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3302.0 - Deaths, Australia, 2010 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/11/2011   
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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

Recording of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 recorded as such when they are registered. The extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths are recorded is referred to as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths identification rate.

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

Response to the Indigenous status 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; and
  • cultural aspects and feelings associated with reporting as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The level of reporting and recording can vary across collections and over time.

Further, administrative processes, including the data capture and processing of death registration records, can lead to incorrect recording of Indigenous status in statistical data provided to the ABS. The ABS is aware that some deaths may take several years to be registered (see Explanatory Note 26).

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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians 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). The ABS is currently undertaking work to repeat the Census Data Enhancement project for 2011 Census and post-Census deaths. For further information, see Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update, Oct 2010 (cat. no. 2062.0).

In addition to the factors calculated for adjusting registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths for input into the 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 quality of recording 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 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 Australians as such in 1996. In New South Wales, the number of registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths increased in 1998 to much higher levels than previous years. The numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths registered in South Australia and the Northern Territory have remained relatively constant since 1997, suggesting that recording has been relatively stable in these jurisdictions. The Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the ABS are actively working together to investigate the unusual fluctuations in the number of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians registered in Western Australia in recent years. Until this investigation is finalised, caution should be exercised when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data for 2007, 2008 and 2009 (see paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Notes).


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). If either the DRF, or the MCCD record the deceased as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian, the death is recorded as such. Prior to 2007, Indigenous status was only sourced from the DRF, for all states and territories. As a result of this change, there were an additional 31 deaths recorded as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian in 2010, representing a 1.1% increase in the number of deaths recorded as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for Australia overall. In addition, a further 493 records were reclassified from 'not stated' Indigenous status to 'non-Indigenous'.

The New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, in an effort to further enhance the quality of recording of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in deaths registrations, are investigating the possibility of implementing the capture of Indigenous status from the MCCD to enable its use by the ABS in deriving Indigenous status from both the MCCD and DRF.

3.1 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths(a), States and territories(b)(c) - 1994 to 2010

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

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
2010
622
117
948
147
436
37
447
13
2 767

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 recording Indigenous status by 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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths as such in 1996. Care should be taken when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data for Queensland for 2010. See Technical Note: Registration of outstanding deaths, Queensland, 2010, and paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Notes.
(e) ABS are currently investigating the volatility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in WA in recent years. Until this investigation is finalised, ABS advises caution be used when analysing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data for 2007, 2008 and 2009. See paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Notes.
(f) 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 reporting 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 reported as deaths of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians, a number of deaths occur each year for which Indigenous status is not stated on the death registration form (table 3.2). In 2010, there were 1,200 deaths registered in Australia for which Indigenous status was not stated, representing 0.9% of all deaths registered. Queensland had the highest proportion of not stated responses in 2010 (2.5%), followed by Western Australia (0.9%).

As a proportion of all deaths registered, deaths for which Indigenous status was not stated decreased from 1.1% in 2009 to 0.9% in 2010. This was largely due to a decrease in the number of deaths in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland for which Indigenous status was not stated.

It is worth comparing the number of deaths in 2010 for which Indigenous status was not stated (1,200) with the total number of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (2,800). Despite the relatively low proportion of deaths with unidentified Indigenous status (0.9%), it is likely that some of these were deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, contributing to mis-recording of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

3.2 Deaths, Indigenous status - 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Non-Indigenous
Not stated
Total
State or territory
no.
%
no.
%
no.
%
no.

New South Wales
622
1.3
47 039
98.1
284
0.6
47 945
Victoria
117
0.3
35 485
99.6
21
0.1
35 623
Queensland(a)
948
3.5
25 652
94.0
689
2.5
27 289
South Australia
147
1.1
12 750
98.4
60
0.5
12 957
Western Australia
436
3.4
12 174
95.7
110
0.9
12 720
Tasmania
37
0.9
4 231
99.1
np
-
4 269
Northern Territory
447
45.6
529
53.9
5
0.5
981
Australian Capital Territory
13
0.8
1 616
96.2
50
3.0
1 679
Australia(b)
2 767
1.9
139 486
97.2
1 220
0.9
143 473

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
(a) Care should be taken when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data for Queensland for 2010. See Technical Note: Registration of outstanding deaths, Queensland, 2010, and paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Notes.
(b) Includes Other Territories.






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