There are significant challenges facing Australia’s health workforce now and into the future, including an ageing population, expected increased demand for health services and increasing expectations for service delivery, changing burden of disease and broader labour market issues. Such challenges are well documented in a number of publications including the Productivity Commission’s 2005 report Australia’s Health Workforce and The Treasury’s Intergenerational Report. Health Workforce Australia (HWA) is an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments and was established to address the challenges of providing a skilled, flexible and innovative health workforce that responds to the needs of the Australian community. To be able to plan for these future challenges, it is imperative to understand the existing workforce, its size and characteristics and origins. To this end, HWA designed the Australia’s Health Workforce series, to focus on describing particular professions, settings and issues of interest to provide the context for understanding future health workforce challenges.