There were 2,800 deaths registered in Australia in 2010 where the deceased person was recorded as being an Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or both on the deaths registration form, representing 1.9% of all deaths registered.
A variety of measures of mortality (including age-specific death rates, median age at death, infant mortality rates and life expectancy at birth) indicate that the mortality level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is substantially higher than that of the total Australian population.
The exact scale of difference between the mortality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the total population 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, as this data has been affected by the registration of outstanding deaths initiative undertaken by the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The initiative involved the registration of some deaths which had occurred between 1992 and 2006 but were not registered. As a result, 374 such deaths were registered in November 2010. Of these, approximately 76% were deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons (see Technical Note: Registration of outstanding deaths, Queensland, 2010, and paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Notes for more information).
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.