Phase 1 of the Fremantle Diabetes Study (FDS) began in 1993 as an observational study of ethnic differences in diabetes in and around the port city of Fremantle in Western Australia. It soon became one of the largest and most representative natural history studies of community-based diabetes. Phase 1 recruited 1426 patients over 3 years, closed face-to-face assessments in 2001 and is still following surviving patients through data linkage. Phase 2 recruited 1732 patients from the same catchment area between 2008 and 2011, and at least a 5-year comprehensive follow-up of all patients is planned. Indigenous diabetes is a focus of Phase 2 with additional patients being recruited at present to supplement the original FDS2 sample. Overall the FDS has generated over 70 publications in the peer-reviewed literature and has provided a wide-ranging detailed assessment of all aspects of contemporary diabetes.