Evaluation of the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program and the Visiting Optometrists Scheme

Appendix H: Australian classifications of remoteness

Page last updated: 28 February 2012

The principal approaches used for measuring remoteness in Australia have been:

    • The Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification.
    • The remoteness classification based on the Accessibility/ Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA).
    • Remoteness Areas (RAs) defined under the Australian Standard Geographic Classification (ASGC).
(AIHW 2004).

These are described below.

Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification


The RRMA classification system was used for allocating resources under a range of Commonwealth Government programs from the mid-1990s to 2008. RRMA was developed in 1994 (DPIE, DHSH 1994). The system classified statistical local areas (SLAs) according to population and locality into three zones: metropolitan, rural or remote. Capital cities and metropolitan centres (having a population of 100,000 or more) were allocated to the metropolitan zone. Other SLAs were allocated to rural or remote zones based on an ‘index of remoteness’. The index score was calculated by combining a ‘personal distance index’ (relating to the SLA’s population density) and distance indices (relating to the distance of the centroid of an SLA to the nearest urban centres in each of four categories). The SLA was then allocated an RRMA class based on the population of the urban centre within the SLA. Table 98 shows the structure of the classification.

Table 99 – Structure of ASGC Remoteness Areas (RA) classification

Grouping

Code

Description

MSOAP weight

Capital cities

RRMA 1

 

 

Other metropolitan centres

RRMA 2

Urban centre population > 100,000

 

Large rural centres

RRMA 3

Urban centre population 25,000–99,999

 

Small rural centres

RRMA 4

Urban centre population 10,000–24,999

0.12

Other rural areas

RRMA 5

Urban centre population < 10,000

1.31

Remote centres

RRMA 6

Urban centre population > 5,000

1.62

Other remote areas

RRMA 7

Urban centre population < 5,000

2.38


Source: DPIE, DHSH 1994



Accessibility/ Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA)


ARIA is an index developed by the National Centre for Social Applications of Geographical Information Systems (GISCA) for the Australian Government. The ARIA index and its variants (ARIA, ARIA+ and ARIA++ and the state based ARIAs) make operational the concept of ‘remoteness’ in a purely geographical sense. Remoteness is defined as a function of the road distance that people have to travel in order to gain access to services. The further an individual has to travel to access services, the more ‘remote’ a locality is considered.

Distances are defined in terms of distances from all the relevant geographic locations in the state/country to ‘services centres’. Services centres of different sizes are defined and the distance a particular geographic location is to the nearest service centres of each size is calculated. The ARIA service centre categories are described in Table 99. The classification of service centres in this way reflects the first assumption adopted in constructing the ARIA indices, that the population size of a locality is a proxy for service availability.

Table 100 - ARIA services centres

Category

Population size

ARIA index

Average distance (km)

A

250,000 persons or more

ARIA, ARIA+ & ARIA++

275.7

B

48,000 – 249,999 persons

ARIA, ARIA+ & ARIA++

213.6

C

18,000 – 47,999 persons

ARIA, ARIA+ & ARIA ++

82.7

D

5,000 – 17,999 persons

ARIA, ARIA+ & ARIA++

45.5

E

1,000 – 4,999 persons

ARIA+ & ARIA++

24.1

F

200 – 999 Persons

ARIA++

16.5


Source:GISCA 2008


Relevant data are assembled giving the road distance from each geographic location and each service centre. Specific adjustments are made for island communities without bridge connections to the mainland to translate straight line distances into road distance equivalents. These adjustments vary according to the straight line distance, and range from a weight of 10 for distances of 0-10 km (i.e. 1 km in a straight line distances is considered to be the equivalent of 10 km in road distance) to 2 for distances greater than 50 km.

The distance between a locality and each type of service centre is expressed as a ratio. For example, if the distance from a particular locality and the nearest category A service centre is 300 km, and the average distance between localities and that category A service centres is 280 km, then a ratio of 300/280 or 1.07 would be calculated. These ratios are trimmed at 3.00. One assumption applied is that access to larger service centres ‘dominates’ access to smaller service centres. For example, if the road distance from a particular locality to a category B service centre is greater than the distance to a category A service centre, the distance to the Category A service centre is applied to both category A and B.

For the ARIA+ index ratios for distances to the six service centre types are then summed (which gives equal weight for distances to each service centre category), to give a score that ranges from 0 to 18. (The original ARIA index had a range of 0-12.) This approach reflects the second main assumption used in constructing the ARIA indices, that road distance (or its equivalent weighted measure for islands) is a measure of access. The resulting ARIA scores are assigned to relevant localities, specifically collection districts (CDs). The CD is the smallest spatial unit in the ASGC, traditionally representing the area that one census data collector could cover. For the 2006 Census, 38,704 CDs were defined throughout Australia.

In the main versions of ARIA (ARIA, ARIA+ and ARIA++), distances between localities and the closest service centres are calculated, even where these service centres are located in a different state. However, some state/territory based indices have been created, where distances are calculated relative to the nearest services centre within the state/territory (e.g. the State Accessibility Remoteness Index of Australian Plus NSW, SARIA++NSW).

A remoteness classification based on the original ARIA index identified five remoteness groups (see Table 101). This is the classification that has been used in the MSOAP-Core program up until June 2011.

Table 101 – Structure of ARIA+ classification

Grouping

Code

ARIA range

Highly accessible

HA

0–1.84

Accessible

A

>1.84–3.51

Moderately accessible

MA

>3.51–5.80

Remote

R

>5.80–9.08

Very remote

VR

>9.08


Source: AIHW 2004



ASGC Remoteness Areas


Since 2001, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has used the ARIA index (initially ARIA+) to classify ABS CDs into Remoteness Areas (RAs) under the ASGC. ASGC-RAs also use ARIA+ index (rather than ARIA), but uses alternative cut off points (see Table 6). The remoteness areas classification is used in a wide variety of statistical reporting. Since 2008 it has been the preferred classification for administration of Australian Government programs. It will be the approach applied across all MSOAP program from 1 July 2011.

Table 102 – Structure of ASGC Remoteness Areas (RA) classification

Grouping

Code

ARIA+ range

Major cities

RA1

0–0.2

Inner regional

RA2

> 0.2 - 2.4

Outer regional

RA3

>2.4–5.92

Remote

RA4

>5.92–10.53

Very remote

RA5

>10.53


Source: AIHW 2004