OBJECTIVES: To explore awareness of the causes of kidney disease and recollection of kidney function testing in a cohort of Australian adults. DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: An interviewer-administered cross-sectional survey, conducted from October to December 2004 as a nested study within the 5-year follow-up phase of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab); 852 subjects who attended a testing site in New South Wales were interviewed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Responses to the questions "What sort of things do you think may lead to a person developing kidney disease?" and "Has a doctor or health care worker ever tested your kidney function, outside of the AusDiab study?" RESULTS: Respondents most commonly believed that kidney disease was caused by alcohol misuse or poor diet, with few identifying diabetes or high blood pressure. Awareness of risk factors was no greater in respondents identified as having chronic kidney disease (CKD). A third of respondents with CKD recalled having undergone a test of kidney function within the previous 2 years, while another third replied they had never had their kidney function tested. Of participants with previously diagnosed diabetes or treated hypertension, 54.1% and 32.0%, respectively, reported having their kidney function tested within the previous 2 years. CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of risk factors for kidney disease and recall of kidney function testing were both limited, even among subgroups of the cohort who were at greatest risk of CKD. Prevention efforts may benefit from public and patient education to improve recognition of risk factors for CKD.