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Scope and coverage
3 Statistics in this release relate to the number of deaths registered during the calendar year shown, unless otherwise stated. Statistics relating to deaths by year of occurrence can be obtained from ABS.Stat datasets available electronically, from the Downloads tab.
Scope of death registration statistics
4 The ABS Death Registrations collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose place of usual residence was overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS death statistics. However, deaths of identified Australian diplomats while overseas are included, see paragraph 5 for further information.
5 The scope of the statistics includes:
6 The scope of the statistics excludes:
7 The scope for each reference year of the Death Registrations collection includes:
8 From 2007 onwards, data for a particular reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year that are received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year. Death records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2019 which were initially registered in 2018 (but for which registration was not fully completed until 2019) were assigned to the 2018 reference year. Any registrations relating to 2018 which were received by the ABS from April 2019 will be assigned to the 2019 reference year. Approximately 4% to 7% of deaths occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later.
9 Prior to 2007, the scope for the reference year of the Death Registrations collection included:
Coverage of death statistics
10 Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of deaths should be recorded as all those occurring within a given reference period such as a calendar year. Due to lags in registration of deaths and the provision of that information to the ABS from the state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages, data in this release is presented on a year of registration basis, unless otherwise stated.
11 In effect, there are three dates attributable to each death registration:
12 Marital status relates to the registered marital status of the deceased at the time of death and refers to formally registered marriages or divorces for which a certificate is held.
13 From 2007 onwards, the categories of separated but not divorced and marital status not stated are also included in total deaths.
14 This issue of Deaths, Australia includes data cubes containing death and mortality statistics on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) and the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC).
15 For further information, refer to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001) and the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0).
16 Registration of deaths is the responsibility of the state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Information about the deceased is acquired from a Death Registration Form (DRF) which is completed by the funeral director, based on information supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation. This information is provided to the ABS by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics shown in this release. Core data items are collected in all states and territories and therefore statistics at the national level are available for key characteristics. Some states collect additional information.
State and territory data
17 As a result of an amendment made in 1992 to section 17(a) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 (Cwlth) the Indian Ocean territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands have been included as part of geographic Australia, hence another category of the state and territory classification has been created. This category is known as 'Other Territories' and includes Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Jervis Bay Territory. From 1 July 2016, 'Other Territories' also include Norfolk Island following the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015.
18 Prior to 1993, deaths of persons usually resident in Christmas Island or Cocos (Keeling) Islands were included with Off-Shore Areas and Migratory in Western Australia, while deaths of persons usually resident in Jervis Bay Territory were included with the Australian Capital Territory. In 2018, there were 3 deaths of persons usually resident in Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands or Jervis Bay Territory, and 19 deaths of persons usually resident in Norfolk Island.
19 Death statistics for states and territories have been compiled and presented according to the state or territory of usual residence of the deceased, regardless of where in Australia the death occurred and was registered, except where otherwise stated. Deaths which took place outside Australia are excluded from the statistics, with the exception of Australian diplomats, where identified.
20 In the following table, data is presented on both a state or territory of registration and state or territory of usual residence basis. Deaths which took place outside Australia are excluded from the statistics, with the exception of Australian diplomats, where identified. Deaths of persons who were usual residents of Australia's Other Territories (Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island) cannot be registered in Other Territories but are registered in other Australian states and territories.
21 In 2018, there were 401 deaths registered in Australia of persons who usually lived overseas. These have been included in this release with state or territory of usual residence classified according to the state or territory in which the death was registered.
Calculation of standardised death rates (SDRs)
22 SDRs for the total population for Australia and state/territory are based on death registration data for the reference year only.
23 SDRs for Australia, state/territory and sub-state/territory by Indigenous status are averaged using data for the three years, ending in the reference year. They are calculated for each calendar year and then averaged.
24 In compiling death statistics, the ABS employs a variety of measures to improve the quality of the death registrations collection. While every opportunity is taken to ensure that the highest quality of statistics are provided, the following are known issues associated with the statistics included in this release.
Interval between occurrence and registration of deaths
25 For the most part, statistics in this release refer to deaths registered during the calendar year shown. There is usually an interval between the occurrence and registration of a death (referred to as a registration 'lag') and as a result, some deaths occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later. This can be caused by either a delay in the submission of a completed form to the registry, or a delay by the registry in processing the death. Deaths which occur in November and December are also likely to be registered in the following year.
26 Of the 158,493 deaths registered in 2018, 93.0% occurred in 2018, while 6.9% occurred in 2017 and the remainder occurred in 2016 or earlier years. Any instances where year of occurrence was recorded as unknown are included in the 2015 and earlier category.
Unknown infant age at death
27 For some infant deaths, only limited information for age at death is known. These deaths are included in the following categories:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths and mortality rates
28 Registration of deaths is the responsibility of the state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Information about the deceased is acquired from a Death Registration Form (DRF). All states and territories use information from the DRF to identify an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander death. In addition, some states and territories also use the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) to identify an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander death. In 2007, the MCCD was introduced in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages introduced the MCCD in 2015. This resulted in a noticeable decrease in the number of deaths for which the Indigenous status was 'not stated' and an increase in the number of deaths identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in Queensland. If the Indigenous status reported in the DRF does not agree with that in the MCCD, an identification from either source that the deceased was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is given preference over non-Indigenous.
29 While it is considered likely that most deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are registered, a proportion of these deaths are not reported as such by the family, health worker or funeral director during the death registration process. That is, whilst data is provided to the ABS for the Indigenous status question (99.3% of all deaths registered in 2018), there are concerns regarding the accuracy of the data. The funeral director may not always directly ask the Indigenous status question of the deceased's relatives and friends.
30 This release includes the number of registered deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for all jurisdictions. However, due to the data quality issues outlined below, detailed disaggregations of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are provided only for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The 'total' variable in detailed disaggregations is an aggregation of the four states and the Northern Territory (Total five state/territory).
31 There are several data collection forms on which people are asked to state whether they or the persons for whom they are reporting are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian. Due to a number of factors, the results are not always consistent. The likelihood that a person will report, or be recorded, as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian on a specific form is known as the propensity to identify.
32 Propensity to identify and be recorded as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian is determined by a range of factors, including:
33 In addition to those deaths recorded as either Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian or non-Indigenous, a number of deaths occur each year where Indigenous status is not stated on the death registration form. In 2018, there were 1,062 deaths registered in Australia for whom Indigenous status was not stated, representing 0.7% of all deaths registered.
34 Data presented in this release may therefore underestimate the level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths and mortality in Australia. Lags in registrations may also affect the reliability of measures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality. Caution should be exercised when interpreting data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented in this release, especially with regard to year-to-year changes.
35 Due to the ongoing concern about the mortality rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians relative to the total population, a number of projects have been undertaken to investigate the quality of these data. These include:
Principles on the use of direct age-standardisation
36 In the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA), COAG agreed to a set of targets for closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. Mortality rates are one of the performance indicators specified in the NIRA to measure progress against one of these targets.
37 Age-standardised rates, along with infant and child mortality rates, are used to determine whether the mortality of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is declining over time and whether the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations is narrowing. However, there were some inconsistencies in the way different government agencies calculated age-standardised rates in the past. The ABS hosted a workshop on age-standardisation on 19 April 2011 to discuss the best method (direct or indirect) for reporting on Indigenous mortality and to produce a clear set of guidelines specifically for the analysis and reporting of COAG "Closing the Gap" indicators. Workshop participants agreed that the direct method is the preferred method of age-standardisation as it allows for valid comparisons of mortality rates between different study populations and across time. Prior to 2011 some standardised death rates were calculated using the indirect method.
38 The direct method has also been applied to the dissemination of death rates by country of birth from the release of the 2010 issue of this release, replacing the previous indirect standardised death rates. Standardised death rates for countries with less than a total of 20 deaths, or geographies with less than 30 ERP in any one age group are not available for release.
39 For further information, see Appendix 1: Principles on the use of direct age-standardisation in Deaths, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3302.0).
Causes of death
40 Causes of death information is published under the 3303.0 product family. For more information see Causes of Death, Australia: Doctor Certified Deaths, Summary Tables, 2012 (cat. no. 3303.0.55.001), and Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0).
41 Life tables information previously released in Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) is now released in Life Tables, States, Territories and Australia (cat. no. 3302.0.55.001).
42 The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.
43 Where necessary, tables in this release have had small values suppressed or randomised to protect confidentiality. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals. These very minor adjustments allow for a greater amount of data to be released, and as they are small, do not affect the utility of the data.
44 Calculations as shown in the commentary sections of this release are based on unrounded figures. Calculations undertaken by data users using rounded figures may differ from those released. Where figures have been rounded in tables, discrepancies may occur between sums of component items and totals.
45 Every effort is made to minimise error by working closely with data providers, including supporting the careful design of forms, training of processing staff, and efficient data processing procedures.
46 The ABS' releases draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. The efforts of each state and territory's Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages to improve the data quality, coverage and timeliness of death registration information, processes and systems are noted and valued by the ABS. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
47 Other ABS products which may be of interest to users include:
48 ABS products and releases are available free of charge from the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au>. Click on Statistics to gain access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information.
Additional statistics available
49 More detailed death and mortality statistics can be obtained from ABS.Stat datasets and data cubes (in Microsoft Excel format) available electronically, from the Downloads tab of this release.
51 The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details the products to be released in the week ahead.
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