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3302.0 - Deaths, Australia, 2009 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/11/2010   
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Contents >> Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians >> Registered deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

REGISTERED DEATHS OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AUSTRALIANS

Identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian deaths

The standard approach to calculating mortality rates requires complete and accurate data on deaths that occur within a period, and an estimate of the population exposed to the risk of dying at the mid-point of that period. These data are required by age and sex. Due to the various issues associated with these data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, as detailed below, mortality rates should be interpreted with caution.

It is considered likely that most deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are registered. However, some of these deaths are not identified as such when they are registered. The extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths are identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths is referred to as Indigenous deaths identification rate.

Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians may not be correctly identified due to either failure to report the person's Indigenous status on the death registration form, or from the incorrect identification of a person's Indigenous status. Such mis-classification may occur because some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have non-Indigenous ancestries which may create uncertainty for those completing the death registration form as to how a deceased person should be identified.

Response to the Indigenous origin question may be influenced by a number of factors. These factors may include:

  • how the information is collected (e.g. census, survey, or administrative data);
  • who provides the information (e.g. the person in question, a relative, a health professional, or an official);
  • the perception of why the information is required, and how it will be used;
  • educational programs about identifying as Indigenous; and
  • cultural aspects and feelings associated with identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian.

The level of identification can therefore vary across collections and over time.

As part of the 2006 Census Data Enhancement (CDE) project, the Indigenous Mortality Quality Study was conducted to estimate the extent of under or over-identification of Indigenous status in death registrations compared with the Census. The study involved linking death registrations (for 9 August 2006 to 30 June 2007) to 2006 Census of Population and Housing records, and comparing Indigenous status as recorded in the two collections. The ABS used the linked data, as well as information from the 2006 Census Post Enumeration Survey (PES), to develop a new method for adjusting the number of registered deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for compiling life tables. This method has two key features. First, the use of linked data enabled direct comparison of Indigenous status recorded on the 2006 Census and death registration form. Second, by aligning the death registrations data to the population estimates derived from the 2006 Census and PES, the method ensures consistency between the numerator (that is, estimates of deaths) and the denominator (estimates of population at risk). For more information see Discussion Paper: Assessment of Methods for Developing Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 (cat no. 3302.0.55.002) and Experimental Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2005-2007 (cat no. 3302.0.55.003);

In addition to the factors calculated for adjusting registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian deaths for input into the experimental life tables, a range of other measures of identification were also derived from the Indigenous Mortality Quality Study. For more information see Experimental Life tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2005-2007 (cat. no. 3302.0.55.003) and Information Paper: Census Data Enhancement - Indigenous Mortality Quality Study, 2006-07 (cat. no. 4723.0).

The ABS continues to work with state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and other stakeholders to improve the level of identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the death registrations system in each jurisdiction. The increased numbers of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians recorded in recent years is partly due to substantial improvements in the completeness of the data.

As shown in table 3.1, improvements in the completeness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian deaths data for Australia overall in the late 1990s were largely driven by improvements for Queensland and New South Wales. Queensland began to register deaths as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian in 1996. In New South Wales, the number of registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian deaths increased in 1998 to much higher levels than previous years. The numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian deaths registered in South Australia and the Northern Territory have remained relatively constant since 1997, suggesting that identification has been relatively stable in these jurisdictions. There are ongoing ABS investigations into the unusual volatility in the number of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians registered in Western Australia in recent years.

An examination of the effect of data quality issues on the interpretation of trends in these data can be found in The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008 (cat. no. 4704.0).


Indigenous status on Medical Certificate of Cause of Death

From 2007 onwards, Indigenous status for deaths registered in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is sourced from both the Death Registration Form (DRF) and the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). Prior to 2007, Indigenous status was sourced from the DRF only. As a result of this change, there were an additional 22 deaths recorded as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian in 2009, representing a 0.9% increase in the number of deaths recorded as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for Australia overall. In addition, a further 567 records were reclassified from 'not stated' Indigenous status to 'non-Indigenous'.

3.1 Indigenous deaths(a), States and territories(b)(c) - 1993 to 2009

NSW
Vic.
Qld(d)
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.(e)

1993
194
50
np
111
386
np
376
9
1 134
1994
207
50
np
123
377
np
380
10
1 153
1995
224
50
np
121
384
np
387
9
1 182
1996
177
49
258
118
370
np
328
np
1 306
1997
88
93
531
132
351
5
458
4
1 662
1998
462
123
593
127
378
13
415
3
2 114
1999
435
130
529
116
350
11
399
6
1 976
2000
473
108
535
144
407
np
450
np
2 127
2001
481
93
565
125
345
np
429
np
2 072
2002
516
64
590
107
371
20
462
4
2 136
2003
485
82
569
137
338
23
435
9
2 079
2004
490
54
579
131
400
20
449
10
2 136
2005
507
71
519
142
406
28
454
11
2 141
2006
530
111
584
124
443
20
452
14
2 279
2007
601
95
594
138
502
24
461
6
2 421
2008
559
97
562
141
605
24
467
16
2 472
2009
591
106
632
160
444
30
431
10
2 405

np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
(a) From 2007 onwards, Indigenous status for deaths registered in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory is sourced from both the Death Registration Form and Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.
(b) State or territory of usual residence.
(c) Due to differing levels of identification for the states and territories and over time, care should be taken in interpreting change in numbers of deaths. As a result, data for Australia should not be analysed as a time series.
(d) Queensland began to register Indigenous deaths as Indigenous in 1996.
(e) Includes Other Territories.



The standard Indigenous status question

All states and territories include a question on the death registration form regarding the Indigenous status of the deceased, which must be lodged with the state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. However, some jurisdictions have had a longer history of recording the Indigenous status of deaths than others. It has only been since the mid to late 1990s that a uniform system of identifying all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in Australia has been established. The current question for all states and territories (excepting Victoria and the Northern Territory) asks:

"Was the deceased of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?"

(If of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, tick both 'yes' boxes.)

  • No
  • Yes, Aboriginal origin
  • Yes, Torres Strait Islander origin.

Victoria and the Northern Territory ask:

"Was the deceased of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?"
  • No
  • Yes, Aboriginal origin
  • Yes, Torres Strait Islander origin
  • Both


Not stated responses

In addition to those deaths identified as being persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, a number of deaths occur each year for which Indigenous status is not stated on the death registration form (table 3.2). In 2009, there were 1,500 deaths registered in Australia for which Indigenous status was not stated, representing 1.1% of all deaths registered. Queensland had the highest proportion of not stated responses in 2009 (2.9%), followed by New South Wales and Western Australia (both 0.8%).

For some states and territories, including Victoria and Queensland, the number of deaths registered for which Indigenous status was not stated was greater than the number of deaths registered as Indigenous.

As a proportion of all deaths registered, deaths for which Indigenous status was not stated decreased from 1.3% in 2008 to 1.1% in 2009. This was largely due to a decrease in the number of deaths in Victoria and New South Wales for which Indigenous status was not stated.

In July 2010, the ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages undertook to follow-up registration forms where there was a 'not stated' response to the Indigenous status question. This process led to a significant decrease in Indigenous 'not stated' status observed for the Australian Capital Territory.

It is worth noting that the number of deaths in 2009 for which Indigenous status was not stated (1,500) is of a similar magnitude to the total number of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (2,400). Despite the relatively low proportion of deaths with unidentified Indigenous status (1.1%), it is likely that some of these were deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, contributing to under-identification deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

3.2 Deaths, Indigenous status - 2009

Indigenous
Non-Indigenous
Not stated
Total
State or territory
no.
%
no.
%
no.
%
no.

New South Wales
591
1.3
46 010
97.9
373
0.8
46 974
Victoria
106
0.3
35 328
99.1
206
0.6
35 640
Queensland
632
2.4
24 911
94.7
773
2.9
26 316
South Australia
160
1.3
12 251
98.3
57
0.5
12 468
Western Australia
444
3.5
12 018
95.6
104
0.8
12 566
Tasmania
30
0.7
4 156
99.2
2
-
4 188
Northern Territory
431
45.2
518
54.4
4
0.4
953
Australian Capital Territory
10
0.6
1 629
98.8
9
0.5
1 648
Australia(a)
2 405
1.7
136 827
97.2
1 528
1.1
140 760

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Includes Other Territories.






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