Summary: The aim of this study was to review birth centre practices in Australia. Questionnaires were completed from 22 of 24 centres. Great variations were observed between the centres in clinical practices like number of routine antenatal visits, pattern of medical review, and transfer rates. Definition of low‐risk as expressed by booking and transfer criteria also showed great variations, and generally these criteria became more liberal with experience. From 1991 to 1995 there was an average increase of approximately 1,000 bookings per year in the 22 centres taken together. The average transfer rate over the whole period was 22% antepartum and 18% intrapartum. The transfer rates increased slightly over the 5‐year period, by 4.8% during pregnancy and 2.5% intrapartum. A majority was optimistic about the future, and estimated that the potential market for birth centres was around 16% compared with the present figure of less than 5%. A general view was that women were not well informed about the birth‐centre option.