"How remote is remote?"
Discussions about socio-economic disadvantage in non-metropolitan Australia often refer to "remote" areas. Many times, the term "remote" is used interchangeably with words such as "rural", "regional", "the bush" or "the outback", without any common understanding of what part of Australia these include.
Consultation with data users has highlighted the need for the characteristic of an area's remoteness to be reflected in a statistical geography classification.
In January, the ABS released Information Paper - ABS Views on Remoteness, 2001 (ABS Cat. no. 1244.0), which outlines the proposed inclusion of the concept of "remoteness" within the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), which many Census Update readers would be familiar with. The Information Paper also outlines a proposed increase in classes of Urban Centres in the ASGC.
Those who use census data in their socio-economic research may be interested to read of the proposed changes to the Section of State classification in the ASGC, and the proposed method of including remoteness in this classification.
The concept of remoteness is proposed to be incorporated by utilising the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA). ARIA is an index commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care in 1997 and developed by the National Key Centre for Social Applications of GIS (GISCA). It measures remoteness based on the road distance from any point to the nearest service centre.
The ARIA index is based solely on physical geography. It does not attempt to incorporate road conditions, travel time or the broader issue of accessibility, which is influenced by many factors such as the socio-economic status or mobility of the population. While these factors would be of interest to many, their inclusion would make the index volatile and unsuitable for a national geographical classification.
The Information Paper outlines how the concept of remoteness, using the ARIA index system will be structured in the ASGC 2001 edition.
The Paper is recommended reading for anyone who uses the ASGC in their work, or is interested in the issues of remoteness and accessibility.