Improvements to Indigenous status data quality

Nationally, the quality of Indigenous status data has improved since the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2007 data quality report (AIHW 2007) for almost all of the community services data collections examined in this report. The proportion of clients with a not stated response for Indigenous status decreased in most collections. For example:

  • Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (DS NMDS)-rates decreased from 20.5% in 2004-05 to 5.1% in 2009-10.
  • Home and Community Care Minimum Data Set (HACC MDS) -rates decreased from 16.2% in 2005-06 to 6.9% in 2010-11.

While decreases in rates were observed for most jurisdictions, there continues to be wide variation across states and territories.

Collecting and recording Indigenous status data

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) developed a national standard for collecting and recording Indigenous status data in 1995 ('ABS standard'). Although a number of agencies have adopted the ABS standard since the 2007 report, there are still inconsistencies in the collection and recording practices used for a number of data collections.

For collections such as the Juvenile Justice NMDS, Child Protection Data Collection, and DS NMDS, some agencies do not use the standard Indigenous status question or response options, as additional recording categories for Indigenous status are used to help identify records for follow-up. These are then recoded to the national standard for submission to the national collection.

For other collections such as the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, and the HACC NMDS, data collection manuals specify the national standard, and it is understood that agencies follow these when collecting and recording Indigenous status information.

Data quality improvement activities

Since the 2007 report, a number of activities have been, or are being, undertaken to improve the identification of Indigenous people in community services data collections. These include:

  • modifying client forms and client information management systems to be consistent with the national standard question and recording categories for Indigenous status
  • the provision of staff training, including cultural awareness training, and training on how to collect Indigenous status data.


This report provides recommendations for each data collection to improve Indigenous status data quality in the future. These include referencing the National best practice guidelines for collecting Indigenous status in health data sets (AIHW 2010) in data collection manuals and training materials. Where necessary, jurisdictions should consider modifying client forms and client information management systems to ensure consistency with these guidelines.