The AIHW manages and uses deaths data for monitoring and surveillance of deaths at the population level and for data linkage in health and medical research. All data linkage work at AIHW requires approval by the AIHW Ethics Committee.

How are deaths registered?

In Australia, either a medical practitioner or a coroner is required to certify the cause of death. They should report on all medical conditions that directly caused or contributed to the death and, where appropriate, the circumstances (for example, the type of accident or violence) that led to the death. Important demographic information, such as the sex of the person and their age at death, is also reported.

All deaths are registered with the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each state and territory and additional information about coroner-certified deaths are maintained by the National Coronial Information System. Demographic and other important information about the deceased person is captured on a deaths registration statement.

Roles and responsibilities of agencies that contribute to the development of national cause of death data in Australia

The Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDMs) in each jurisdiction are responsible for maintaining registers of deaths. Individual state and territory legislation governs the registration process and the roles and responsibilities of the registries.

The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) is a data repository containing information on deaths reported to a coroner in Australia and New Zealand. It is an essential data tool for both coroners and researchers to obtain nationally standardised information about the causes of preventable death and injury. The database contains coded and non-coded data including demographic information about the deceased, contextual information about the nature of the fatality, full text copies of coronial findings, autopsy and toxicology reports, and police notification of death reports. Data collection for all Australian states and territories commenced on 1 July 2000, except Queensland which commenced on 1 January 2001. The collection of New Zealand data commenced on 1 July 2007. The NCIS is governed by a Board of Management, and administration is provided by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety. Funding is provided by all Australian states and territories, select Australian Government agencies and the New Zealand Ministry of Justice.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia’s national statistical agency. The ABS provides key statistics on a wide range of economic, environmental and social issues. This includes information about the Australian population for which deaths information is required. The ABS also codes the causes of deaths to an international standard making the data useable for statistical purposes. The ABS sources information about the circumstances of the death for coroner-certified deaths from the NCIS. This information facilitates coding of the cause of death. In addition to coding causes of death, the ABS enhances the statistical utility of the data by coding various sociodemographic items such as area of usual residence and country of birth.

The Australian Coordinating Registry (ACR) is an agency appointed for managing a particular activity on behalf of the all RBDMs. A coordinating registry undertakes the coordination and management of the designated activity. The underlying legal responsibility is retained by the collective Registrars.

For a more detailed description of the coverage and processing of deaths data, including deaths certified by the coroner, refer to the ABS Causes of Death, Australia methodology report.