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Abstract: Research on family caregiving has been based largely on small samples, often drawn from support organisations or services, and has tended to focus on particular disability groups. Our study was population–based and included all ages and disabilities. As the first stage in a longitudinal research and health promotion program for informal caregivers, a statewide random survey of over 26 000 households was conducted by telephone: 78 per cent of self–identified carers (N= 976) agreed to participate in a one–hour interview. This paper presents a sociodemographic profile of Australian caregivers. Four types of relationship between carers and care recipients (adult offspring, spouses, parents and other relatives and friends) provide the framework for results. Group differences were observed on most characteristics: for example, age, living arrangements, work status and duration of care. Care recipient characteristics, including difficult behaviours and need for assistance, are also reported, as well as use of and need for community services. What the findings reflected most was the heterogeneity of both caregivers and care recipients and the diversity of caregiving roles and circumstances.