Forums: Index > Watercooler > Divisions of Australian states

(Initial paragraphs adapted from another forum)

Counties or some more recent division?[]

Counties appear in many old records but have virtually disappeared from real life. Is there a better division to base a standard navbox on? Local Government Areas of Australia?

Robin Patterson 06:59, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

No reason why we couldn't have pages for old and new divisions. Robin Patterson 09:07, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

I don't like counties for Australia, I don't think they ever had any administrative or social significance, except in land tenure (though I could be corrected here), certainly nothing like the role they seem to have in the USA. The smallest divisions of a state like New South Wales that I think could be useful are the regional ones, like "New England", "Northern Rivers", "Monaro" etc. Even then, looking at the genealogies I have, the main division is between "Sydney" and "Regional" (ie not Sydney). I am loath to bother with categories below the state level in Australia. Thurstan 09:45, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
My understanding is that there is not the same need for sub-divisions as in the USA. Each state has a system of keeping place names unique within each state (I think a Geographical Names Board). So there is no hamlet, village or town within NSW that can be confused with another within the same state. Which is why the general population is not bothered with specific sub-divisions of the state.
However, it may be useful to allow for them to show where people lived in the same "district". The ODP districts (listed below) would seem to be appropriate, even they have few other regular uses known to the public (Tourism districts?)
I cannot think of any really sensible reason or way for subdividing Sydney. No-one can agree the boundaries of areas like "The Inner West", the CBD, "North Shore". The only sensible one would be Local Government Areas. But even those are subject to relatively frequent change, similar to the UK counties in recent decades, without the centuries of traditional definition to fall back on. As a still rapidly growing city without a long history, people move around within the whole city quite readily within generations, never mind between generations.--RichardB43 01:27, 8 July 2009 (UTC)


New South Wales[]

OK, maybe Brian Yap's relatives whose pages mention counties were a bit exceptional; I've not examined more than a few dozen of his thousands, and I've seen very few old Australian documents. In the absence of coherent cover of NSW regions in Wikipedia, please study and evaluate the fourteen regions defined by the Open Directory Project. The 13 non-Sydney regions would have an average population about double that of the average U.S. county, which puts them well inside the same order of magnitude. (Using Local Government Areas of Sydney would give a similar average population there.) I've copied the ODP map but I'm not much of an image manipulator. Commons has some useful maps but apparently not full coverage. Robin Patterson 13:25, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the ODP names sound like the sort of names I would use to answer the question "where did your ancestors live?". 21:51, 20 July 2008 (UTC) (sorry, it's me Thurstan)

Well, tentatively, here they are for creating initial pages (with the numbers being the current numbers of website profiles listed):

Does that format look OK? Should we abbreviate to NSW? Robin Patterson 03:31, 21 July 2008 (UTC)


Now there are two earlier-created regions that don't match the ODP grouping:

I think they match WP's, but in this area that's not gospel, as I've mentioned before (with memories of distinct inconsistencies around the Sthn Hghlds). Can anyone fit them into our "agreed" regions? --Robin Patterson 05:03, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

GenWeb regions[]

Another idea, a bit late but could be better late than never. See the NSW GenWeb forum regions and see if you think they might be better than ODP's: . I've discussed it briefly with Thurstan and invited GenWeb to comment. Robin Patterson 05:03, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

Detailed reply (with coloured map) from a GenWeb coordinator:,328.msg885.html. Excellent guide. Robin Patterson 07:05, 14 September 2008 (UTC)


You may notice that I tend to compromise on the abbreviations, so "Southern Tablelands (New South Wales)" is okay by me, but when you include it in something longer, which is a subcategory, I would go for the abbreviation, so "Resided in Southern Tablelands (NSW)". This is really just pragmatic, so the names don't get too long (see how I treat NSW place names in some of my people pages). If consistency is preferred, I don't mind, and abbreviations throughout would be okay too. Thurstan 12:03, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

I hadn't noticed your compromises. Wikipedia has them too - a category you created looked as if it was a bit out of line, but it matched WP exactly (helping to form my impression, mentioned above, of current WP incoherence in this field). Consistency has its good points (especially as we move towards more use of bots etc). In this situation some consistency is virtually forced because of how the navbox template creates links, using the division name at the top of the table (BASEPAGENAME). I'm happy with "NSW" generally, and it redirects to the state name on Wikipedia (which it could do here too); there would be small disadvantages in creating higher-level categories; but probably no more than a few dozen or hundred pages and only a few seconds' delay on each.

Including state in name[]

I'm sorry to do this, but I have changed my mind: it was the mention of "consistancy" and "Wikipedia" that did it. One thing that I struggled with in scripting the generation of info pages from GEDCOM files is that Wikipedia is not consistent about how places are referred to. For example, in Sussex we have NorthiamWp globe tiny.gif but Ewhurst, East SussexWp globe tiny.gif. For that reason, when I have created pages for Australian places, they have all been named like Walcha, New South Wales, even when (eg Sydney, New South Wales) that doesn't match Wikipedia.

Now consistency would suggest Central Coast, New South Wales rather than Central Coast (New South Wales) and Victoria, Australia rather than Victoria (Australia). What do you think?

Again, once we have Victoria, Australia I feel that we must have New South Wales, Australia etc for the other states and territories, otherwise we end up with the sort of mess Wikipedia has.

Thurstan 03:50, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

There are four Ewhursts in southern England, so they need disambiguation. That's not a good reason for requiring every uniquely named place in the world to have an additional locator added. Would your "pragmatic, so the names don't get too long" comment be out of context here? The consistency is calling a place by its commonest name except when there's a sound reason not to (such as disambiguation). Wikipedia has developed fairly consistent place name guidelines; but in areas of Wikipedia that have not progressed far, such as the regions of Australia, some editors (through carelessness or misunderstanding) have not been following the guidelines, and/or the guidelines haven't been properly clarified/particularised/adjusted to suit. Robin Patterson 09:56, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
I too prefer the comma style, e.g. Central Coast, New South Wales; one character shorter and easier to type. WP's guidelines are a bit vague on that point, so we can probably put up with the need to change WP links in places. Robin Patterson 09:56, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
With wanting all the other states and territories to add ", Australia" just because Vic may want to, you're back to the Ewhurst argument. Saying "South Australia, Australia" and "Western Australia, Australia" does not seem sensible naming to me. This is closely related to a much wider discussion, currently starting on Forum:Place names, which you may like to ponder and join. However, I see a better solution for Vic, having composed and being about to start Forum:"Victoria". Robin Patterson 09:56, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
My plea for consistency is based on automation (scripting): you are saying that if my GEDCOM file says "PLACE: Ewhurst, Sussex, England", then I have to do a dictionary lookup to generate "Ewhurst, East Sussex", rather than having something regular, like "Ewhurst, Sussex".
It just means I'll make even more errors than I do now <g>.
"Victoria" has now been settled for the state. Robin Patterson 05:03, 11 September 2008 (UTC)
Seven weeks since Thurstan suggested we use the comma style to add the state name to the regions, and I agreed that I prefer it too. No voice raised in opposition. Let's do it. Robin Patterson 13:28, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

See continuation at Talk:Regions of New South Wales. Robin Patterson 15:07, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

Abbrevs of other state names[]

While we are talking about abbreviations, I don't know how idiosyncratic and/or pedantic I am, but I favour "Vic", "Tas" and "Qld" over "VIC", "TAS" and "QLD". Note that all the other states and territories are okay in all caps, because the abbreviations are all acronyms (so look silly in mixed case). However this is no big deal for me.

Thurstan 03:50, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

I wasn't planning on inviting other abbrevs. "Vic" is a man's name as well as a possible state abbrev. Do we need them? They will lead to more ambiguity, with several million residents of Washington potentially wondering why their state has joined Oz! Robin Patterson 09:56, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
Do we need them ? Yes. Australians use these abbreviations constantly, in speech as well as in writing. WA, NT, SA, ACT in particular)--RichardB43 01:41, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
What is with that comment about Washingotn ? Isn't it in DC? Plus, the rest of the world somewhat resents setting systems up just so Americans can be lazy in their references.--RichardB43 01:41, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
The comment on abbreviations was prompted by the first line on the page Victoria (Australia): I thought I'd better get in quick in case it spread. Thurstan


South Australia[]



I'm seeing several Vic localities in recent work. I'd like our Oz expert to offer an opinion on what we use in the "county" field. Local government areas of Victoria? -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 08:29, January 1, 2014 (UTC)

Western Australia[]


Australian Capital Territory[]

Northern Territory[]

Parentheses in place names[]

I detect a possible problem with info pages. Why isn't Harold Holt's widow showing in Category:Born in Victoria (Australia) where her page (at my direction) says she is? The parenthetical part seems to be ignored. May affect quite a lot of our naming. Robin Patterson 14:22, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

I don't know what the problem is: it works properly on my local copy!
Thurstan 22:53, 21 July 2008 (UTC)
"Category:Born in Victoria (Australia)
"From Genealogy
"This category currently contains no pages or media. "
Robin Patterson 01:10, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't mean "I see no problem", I meant "I don't know why the category is empty, it isn't empty on my local copy".
Perhaps we just have to wait and see: one of the reasons that I have a local copy is that the "live" version is neither coherent nor consistant. For example, if I were to create a page for myself, with categories Category:Married in Queensland and Category:Born in 1951, and these categories didn't already exists, then I would find when I created them that they would come up empty. We seem to have to wait some time (hours?) for the various caches and various copies of the database to synchonize across the servers. When I started contributing, I several times found myself creating exactly the same page twice, because it didn't seem to exist when I came back to it.
Thurstan 03:11, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
It looks okay now. Thurstan 07:59, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
"Pages in category "Born in Victoria (Australia)"

"There is one page in this category.

"    * Zara Kate Dickins (1909-1989)"

That's a relief! Too bad - it would have helped with someone's push for having commas instead of parentheses!!! Robin Patterson 08:45, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

"This is the greatest treason, to do the right deed for the wrong reason". I am arguing on the grounds of consistancy and aesthetics, not whether it works or not!

Who is doing all this work?[]

Observing that there are 100's of thousands of placenames in the world, most of them already encoded in wikipedia in multiple languages, I was observing this conversation of inventing new better ways of naming places and two questions came to mind:

  1. Are we saying we are not going to leverage the place name information in the wikipedias?
  2. If we are going to use wikipedia names, then who is volunteering to create the redirects that map this new naming scheme to the names in the wikipedias? There are a quarter million place names alone. Even if this were automated, do we really have the manpower to waste expend on this geography exercise?

The complaint was made that the naming of wikipedia places is not logical, and so it is difficult to automate Gedcom generation of place names. Well, I can imagine this scheme as well as many others would make it easier to do the Gedcom part, but where does that get you. You have a bunch of redlinks. You need some content on those places- the external links to all the city halls, bureau of records, all the pictures in Commons, etc etc- all indexed with wikipedia names but you need to know which new name corresponds to which wikipedia name. So really, an alternate naming convention has not solved the problem, it has only deferred it. The new naming standard is simply a rug to sweep the problem under. Worse, it is a rug we will have to maintain in perpetuity. So we haven't solved problem one, just deferred it, and worse we will have created problem two- an ongoing maintenance task of keeping up with new place names as they are added to the wikipedias, and mapping them to whatever this new naming scheme finally is agreed to be.

Note that even if we had a realistic plan for creating this volume of redirects, there is an unavoidable maintenance issue. Instead of simply moving new names with their redirect synonyms over as is from the wikipedia, we must continue to presumably manually map them to whatever the new invented scheme is.

Note also that because the naming scheme is invented here, we have also opened it to continual debate. Rather than referring concerned parties to the wikipedia for the corresponding language to settle disputes, we must spend our time on them. Months and months may be spent hammering out the initial proposal and then there is no reason to believe we will be magically immune to the nationalist rivalries, emotions, classification pedants who love to get into edit wars over conventions debates at wikipedia. If they lose the argument there, they will always be able to come here to get a second hearing.

Let's stop and think very carefully about diverging from wikipedia names, regardless how appealing it may be to try to invent a rounder wheel. ~ Phlox 04:47, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Progress by 2013[]

Most of us active contributors have probably moved at least some way towards Phlox's viewpoint in the last few years. The fields in our "new" forms have influenced that. Time to sort out where we are and whether it's the best. Talk:Regions of New South Wales, among others, may need revisiting. -- Robin Patterson (Talk) 09:29, January 10, 2013 (UTC)