OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and its risk factors in a population of indigenous Australians. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: A cross-sectional study of 332 indigenous community residents aged 15 years and over with fasting blood samples and anthropometric measurements. RESULTS: Almost half of the study population (47.3%) was extremely lean (BMI<22 kg/m(2)). Leanness was particularly pronounced in the youngest age group (15<20 years), 78% of which had a BMI<22 kg/m(2). The prevalence of diabetes was 12%. It was highest in those 45-54 years and declined in older aged people. No cases of diabetes were detected in those aged less than 30 years. Diabetes prevalence was strongly linked to BMI and age (age-adjusted odds ratio=24.1, 95% CI 6.0-96.5, p<0.001) for BMI>or=25 kg/m(2) versus BMI<22 kg/m(2). Those with the lowest diabetes risk profile are lean (BMI<22 kg/m(2)) and/or young (age 15-34 years). CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight that strategies to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes should focus on the maintenance of leanness from adolescence and throughout adult life whilst young people are still in the process of forming lifelong habits.