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Table 1 Summary of strengths and weaknesses of the RRMA, ARIA and ASGC Remoteness classifications

From: Geographical classifications to guide rural health policy in Australia

Classification Strengths Weaknesses
RRMA • RRMA is a simple tool to apply both for research and administration purposes, including the allocation of health resources. • The restriction to SLA boundaries, resulting in large, heterogeneous areas being equally classified.
  • Due to the strong influence of population size, RRMA often equally classifies towns of similar size (intuitive). • The use of straight-line distances and SLA centroids, which can result in highly imprecise measures.
  • The use of three zones (metropolitan, rural and remote) is reasonably logical. • The use of population density is meaningless because of the varying size and nature of SLA boundaries.
  • RRMA is preferred by many national organisations over ASGC Remoteness • RRMA has never been updated and still uses 1991 population counts.
ARIA • The flexibility to measure remoteness at any geographic boundary level by using a one kilometre grid. • Only measures geographical remoteness, giving many examples of highly dissimilar towns having the same classification (e.g. Port Macquarie and Gundagai).
  • The additional precision from using road distances and service town locations, rather than straight line distances and SLA centroids. • The separation of the five remoteness categories is somewhat subjective.
  • The clearer conceptualisation of measuring only geographical remoteness of localities (e.g. not muddied by also measuring density). • Penalises smaller, more densely populated states (e.g. over 75% of rural Victoria's population is defined as 'highly accessible'.
   • Use of the category label 'accessible' and the term 'accessibility' within its name (it is not a measure of access)
ASGC-RA • All points listed under ARIA, plus: • All points listed under ARIA (except the last point), plus:
  • More refined methodology (additional service centre category, better separation of major cities) • Extreme heterogeneity within some areas, especially Inner Regional and sometimes Outer Regional
  • A change of labels including the use of 'regional' rather than 'accessible'  
  • Updated by ABS as part of the ASGC