Asthma is a high-burden disease for which effective treatment is available. In Australia, there has been a public health campaign directed at increasing the implementation of effective management with the aim of improving asthma outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the burden of asthma and describe current asthma management in Australia. A computer-assisted telephone interview survey was conducted in 2003/04 among randomly selected participants. Current asthma was defined as self-reported asthma, confirmed by doctor, which was still present and/or associated with symptoms in the last 12 months. From 46 855 eligible telephone numbers dialled there were 14 271 (30.5 ) responses to the screening questionnaire. Among 1734 respondents with current asthma, 1205 (69.5 ) completed the detailed questionnaire. Among these, 24.2 of adults and 14.3 children had symptoms during the day or night on most days; 11.3 of adults and 6.0 of children avoided exercise because of asthma symptoms during exercise and 19.4 of adults and 29.7 of children had sought urgent medical care because of an exacerbation of asthma during the preceding year. Among adults with asthma, only 35.6 with daily symptoms and 41.4 with symptoms on most days were taking inhaled steroids. Only 31.1 of adults with daily symptoms had a written asthma action plan. Compared with similar international studies, this study revealed a lower prevalence of frequent asthma symptoms and a higher prevalence of use of inhaled steroids among people with asthma. However, there remains ample scope for improvement in management of patients with frequent symptoms.