Rethinking remoteness: a simple and objective approach

Yuejen Zhao, Steven Guthridge

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    This paper re-examines the characteristics and assumptions of current remoteness/accessibility classifications in Australia and proposes a simple and easily understandable alternative measure for remoteness. In this study, remoteness is redefined simply as the average distance between two nearest people within an appropriate spatial unit where population distribution is assumed to be homogenous. By definition, the most straightforward remoteness and incapacity index (RII) would be remoteness times a measure of the incapacity for social and commercial interaction, where remoteness is gauged by the square root of the area divided by the population, and incapacity is measured by the reciprocal of population. Australian Bureau of Statistics Statistical Local Area (SLA) level population data and digital boundaries have been utilised for assessment of this index. The utility of the RII is demonstrated with two examples of activity measures for general practitioner services and businesses. At the State/Territory level, RIIs are negatively related to both general practitioner services per person (Pearson correlation coefficient r = -0.873), and the number of businesses per person (r = -0.546). The correlation can be further enhanced by normalising the distributions of the remoteness scores with a simple logarithmic function. The strong correlations confirm that remoteness has a substantial inverse impact on daily activities. Greater distance means longer time and higher costs for travelling, diseconomy of scale, and higher personnel costs. The RII provides an alternative measure of remoteness that is both intuitive and statistically straightforward and, at an SLA level, closely coincides with the commonly used but complex Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia Plus (ARIA+). Significantly, the RII is free of the service specific and policy sensitive adjustments justified by accessibility that have been introduced into existing measures. � 2008 The Author Journal compilation � 2008 Institute of Australian Geographers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalGeographical Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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