There were 2,914 deaths registered across Australia in 2014 where the deceased person was identified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. This represents 1.9% of all deaths registered.
The remainder of this chapter is focussed on the 2,730 deaths recorded in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines (for information on issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification, see Explanatory Notes 57-66). When considering these five jurisdictions, the age-standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was 982.4 per 100,000.
Closing the Gap
The Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) National Indigenous Reform Agreement is a partnership between all levels of government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to achieve the target of closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. One of the targets is to 'close the gap in life expectancy within a generation'. The ABS provides COAG with mortality data that supports measurement of progress towards this.
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. Some of the issues affecting the reporting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality include mis-identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths, unexplained changes in the number of people recorded as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in different data collections and over time, the incorrect use of a standard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status question, changes in administrative processes, and not stated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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. For more information on this and other issues to consider when undertaking analysis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths see Explanatory Notes 57-66.
The ABS works collaboratively with the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages through the National Civil Registration and Statistics Improvement Committee. This Committee is in the process of developing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data and Statistics Improvement Strategy for births and deaths. This strategy will identify key initiatives to be progressed by the Committee with the support of other stakeholders (government and non-government) to improve the quality and coverage of civil registration and vital statistics in Australia as it relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Further care should also be taken when interpreting deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons 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, Queensland, 2010 and the Deaths, Australia, 2010 Technical Note: Registration of Outstanding Deaths, Queensland, 2010.
Further data relating to deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians can be found in the data cubes associated with this publication. These include leading causes of death for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia, selected states and territories and age groups. Age specific death rates have also been included.