The issue of public hospital waiting lists is never far from the headlines and with major reforms to public hospital funding being proposed, it will continue to generate considerable public interest. Recently the Australian government announced $150 million in funding to the states and territories to assist them to reduce the length of elective surgery waiting lists. This background note provides an introduction to elective surgery waiting lists and times. It presents a brief overview of public hospitals in Australia, defines elective surgery and waiting times, explains the purpose of waiting lists/times and triage categories, and provides details of elective surgery statistics. Links and further reading are also included.