OBJECTIVE: To describe the distribution of a population in southern urban Adelaide in terms of readiness to screen for colorectal cancer (CRC) by Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or colonoscopy according to the stages in the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of behaviour change and to compare the stages according to demographic variables. METHODS: A random sample of 664 South Australians aged 50 to 74 were surveyed in June 2006. Chi-squared analyses were performed to determine if statistically significant differences on demographic variables existed between participants at different stages of readiness to screen. RESULTS: The precontemplation and contemplation stages when combined equated to more than half of the total respondents. Several significant differences were identified between the stages. Those in both the precontemplation and contemplation stages were older than those in the remaining stages and also had a significantly higher proportion of women when compared to the action stage. In the precontemplation stage there were significantly more respondents for whom English was a second language, and low levels of private health insurance, whereas the contemplation stage had the highest proportion of Australian-born respondents. Interestingly, levels of private health insurance were also low among those who intended to screen with colonoscopy. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: The majority of the population were not found to have progressed beyond contemplation. Certain demographic characteristics varied significantly between people at different stages of readiness to screen for CRC.