Notes on the data: Aboriginal premature mortality by selected cause

Deaths from external causes, Aboriginal persons aged 0 to 64 years, 2009 to 2013


Policy context:  Deaths from external causes, commonly described as deaths from accidents and injury, are deaths caused by environmental events and circumstances that are external to the body. External causes of death can be classified as 'unintentional', such as transport accidents, falls, and accidental drowning or poisoning; 'intentional', such as suicides and homicides; and those which occur due to the complications of medical and surgical care (commonly referred to as 'adverse events') [1].

In 2012, injury was the third leading cause of death among Indigenous peoples living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT, accounting for 15.4% of all Indigenous deaths [1]. Important specific causes of injury deaths were intentional self-harm (117 deaths, 4.7% of all Indigenous deaths) and land transport accidents (88 deaths, 3.6% of all Indigenous deaths). After age-adjustment, deaths from intentional self-harm were around twice as common for Indigenous people than for other Australians, and those from land transport accidents more than three times as common. After age-adjustment, the death rate for injury from assault was 8.9 times higher (8.9 per 100,000) than for non-Indigenous people (1.0 per 100,000).

The most recent detailed information for death from injury is available for the five-year period 2006 to 2010, in which period there were 1,667 Indigenous deaths in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT, representing 15% of all Indigenous deaths [2]. Indigenous people died from injury at 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous people. Death rates for injury were particularly high among Indigenous people aged 25-34 years (122 per 100,000) and 35-44 years (124 per 100,000 respectively). After age-adjustment, the death rates from injury were 2.3 times higher for Indigenous males and females than for their non-Indigenous counterparts [3].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of death, Australia, 2012. (ABS Cat. no. 3303.0). Canberra: ABS; 2014.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (ABS). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2012: detailed analyses. Canberra: AIHW; 2013.
  3. Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. Overview of Australian Indigenous health status, 2014. [Internet] 2014. [cited 2015 May 7]. Available from:

Notes:  International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes: V01-Y98

Deaths data

For deaths data released since 2007, the ABS has applied a staged approach to the coding of cause of death which affects the number of records available for release at any date. In each release, the latest year’s data is preliminary, the second latest is revised and the data for the remaining years is final. For further information about the ABS revisions process see the following and related sites:

Data quality

Almost all deaths in Australia are registered. However, Indigenous status is not always recorded, or recorded correctly. The incompleteness of Indigenous identification (referred to as completeness of coverage) means that the number of deaths registered as Indigenous is an underestimate of the actual number of deaths which occur in the Indigenous population. It should also be noted that completeness of coverage is likely to vary between geographical areas.

While there is incomplete coverage of Indigenous deaths in all state and territory registration systems, some jurisdictions have been assessed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as having a sufficient level of coverage to enable statistics on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality to be produced. Those jurisdictions are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.


Numerator:  Aboriginal deaths from external causes at ages 0 to 64 years


Denominator:  Aboriginal population aged 0 to 64 years


Detail of analysis:  Average annual indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 Aboriginal population (aged 0 to 64 years); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Data compiled by PHIDU from deaths data based on the 2009 to 2013 Cause of Death Unit Record Files supplied by the Australian Coordinating Registry and the Victorian Department of Justice, on behalf of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System. The population is the estimated resident population (ERP) (non-ABS) at 30 June 2011, compiled by PHIDU based on data developed by Prometheus Information Pty Ltd, under a contract with the Australian Government Department of Health.


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