Aim: Diabetes, hypertension and smoking may contribute to the development and progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and its complications. The aim of this study was to assess patients' awareness and beliefs about these and other risk factors associated with CKD. Methods: Participants with CKD Stages 1–5 were purposively sampled for participation in a mixed methods study. Focus group participants completed a survey on CKD risk factors and discussed the reasons for their choices. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data. Results: Of the 38 participants, the proportion who identified hypertension, family history, diabetes and obesity as risk factors for CKD were 89%, 87%, 87% and 70% respectively. Only 54% and 38% recognized that smoking and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status were risk factors. Participants considered the risks of heart attack, stroke and premature mortality to be 20–40% lower in people with CKD than those with diabetes or pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Five themes were identified: invisibility (lack of signs and symptoms of CKD), invincibility (participants did not feel they were at risk), lacking awareness (identified not knowing much about their disease), cumulative comorbidities (concerned about the increased risks of associated diseases) and inevitability of death (there is no cure for CKD). Conclusion: Participants had good understanding of some risk factors for CKD (hypertension and diabetes) but limited understanding of others. Awareness of comorbidities was also less than for other chronic conditions. Compared with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, CKD was perceived to pose less of a threat to life. Patient education that addresses CKD risk factors, comorbidities and outcomes may increase awareness and foster better self-management for people with CKD.