3315.0 - Occasional Paper: Mortality of Indigenous Australians, 1997  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/04/2000   
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  • Indigenous Australians: Premature Death, Chronic Disease and Injury (Media Release)


April 17, 2000
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Indigenous Australians: Premature Death, Chronic Disease and Injury

Circulatory disease, injury, respiratory disease, cancer and diabetes were the main causes of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in 1995-97, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Death rates were higher for Indigenous people than for the total Australian population in every age group, but the largest differences were among people aged 35-54 years old, with rates in this age group 6-7 times higher for Indigenous people.

Among those who died, 53% of Indigenous males and 41% of Indigenous females were less than 50 years old. By contrast, 13% of all male deaths and 7% of all female deaths in Australia in 1995-97 occurred among people less than 50 years old.

Indigenous people who die are not always identified as Indigenous in death records, and this makes it difficult to know exactly how many Indigenous people have died in a given time period, and whether that number has been changing over time. Most of the figures in the report are based on deaths in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, which were believed to have the most complete coverage of Indigenous deaths during 1995-97.

In addition to providing the latest mortality figures, the report presents extensive technical information about how the Australian Bureau of Statistics assesses the completeness with which Indigenous deaths are recorded. The report shows that deaths identified as Indigenous in other States and Territories were similar in age and cause of death to those registered as Indigenous in the Northern Territory, Western Australian and South Australia. However, nothing is known about the deaths of Indigenous people who were not identified as Indigenous in death records.

According to Dr. Joan Cunningham, one of the report's authors, "The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been working in partnership with other Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies and Indigenous organisations to improve the identification of Indigenous people in administrative data collections such as death registrations. It's not an easy task, but the progress so far is encouraging. In future reports, we hope to eventually be able to include all States and Territories and to monitor changes in Indigenous mortality over time."

Details are in Occasional Paper Mortality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3315.0) available from ABS bookshops. This media release and the full text of the publication can be found on this site. If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact the ABS Bookshop in your capital city.