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Categorical geographic classifications are useful as a means of coarsely dividing the national population into groups that live in similar types of geographic area.

There are a number of different official geographical classifications currently being used in Australia. Different publications can use any one classification, depending on the issues being addressed. The most common are:

The AIHW recommends the use of the ASGC Remoteness Areas (RA). This classification allocates areas of land to one of five arbitrary categories (see table below or map of Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008).

ASGC RA Major cities Inner regional Outer regional Remote Very remote
Example Sydney Bendigo Mackay Alice Springs Tennant Creek
Population distribution 68% 20% 9% 2% 1%

These classifications, unless updated, reflect levels of remoteness at the time each classification was conceived (or at the time of the previous ABS census). Also, shifting postcode and Statistical Local Area boundaries can complicate the application of these classifications to data collections. Each of the classifications has strengths and weaknesses, and each of them is more effective when used at the aggregated national level, than at the local level where they can sometimes be unreliable. The publication A guide to remoteness classifications discusses these classifications and some of the issues surrounding their use.

In July 2008, the Australian Government announced a review of all remoteness classification systems to ensure that incentives and rural health policies respond to current population figures and areas of need. The results of this review are not yet available.