This article provides the background and describes the processes involved in establishing a national approach to benchmarking the way universities engage with their local and regional communities in Australia. Local and regional community engagement is a rapidly expanding activity in Australian public universities and is increasingly being seen as part of the universal quality assurance assessment process. An initiative of the Australian Universities Community Engagement Alliance (AUCEA), the benchmarking framework was developed over almost three years and involved considerable consultation and testing. The framework comprises an institutional questionnaire, a partner perceptions survey and a “good practice” template. The instruments were tested in a pilot of 12 AUCEA member universities and will be implemented in all 33 AUCEA member universities in late 2008. Comparative results will be available early in 2009. The framework will assist universities and their community partners to improve their contribution to society and the environment through mutual knowledge exchange, learning and enterprising action.