There were 2,767 deaths registered across Australia in 2010 where the deceased person was identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. This represents 1.9% of all deaths registered. The age standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was approximately twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians (1206.4 compared to 613.3 per 100,000).
The remainder of this chapter will be focussed on 2,600 deaths recorded in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded due to small numbers of registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths.
Closing the Gap
In December 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a partnership between all levels of government to work with Indigenous communities to achieve the target of closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. One of the priority area targets was to 'close the gap in life expectancy within a generation.' The ABS provides COAG with mortality data that supports measurement of progress towards targets.
This chapter provides death counts, age standardised death rates (SDRs), and comparisons in numbers and rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians by cause of death. Data on infant mortality is also included.
Data Quality Issues
A variety of measures of mortality (including age-specific death rates, median age at death, and infant mortality rates) indicate that the mortality level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons is substantially higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.
The exact scale of difference between the mortality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons and non-Indigenous persons is difficult to establish conclusively. This is due to quality issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data and the uncertainties inherent with estimating and projecting the size and structure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population over time.
Caution should be exercised when undertaking analysis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths and mortality and, in particular, trends in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality.
Further care should be taken when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths for Queensland for 2010. An initiative undertaken by the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages resulted in the registration of 374 outstanding deaths from 1992-2006. Of these, approximately 76% were deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. For further information see Technical Note: Retrospective Deaths by Causes of Death, Australia, 2010 and the Deaths, Australia, 2010 Technical Note: Registration of Outstanding Deaths, Queensland, 2010.
Some of the issues affecting the reporting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality include misidentification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths, unexplained changes in the number of people recorded as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians in different data collections and over time, the incorrect use of a standard Indigenous status question, changes in administrative processes, and not stated Indigenous status. As a result, changes in numbers of registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths over time may not accurately reflect changes in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths.