Overall, all-cause mortality for Indigenous Australians in Western Australia declined by 20% between 1991 and 2005. Despite this decline, all-cause mortality for other Australians in Western Australia declined by 26% over the period and the difference between Indigenous and other Australian mortality is widening in South Australia and the Northern territory. For the period 2001-2005, in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, the mortality rates for Indigenous males and females were almost three times those for non-Indigenous males and females.
There have been significant declines in recorded infant mortality for Indigenous Australians in recent years and the gap between Indigenous and other Australians has narrowed. Despite these improvements, the infant mortality rate for Indigenous Australians is still three times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians.
Over the period 2001-2005, in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, for all age groups below 65 years, the age-specific death rates for people identified as Indigenous were at least twice those for non-Indigenous Australians. The largest differences occurred in the middle age groups (35-54 years) where the death rates for Indigenous males and females were five to six times those recorded for non-Indigenous Australians.
The five leading causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over the period 2001-2005 in the four jurisdictions were diseases of the circulatory system, injury (predominantly accidents, intentional self-harm and assault), cancer, endocrine, metabolic and nutritional disorders and respiratory diseases, representing around three-quarters of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous Australians had much higher rates of mortality than non-Indigenous Australians from these major causes of death (SMRs of between 2 and 8 for males and 2 and 10 for females). The difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous mortality appears to be widening for all of these causes of death, however the increase is only statistically significant for external causes of death.
Deaths of Indigenous people involve higher rates of co-morbidity than deaths of non-Indigenous people. For the period 2001-2005, deaths where multiple causes were reported were more common among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people. For example, 27% of deaths among Indigenous males and 29% of deaths among Indigenous females recorded five or more causes of death, compared with 15% of non-Indigenous male and female deaths. For deaths from certain diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, renal failure and cancer, diabetes was reported as an associated cause of death among Indigenous males and females at more than twice the rate among non-Indigenous males and females.