Higher injury death rates among Indigenous Australians

Injury death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are much higher than for other Australians, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Reported Injury Mortality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia, 1997-2000 reports the injury death rate as being 2.8 times higher* for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for other Australians, after allowance is made for the younger age distribution of the Indigenous population compared with the rest of the population.

Co-author Yvonne Helps, of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit (NISU), said that as for all Australians, suicide and transport crashes were the most common causes of injury death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

'However, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate was nearly twice as high, and the transport injury death rate was almost three times as high as for other Australians.'

Fatal assault (homicide) was not as common a cause of injury death among Indigenous Australians, but rates were still high in comparison to those for the rest of the population. The rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males was over 7 times higher than for other males, with the rate for females more than 11 times higher than that for other females.

The higher injury death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were partly attributable to the fact that they were more likely to live in remote areas than other Australians, and injury rates are generally higher for residents of more remote areas.

Mrs Helps warned that some caution was needed in interpreting the report's findings.

'Due to differences between the States and Territories in the quality of death and population data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the report draws predominantly on data from the four jurisdictions in which such data are thought to be relatively complete - Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

'Further work is needed to make the statistics more reliable nationally. But the data we do have are certainly sufficient to show very clearly that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience much higher rates of injury mortality than the rest of the population.'

*NB All data reported in this media release covers the four jurisdictions of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory (called Region A in the report).

1 December 2004


Further information: Yvonne Helps, NISU, tel. 08 8201 7623, mobile 0403 782 132.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.