There have been some improvements in the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians over recent years. These include decreases in mortality rates for circulatory disease, respiratory disease and kidney disease; the smoking rate; the proportion of low birthweight babies; overcrowding and homelessness; as well as increases in the rate of attainment of Year 12 or equivalent.

Nevertheless, Indigenous Australians continue to experience much poorer health and wellbeing than the general Australian population across many key measures, including life expectancy, mortality, hospitalisations, health risk factors, education, employment, homelessness, family violence, child protection and juvenile justice. Key areas of concern include chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and kidney disease), risk factors (such as smoking, alcohol and overweight), child and maternal health (such as low birthweight, hearing and oral health), disabilities and potentially avoidable deaths and hospitalisations. This disadvantage begins at an early age and continues throughout life. It reflects the broader social and economic disadvantages faced by Indigenous Australians, such as lower levels of education and employment, and higher rates of homelessness and incarceration. These factors are known as ‘social determinants’ and have been estimated to explain more than one-third of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The AIHW compiles national data on the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians every 2–3 years in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework series of reports. This includes detailed data on 68 indicators in 3 categories: health status and outcomes, determinants of health and health system performance.

The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples series of reports provides an overview of the data on Indigenous health and welfare at the national level and by remoteness. For other key reports, see ‘Links and other information’.

The AIHW continues to monitor and report on Indigenous health and wellbeing through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, Australia’s health, Australia’s welfare and other key reports. These include the burden of disease study Impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2011, and those on access to, and use of Indigenous health and welfare services.

The AIHW also provides information and resources to improve the quality and availability of data on Indigenous Australians by improving Indigenous identification in key health and welfare data sets.