In a study in south-western Sydney, we examined asthma symptoms in a random sample of 4239 schoolchildren aged five-12 years. The prevalence of current wheeze and cough was 17.1% (95% CI 16.0-18.2%). Interviews were conducted with the parents of all 214 symptomatic children from two of the six schools. Only 60% of these children had ever been labelled as asthma, and only 20% were using appropriate asthma treatment. Fewer than 6% had ever had their airway function assessed. There was a socio-economic difference, with better levels of asthma recognition and management in children attending the school in the more affluent region. The findings suggest that asthma recognition, assessment and management in the Australian community, as in New Zealand and the UK, may need to be improved.