Sorting Out Australian Postcodes
Australian postal codes have been a part of the postal business in this country since 1967. Most civilized countries in the world utilize them: As of 2005, the Universal Postal Union—a worldwide organization that standardizes policies for transporting mail—boasted 190 member countries, and 117 of them handle their mail using postal codes. You might be surprised to learn that Ireland and Panama are among those that do not have national coding systems in place.
In Australia, postal codes are made up of four digits. Most envelopes are manufactured with 4 squares on the lower right-hand corner so that the writer can insert the appropriate four numbers.
Obviously, postal codes are useful as a way for postal workers to sort mail according to its geographic destination.
But is there a pattern to postal code numbers? Not really! Going from west to east, Australian postal cards include:
- Western Australia: 6000-6797
- Northern Territory: 0800-0899
- South Australia: 5000-5799
- Queensland: 4000-4999
- New South Wales: 2000-2599
- And 2619-2898
- And 2921-2999
- Victoria 3000-3999
- Tasmania 7000-7799
- Capital Territory 2600-2618
- And 2900-2920
You’ll notice that the Australian Capital Territory carries the chunk of numbers swiped out of the block designated for New South Wales. In addition, each state as well as the capital territory has a separate set of numbers designated just for post office boxes and institutions (like universities or medical centers) designated Large Volume Receivers (LVRs).
Even if you arrange the postal codes in numerical order, you won’t find much of a pattern. The very lowest codes are for the LVRs and PO boxes of the Capital Territory—0200-0299. You then jump to the Northern Territory (0800-0999—including regular and LVR addresses). Next you stay in New South Wales for a bit (1000-1999 for the LVRs and then 2000-2599), and then you hover back and forth between NSW and the Capital Territory for the rest of the 2000s. Victoria comes next with 3000-3999 for regular addresses, but the LVR numbers are way off at 8000-8999. Queensland is next (again with the LVR numbers not corresponding to the regular numbers) followed sedately by South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania.
Just How Is A Postal Code Assigned?
No matter how the states and territories ended up with the batches of numbers assigned to them, the next question is: How about the remaining digits of individual postal codes?
- Capital cities of states end in 3 zeroes. For example, Sydney is 2000 and Brisbane is 4000.
- Capital cities of territories end in 2 zeroes. We have Darwin at 0800 and Canberra at 2600.
- GPO (general post office) box addresses are derived by switching the last zero to a one. That means a GPO address in Sydney would be 2001 and in Darwin would be 0801. The exception to this is Perth, which utilizes a string of numbers from 6837-6848 for its GPO addresses.
- The second number in an area’s postal code comes from its region within the state or territory. If it’s zero or one, it’s most likely in the metropolitan area of a large city. 2000 could designate a street address in Sydney, but 2200 is a southern suburb of Sydney. If the number is above that, most likely the area is more regional or in a rural area. If you see a place with a postal code that does not fit this explanation, most likely it was rural at one time and then became drawn into the urban area simply because of its geographic growth.
- The third number is likely to indicate how far away the place is from its base. With Sydney being 2000, Dungog at a distance of 245 km owns postal code 2420 and Grafton, 695 km away, is 2460.
- The last number might tell you a little bit about the size of the town: A postal code ending in zero should be a bigger place than one ending in another number.
Rules Are Made To Be Broken
Just as with any system, there are exceptions to the rule. Many postal codes service multiple areas. Also, because of the large expanses separating major postal service centers in many parts of the country, a city in one state or territory might actually be served by a postal code in another state or territory. Brindabella is actually in the Northwest Territory but it has a postal code in the range designated for the ACT.
Many suburbs share postal codes, and the mail is simply sorted at the central processing center for that area. Bunburra and Allandale are both suburbs of Brisbane, only 9 minutes apart, both with the same postal code of 4310.
The Australian postal code system makes pretty good sense until you run into the exceptions—something that’s pretty true of postal coding systems everywhere. In the meantime, the Australian Post website has useful tools and tips whether you’re a business person needing to get a few things posted or just someone who needs to mail a letter or two.
You can find a lost of the most up to date postcodes on Australia Post’s website here…