Abstract: The Rand Corporation medical outcomes short-form 36 health survey (SF-36) is a multidimensional measure of self-perceived general health status, which has been validated in adult populations in the United States and Great Britain, and, more recently, in an Australian population. The SF-36 is increasingly being used in health outcomes research internationally, mainly as a self-administered tool, and clearly has potential for use in Australia. This study aimed to assess the acceptability, reliability and validity of telephone administration of the instrument in the Queensland adult population, and to provide reliable population norms. We report the results of a telephone survey in which we interviewed 12 793 adults. It was the first large-scale, statewide application of the SF-36 in Australia. A response rate of 82 per cent was achieved, and the SF-36 satisfied psychometric criteria for reliability and construct validity. Population norms broken down by age and sex are provided. They will be important for the interpretation of future studies using the SF-36 in particular population or patient groups.