 or later let me be clear… you no longer need these files nor do you need to use the techniques described to show custom regions. Tableau can now read the ESRI boundary files from the ABS website natively. This gives you a much better experience and makes your workbooks much simpler. Check out the Tableau blog post on this new feature here.

One of the most popular posts on my blog is Australian region boundaries in Tableau. Many people link through it to find the ASGS boundary data files I have converted for use in Tableau. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released an update to the ASGS main structure with changes to:

  • Mesh blocks
  • Statistical Area Levels 1 – 4 (SA1 – SA4)
  • Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA)

You can read the details about the update here.

I’ve updated the boundary files for these structures and put them in the Dropbox folder, here.

I’ve also generated the boundaries at different resolutions – 10m, 100m and 200m. The finer the resolution, the more data points (e.g. the SA1 file has 781K points @ 200m, 1M points @ 100m, and 2.6M points @ 10m). Use the version that best suits your needs – if you are showing the whole country, use the 200m resolution file; if you are zoomed in on a small area use the 10m resolution file.



About Alan Eldridge

Hi. I'm Alan. By day I manage the APAC sales engineering team for Snowflake Computing. By night, I'm a caped crusader. Or sleeping. Most often it's sleeping.
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34 Responses to Updated ABS boundaries for 2016

  1. Pingback: Australian region boundaries in Tableau | The Last Data Bender

  2. Susan Day says:

    Thanks Alan! You are definitely a caped crusader

  3. Rose says:

    Hi Alan,

    I was wondering if the old boundary files for SA3 are still available for download? I am working with data in the 2011 format.


  4. Jerry says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks very much for this. That’s really helpful. Is it possible that I can have a 10m resolution version for SSC? I appreciate for your help.


  5. Jerry says:

    Hi Alan,

    This is really great! Can I please also have the SSC file at 10m resolution? I appreciate your help!

    Thanks so much!

  6. Hi Alan, I need to gather data for QLD State Electorates and I was wondering if there are any changes since the Tableau 10 update before I start attempting to create the polygons from the Shape files of the State electorates. Thank you! Sian

    • Hi Sian, there are no changes in the Tableau 10 release that would change the way you approach a problem for state electoral boundaries. You would use custom polygons.

      We are hoping to make this much easier soon – I suggest you register for our TC Live virtual pass (http://tclive.tableau.com/SignUp) and check out the keynote as there will be some interesting announcements there.


  7. Andy says:

    Hi Alan, I am able to use the lGA (200m) file successfully but the LGA(100m) seems to be missing data and can’t be opened. Any chance you could update this file? Thanks. Andy

  8. Matt says:

    Hi Alan,

    This is going to save my bacon! You’re a legend. Could you please tell me which file I would open to map Western Australian suburbs in Tableau?

    Many thanks,


  9. Matt Gibbs says:

    Hi Alan,

    I left a comment asking about the suburb data but have now found it. As before, you’re the man! I’ll be following your blog from now on.

    Hope you have an awesome week ahead.


  10. Brock Ford says:

    Hi Alan,

    Firstly, thank you very much for this. You have made our analysis a great deal easier and more insightful with this.

    One question though, I am using a time series dataset to map changes over time at the SA3 level.

    For instance, I might have a calculated field which says that if the month of the data is at May’17 then sum price.
    Another field that says if month of data is at May’16, then sum price.
    Then find the difference between them.

    Writing in the month into the calculated field works perfectly. But I update the data monthly, and was hoping for these calculated fields to update dynamically.

    Therefore, I created a field which states:

    YEAR([Date])=YEAR({FIXED:MAX([Date])}) THEN [Price] END)

    To calculate the most recent date’s total price. And another field to find the total price last year:

    YEAR([Date])=YEAR({FIXED:MAX([Date])})-1 THEN [Price] END)

    This works perfectly when the data is the Primary data source. But needing it at the SA3 level, I have to use your data to map the SA3 levels first, then my data as the secondary data source.

    It comes up with the error message:
    Cannot blend the seoncdary data source because one or more fields use an unsupported aggregation.

    I have researched it for days, and all I can find is articles saying that LOD cals cannot be used in the Secondary Data source.

    Can you think of any way to overcome this?

    Any information would be hugely appreciated it. I am pulling what little hair I have left out at a rapid pace.


    Brock Ford.

    • Hi Brock. Are you running a recent version of Tableau Desktop? If so, you could do a cross-datasource join instead of using blending. Instead of using the TDE vertex list from this post, download the SA3 shapefile from the ABS and join that file with your analytic data using the SA3 ID or name. Approaching the problem this way will remove the difference in LOD between the SA3 boundary data and your analytic data – it will be 1:1 now. Also, you will have a single data source so you can continue to use the LODs you have described above as you are no longer dealing with a blend.

      Hope this suggestion helps.


      • Brock Ford says:

        Hi Alan,
        Thanks heaps for the reply. I did try this approach with the TDE Vertex List, but as you said, it isn’t one to one, and I couldn’t manipulate the data, which is large, to make it work.

        We are currently using 10.1. I did see your comment about the new shapefile this morning. This will honestly save us so much time. I believe our data guys are meeting with Tableau guys next week. I will definitely be pushing to get the update to 10.3.

        When we do upgrade, I will attempt the method you mentioned, buy merging the data.
        If I can’t figure it out, I will get back to you.

        Again, thank you very much.

        You really have added an insightful element that has helped our business a great deal.


  11. Joel says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for preparing the data and providing the instructions! It’s really helpful!

    In the CED datasets, the two polygons for ACT electorates (Canberra and Fenner) are completely overlayed by the Eden-Monaro polygon. I think this might be because the ACT electorates are entirely enclosed by Eden-Monaro. This means that it isn’t possible to interact with the ACT electorates when Eden-Monaro is shown and any colour applied to the ACT electorates’ polygons have to bleed through the colour of the Eden-Monaro polygon.

    Is there a way to modify the visualization so that the ACT electorates appear the same as the rest (i.e. aren’t overlaid by Eden-Monaro)?


    • Hi Joel,

      Firstly let me point out that this approach is no longer the recommended way to do custom regions. If you are running Tableau 10.2 or later (if you aren’t I *strongly* encourage you to upgrade) then you should be using the built-in support for shapefiles. Information on this capability is here:

      However, to answer your specific question… using this legacy technique the custom polygons that are produced do not support internal “holes” in polygons. The scenario you describe where the ACT electorates are internally contained by Eden-Monaro is one of these cases.

      There isn’t any way to overcome this issue with the legacy approach however our support for polygons from shapefiles does handle polygons with holes. Therefore, to get the outcome you want, simply update to Tableau 10.2 or later (we’re currently shipping 10.4) and use the original ESRI shapefiles or MapInfo files from the ABS website.

      I hope this helps.


  12. Steven says:

    Hi Alan,

    Great job on providing this resource.

    Is there any chance you could update the dropbox links? I’m after the SA2 mapping files as we are currently on Tableau 10.0 and upgrading is beyond our power.


  13. Josh says:

    Hi Alan,
    Do you happen to have, or know where I can find a file that has 2016 SA1 with centroid geocodes?
    I tried to open the dropbox link above to see if I could grab it from past files you have saved but the link didn’t work.
    Appreciate any help you can provide!


  14. Alex says:

    Hi Alan

    I am new to Tableau, but have managed to create some maps so thank you!

    Do you know if it’s possible to map SA1s, SA2s, SA3s, SA4s, LGAs onto a single map of Aus?

    Basically, I have data on where service providers are spending their money around Austraila, but the locations provided are a mix between SA1/2/3/4 and LGA.

    Any advice most welcome. Thank you!

    • Hi Alex,

      Yes, it’s possible but my questions is – how do you imagine this data will be visualised when these regions can overlap? Should you only see one of these “layers” at at time (allowing the end user to select the “granularity) or are you expecting to see them all at one, potentially overlapping?

      Relating the SA1-4 to each other is simple – they are a clean hierarchy. But LGAs are unrelated to SAs so merging these together is complex.

      You could merge the 4 spatial files together in a UNION operation, labelling each set of records to the structure (e.g. SA1, SA2, … , LGA) then have conditional logic in the report to link your spending data to the appropriate spatial record. This would be the approach to take. Working with a current version of Tableau will make your life easier as the spatial capabilities of the tool continue to improve.

      Good luck with your analysis.


  15. Praveen Jha says:

    Hi Alan, The dropbox links are not working. Could you please provide an updated link.


    • Hi Praveen – this post is obsolete as this technique is no longer required. If you have a shapefile, Tableau can read it natively. I strongly recommend that you do not use this approach any more.

      As a result, the files are no longer available.

  16. Suzannah says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you for so generously sharing your amazing knowledge about Tableau. What an incredible resource and asset you are.

    I am wondering if you may be able to help me with a problem I am encountering with ABS spatial files. I am trying to create a map that has SA2 boundary data layered with LGA boundary data. I would like to be able to see both sets of boundaries – SA2s borders in one colour and LGA boundaries in another colour.

    I know that Tableau base maps have LGAs pre-loaded but the borders aren’t dark enough when you layer the SA2 on top of them – even with the SA2s transparent.

    Do you know if it is possible to link/join an ABS SA2 shape file (preferably just for Victoria) with an ABS LGA shape file (again preferably just for Victoria)?

    I am having so much trouble trying to find an LGA file that includes the mesh block codes so that I can link them.

    If you can give me any insight or leads or advice I would be most grateful.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Suzannah – I’m glad you find the blog useful. I had a play with this request today… but I’m not sure how easy this will be. Here goes…

      The joining things isn’t too hard… I downloaded the SA2 and LGA boundary data from the ABS website as SHP files, then I used QGIS to merge (effectively a union) the two files into one following these instructions:

      This gave me a single SHP file containing both SA2 and LGA which I could easily plot in Tableau and identify the two different polygon types but this is where you might come unstuck in your request. While I can control the colour and transparency of the polygon marks, I can’t really control the appearance of the boundary (other than the colour).

      What I could do was to:
      a) split the GEOM field into two using a conditional calculation based on the record type;
      b) create a dual-axis map with the LGA Geom on one axis and the SA2 Geom on the other;
      c) make the colour of the polys completely transparent; and
      d) change the colour of the boundary on each axis so they stand out.

      The workbook I created is here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/v0o1b5yngm1ox55/SA2%20and%20LGA.twbx?dl=0

      It’s far from perfect but it’s about as far as I could get. TBH – while I don’t know what you are doing with this it seems that this is an odd approach. Because the two sets of polygons are overlapping you can only select or tooltip based on the objects in the topmost layer – so at any time you can only select SA2 or LGA polys, but never both.

      Anyhow – hope this helps.


  17. Suzannah says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you sincerely for your fantastic explanation and for putting together the workbook. How generous and wonderful. This greatly helps me understand how it all works as I am a Tableau novice giving myself a crash course. This is immensely helpful.

    I will have a go at creating the same shapefile using QGIS, that’s a great program that I am trying to understand at the moment.

    Thank you sincerely once again, I can’t tell you how helpful this is.

    Kindest regards,

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