Australian neighbourhoods are sorted into many postcodes, which help keep everyday life functioning efficiently. So what exactly are postcodes, why do you need to know about them, and how do they work?
What are Postcodes?
Australian postcodes are groups of digits that are allocated to localised mail delivery areas within the country, and serve as their postal and geographical identification.
Each country will have its own version of mail delivery area identification, though this may be expressed with a different term.
For example, in the United States, postcodes are referred to as zip codes.
When were They Formed?
The history of postcode usage in Australia dates back to 1967, when the system was implemented by Australia Post. At the time, the company was known as the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Earlier postal systems were employed in various states before postcodes were adopted. These included the use of number and letter codes in Melbourne, and in regional areas of New South Wales.
How are They Presented?
Postcodes in Australia always consist of four digits. The first digit of the code identifies what Australian state or territory the mail delivery area is situated in. There are 7 starting digits allocated to the 6 states and 2 territories in Australia. They are as follows:
Northern territory: 0
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (where the capital city of Australia, Canberra, is located): 2
South Australia: 5
Western Australia: 6
The following examples demonstrate postcodes from cities in each of the states, which utilise the allocated initial digit.
Darwin, Northern Territory: 0800
Sydney, New South Wales: 2000
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: 2600
Melbourne, Victoria: 3000
Brisbane, Queensland: 4000
Adelaide, South Australia: 5000
Perth, Western Australia: 6000
Characteristics of the postcode
In order to effectively send mail through the Australia Post system, the postcode must be included in the postal address. Its position is at the end of the Australian address.
Australian standard mailing envelopes or postcards will more often than not include space for the sender to include the postcode. These are four boxes in the bottom right corner which are highlighted with orange. When posting mail by hand, it is common to use this space for the postcode, rather than including it at the end of the address line.
All postcodes in Australia are managed by the company known as Australia Post. Their official website provides free listings of every postcode in Australia, and additionally, postcodes are available from post offices that stock postcode booklets.
Although the majority of postcodes are straight forward, there are some exceptions to the rule. There are a number of postcodes in Australia which have the initial digit of 1, which isn’t used for any state. These are allocated to special organisations which have more than one office across a range of states and territories, and therefore, require a different postcode.
An example of this is the Australian Tax Office – an institution which has shopfronts in every state and territory in Australia.
As a traveller, how are postcodes useful?
Knowing the postcode of your local area can be a very handy resource. It can help you:
- Find local restaurants, bars and cafes, based on your specific surroundings
- Estimate the cost of road travel through taxis and uber, as you can estimate the distance from one postcode to the next
- Arrange for local tours, activities and access to other amenities, based on proximity
Knowing the postcodes where you plan to visit is also useful to send or receive mail. When you’re sending your postcards back home, be sure to include your current postcode on your return address for a swift reply!
Edited and updated by Sarah Megginson.