Defining Remote and Rural Context

The Transition to Rural and Remote Practice Toolkit is currently under review and content may be out of date. The toolkit will be updated following the review.

The way remoteness and rurality are defined and understood is important. Defined remoteness or rurality is used to assess health and workforce needs, and the resources allocated to meet these needs, include staff and physical resourcing, and other funding.

A number of different classification systems have been developed to define remoteness and rurality in Australia. These tend to define in terms of the size of a community, distance from population centres, and access to services.  The following systems are commonly used to define remoteness areas or rurality:

  • Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC-RA). The ASGC defines remoteness by Census Collection Districts on the basis on the average ARIA score within the district. The remoteness of local areas is then assessed and classified by the ARIA categories: major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote. ASGC-RA was last revised in 2016.
  • Modified Monash Model Areas (MMM) is a custom remoteness classification developed by the Department of Health. It aims to improve categorisation of metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas. This is achieved by factoring both geographical remoteness and town size into a single classification. It was designed to address disparity in the uptake of incentives between towns where there may be a significant difference in population size but shared the same ASGC-RA remoteness classification. MMM is now being used for a significant number of Department of Health programs. MMM was last revised in 2015.

Click here to access more information on the different official geographical classifications in use in Australia.

Click here for information about the ASGC-RA.

Defining Remote & Rural & You

Take the time to find out where your community lies within these classifications and the implications this has in terms of access to resources and the ways services are delivered. To find the classification for your community search here.

Below are links to some resources that will help to develop your understanding of the ways remoteness and rurality are defined and the diversity within these categories.

Useful Resources

  • Wakerman J. Defining Remote Health. Australian Journal of Rural Health, Vol. 12, pp. 210–214; 2004.
  • Rural, Regional and Remote Health: a guide to remoteness classifications (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
  • Doctor Connect. Department of Health. Available at
  • Couper ID. Rural hospital focus: defining rural. Rural and Remote Health 3 (online), 2003: 205. Available at:
  • Measuring Remoteness: Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) Revised Edition. (Commonwealth of Australia; 2001).