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The Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification was developed in 1994 by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, and the then titled Department of Human Services and Health (now Australian Government Department of Health). This classification is currently under review by the Department of Health and Ageing.

Seven categories are included in this classification - 2 metropolitan, 3 rural and 2 remote. The classification is based on Statistical Local Areas (SLA) and allocates each SLA in Australia to a category based primarily on population numbers and an index of remoteness. The index of remoteness is used to allocate non-metropolitan SLAs to either the rural or remote zone.

Structure of the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification
Zone Category
Metropolitan zone M1 Capital cities
M2 Other metropolitan centres (urban centre population > 100,000)
Rural zone R1 Large rural centres (urban centre population 25,000-99,999)
R2 Small rural centres (urban centre population 10,000-24,999)
R3 Other rural areas (urban centre population < 10,000)
Remote zone Rem1 Remote centres (urban centre population > 4,999)
Rem2 Other remote areas (urban centre population < 5,000)

This index of remoteness was constructed for each non-metropolitan SLA using 'distance factors' related to urban centres containing a population of 10,000 persons or more, plus a factor called 'personal distance'. Personal distance relates to population density and indicates the 'remoteness' or average distance of residents from one another.

It is important to note that this method of allocating an SLA to a rural or remote zone is not perfect. Both the size of SLAs and the distribution of the population within SLAs vary enormously. This can mean, for example, that within a remote SLA there can be pockets that are rural rather than remote, and vice versa.