Notes on the data: Aboriginal premature mortality by selected cause

Deaths from external causes, Aboriginal people aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years, 2014 to 2018


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 2017, intentional self-harm, accidental poisoning and land transport accidents were the fifth, ninth and tenth leading cause of death among Aboriginal people living in the combined areas of NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT, accounting for 10.7% of all Indigenous deaths [1]. Deaths by intentional self-harm (165 deaths) and land transport accidents (77 deaths) made up 5.5% and 2.6% of all Aboriginal deaths, respectively. After age-adjustment, deaths from intentional self-harm were more than twice as common for Aboriginal people (23.9 per 100,000) than for non-Indigenous Australians (12.2 per 100,000).

The data show that for 2014 to 2018 the majority (96.2%) of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from external causes occurred before 75 years of age (one and a half times the proportion for all Australians), 93.4% before 65 years and 86.3% before 55 years – details here. This was one and a half times the proportion for the total population at ages 0 to 74 years (96.2% c.f. 64.1%, a rate ratio of 1.50).

Deaths for intentional self-harm, land transport accidents, accidental poisoning and assaults were particularly high among Aboriginal people aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years, accounting for 72.7% and 53.8% of all deaths in 2017 within these age groups, respectively [1].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of death, Australia, 2015. (ABS Cat. no. 3303.0). Canberra: ABS; 2016.

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.


Geography:  Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Network, Indigenous Quintile and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Aboriginal deaths from external causes at ages 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Denominator:  Aboriginal population aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Detail of analysis:  Average annual indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 Aboriginal population (aged 0 to 54, 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Data compiled by PHIDU from deaths data based on the 2014 to 2018 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 proportional estimated resident population (erp) from the Australian Census 2016 click herefor more details.


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