All results are based on the patient’s Medicare enrolment postcode, not where they received the health care service. Patients may use services outside of their Medicare enrolment postcode. The accuracy of the patient’s Medicare enrolment postcode cannot be determined, and may not reflect the primary residence (e.g. the Medicare enrolment postcode may be a PO box postcode).

The report presents information nationally and at the geography of:

  • Primary Health Network (PHN) areas – 31 geographic areas covering Australia, with boundaries defined by the Australian Government Department of Health (2018).
  • Metropolitan and regional PHN groups – PHN areas have been assigned into 2 groups: metropolitan and regional
  • Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3s) – 340 geographic areas covering Australia, with boundaries defined by the ABS (2016).
  • SA3 groups – SA3s have been assigned into 6 groups: Major cities (Higher socioeconomic), Major cities (Medium socioeconomic), Major cities (Lower socioeconomic), Inner regional, Outer regional and Remote (ABS 2018a; 2018b).

Measures calculated at PHN area and SA3 were compiled by applying a geographic concordance to the unit record data. The concordance used the patient’s Medicare enrolment postcode as recorded on the last claim processed (for any MBS service) in the reporting year. If a patient had more than one postcode listed on their last date of processing in the year, then the postcode was taken from the last date of service on that date of processing. Records with invalid or missing postcodes were included in the national total but not allocated to a PHN area or SA3.

Where a postcode boundary overlapped more than one PHN area or SA3, the percentage of records attributed to each area was the same as the percentage of the postcode population that fell within each area.

Postcodes are updated (introduced, retired or changed) over time, which can affect the comparability of how patients are allocated to regions over time. A key postcode change that affects how patients are allocated to SA3s is postcode 4306 in Queensland, which prior to 1 February 2018 encompassed two distinct areas approximately 100 km apart. From 1 February 2018 the postcode was split into two postcodes (4306 and 4314). As patients living in postcode 4314 were registered to postcode 4306 prior to 1 February 2018, a concordance file which used the former postcode 4306 boundaries was used for 2013–14 to 2016–17 reporting years. An updated concordance file that reflects the new 4306 and 4314 boundaries was used for 2017–18 and 2018–19 data.

Figures were rounded at the end of the calculations to avoid truncation error. Individual area results may not add to national totals due to rounding and missing location data.

Metropolitan and regional PHN groups

PHN areas with at least 85% of the population residing in Major cities are classified as metropolitan, as defined by the ABS (2018a), using the population distribution as of 30 June 2016. All other PHN areas are classified as regional PHN areas. See Table C for the metropolitan or regional classification of each PHN area.

Local area (SA3) groups

Identification of SA3s with similar socioeconomic or remoteness characteristics can help when making comparisons between areas. Results for local areas (SA3s) are presented by ABS categories of remoteness and, in Major cities, also by socioeconomic status. Results are grouped into the following categories:

  • Major cities
    • Higher socioeconomic areas
    • Medium socioeconomic areas
    • Lower socioeconomic areas
  • Inner regional
  • Outer regional
  • Remote (includes Very remote).

SA3s in major cities

The majority of SA3s (190 of 340) across Australia are in the Major cities category (based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) 2016, ABS 2018a). SA3 populations can be diverse in terms of socioeconomic status. To better enable fair comparisons within city areas, SA3s were divided into three socioeconomic groups: higher, medium and lower using the 2016 ABS Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (IRSD) and the population as of 30 June 2016. IRSD is one of the Socio-Economic Indexes for Area (SEIFA) produced by the ABS (2018b). It ranks Statistical Area Level 1s (SA1s) from the most disadvantaged area (lowest quantile) to the least disadvantaged area (highest quantile), based on the relative socioeconomic conditions at an overall area level, not at an individual level.

The socioeconomic groups were defined as follows to produce three groups:

  • Lower: IRSD quintiles 1 and 2
  • Medium: IRSD quintiles 3 and 4
  • Higher: IRSD quintile 5.

SA3s in Major cities were allocated to a socioeconomic group based on the largest number of SA1s in each group. In this report, across all SA3s, the percentage of the population that lived in the socioeconomic group allocated to that area ranged from 26% to 100%. This indicates that some SA3s have a broad diversity in socioeconomic status.

SA3s by remoteness

SA3 boundaries align well with the ABS remoteness classification for Major cities, Inner regional and Outer regional areas (ABS 2018a). SA3s are not as well defined between Remote and Very remote areas, so these categories were combined into a single category (Remote) for this analysis.

SA3s were allocated to one remoteness category based on the largest percentage of the population in each of the categories, using the population distribution as of 30 June 2016. This ranged from 48% to 100%. However, if 95% of the geographic area in an SA3 was Remote or Very remote, it was categorised on the basis of geographic area rather than population. This affected four SA3s – Broken Hill and Far West (NSW), Outback-North and East (SA), Goldfields (WA) and Mid West (WA).

Table C: Metropolitan and regional Primary Health Network areas

Primary Health Network (PHN) area

Proportion of population(a) in Major cities(b)

Metropolitan PHN areas


Central and Eastern Sydney


Australian Capital Territory


Western Sydney


Northern Sydney




South Eastern Melbourne


Gold Coast (Qld)


Perth South


Perth North


North Western Melbourne


Eastern Melbourne


Brisbane South


Brisbane North


South Western Sydney


Nepean Blue Mountains (NSW)


Regional PHN areas


Hunter New England and Central Coast (NSW)


South Eastern NSW


Darling Downs and West Moreton (Qld)


Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast


Western Victoria


North Coast (NSW)


Country SA


Western NSW


Murrumbidgee (NSW)


Gippsland (Vic)


Murray (Vic & part NSW)


Western Queensland


Northern Queensland


Country WA




Northern Territory


(a) Population = ABS ERP at 30 June 2016.
(b) Major cities – as defined by the Australian Statistical Geography Standard 2016 Remoteness Areas (ABS 2018a).
Source: ABS Estimated Resident Population at 30 June 2016.