Deaths data and information about causes of death are compiled by the ABS. Newer information becomes available to the AIHW after the ABS releases their summaries of causes of death for each year.

The AIHW applies to access these data via the ACR.

Another factor related to the timeliness of deaths data is the processing cycle and revisions to the causes of death. Data are processed according to a reference year; all deaths that are received by the ABS for a reference year and within a specified time period are captured and counted for that reference year. Once the deaths for the reference year are compiled to represent a year of registration, the deaths are coded with an underlying cause of death and associated causes of death where applicable.

The first release of the coded causes of death is referred to as the ‘preliminary’ version. In this version, deaths that were reported to the coroner but remain as an open case usually have a non-specific cause (unknown) cause of death.

Following the release of the preliminary cause of death data, the cause of death for coroner-certified deaths are revised to ascertain a more specific cause of death for any subsequently closed coroner cases. This revision results in a ‘revised’ version of the cause of death data.

The same process occurs again to produce a ‘final’ version of cause of death data.

Aspects of these processes that can influence the accuracy and timeliness of data are that:

  • Only coroner-certified deaths are subject to revision. Deaths are reported to a coroner under the following circumstances (which varies by jurisdiction):
    • the death is unexpected and the cause is unknown;
    • the person died in an unnatural or violent manner;
    • the death occurred during or as a result of an anaesthetic;
    • the death occurred to a person being ‘held in care’ or custody immediately before they died; or
    • the identity of the person is unknown.
  • Coronial investigations can take several months or even years to complete. The length of time required for the coronial process to be finalised and the coroner case closed will depend on the unique circumstances around each case and may vary by jurisdiction. The completeness and quality of deaths data are affected by the volume of coroners' cases which have not yet been closed or for which there is insufficient information for the ABS to apply a specific cause of death code.
  • The latest year of cause of death data available are always the preliminary version; by the time that the revised data for that year become available, preliminary deaths for the subsequent year are available. Consequently, tabulations using the latest year of cause of death data available will always reflect the preliminary cause of death codes.

Figure 1: Scope & release timeline of Cause of Death Unit Record Files (CODURF) for deaths registered in 2013

2013 CODURF
preliminary
  • Scope: Deaths occurring in 2013 that are registered with the RBDMs and received by the ABS by end March 2014; includes previously unregistered deaths that may have occurred before 2013.
  • Release:  May 2015 (deaths, i.e. counts released in November 2014).
  • Revisions: Coroner-certified deaths have preliminary cause of death codes and are subject to further revision.

2013
CODURF
revised

  • Scope: As above; there are no changes to the overall number of deaths in this file.
  • Release: July 2016.
  • Revisions: All coroner-certified deaths that have been closed since the preliminary version are updated using newer information about the causes of death. Coroner-certified deaths have revised cause of death codes and are subject to further revision.
2013
CODURF
final
  • Scope: As above; there are no changes to the number of deaths in this file.
  • Release: August 2017.
  • Revisions: All coroner-certified deaths that have been closed since the revised version are updated using newer information about the causes of death. Coroner-certified deaths have final cause of death codes and are no longer subject to revision.