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Data Collection Overview

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death

Data Collection Sources

State/territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and National Coronial Information System (NCIS)

Institutional environments

Causes of death statistics published by the ABS are sourced from death registrations systems administered by the various state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement of each state and territory that all deaths are registered. Information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased or by an official of the institution where the death occurred. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation.
Death records are provided electronically to the ABS by individual Registrars on a monthly basis. Each death record contains both demographic and medical information from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death where available. Information from coronial investigations are provided to the ABS through the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).
For further information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see the ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance and Scope

The ABS causes of death collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS deaths or causes of death statistics.

From the 2007 reference year, the scope of the collection is:
• all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year and are received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year; and
• deaths registered prior to the reference year but not previously received from the Registrar nor included in any statistics reported for an earlier period.
Deaths data includes:
• any death which occurs in, or en route to Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual place of residence is overseas, and is registered with a state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, including deaths of Australian nationals employed overseas in Australian legations and consular offices.
Deaths data excludes:
• still births/fetal deaths (these are accounted for in perinatal death statistics published in Causes of Death, Australia, and previously, Perinatal Deaths, Australia; and
• deaths of Australian residents which occur outside Australia (except Australian diplomats).

Data in the Causes of Death collection include demographic items as well as causes of death information, which is coded according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). ICD is the international standard classification for epidemiological purposes and is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of cause of death statistics. The classification is used to classify diseases and causes of disease or injury as recorded on many types of medical records as well as death records. The ICD has been revised periodically to incorporate changes in the medical field. The 10th revision of ICD (ICD-10) has been used to code cause of death data from 1997 onward.


Historically, Causes of Death data and Causes of Death, Doctor Certified Deaths are published annually, following the publication of Deaths, Australia (ABS cat 3302.0) in November of each year. For the first time in 2016, Causes of Death, Australia 2015 (ABS cat 3303.0) and Deaths, 2015 are released on the same day in September.
There is a focus on fitness for purpose when causes of death statistics are released. To meet user requirements for accurate causes of death data it is necessary to obtain information from other administrative sources before all information for the reference period is available (e.g. information from finalisation of coronial proceedings to code an accurate cause of death). A balance therefore needs to be maintained between accuracy (completeness) of data and timeliness. ABS provides the data in a timely manner, ensuring that all coding possible can be undertaken with accuracy prior to publication.
In addition, to address the issues which arise through the publication of causes of death data for open coroners’ cases, these data are now subject to a revisions process. This process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner certified deaths either 12 or 24 months after initial processing. See Causes of Death, Australia, 2009: Technical Note: Causes of Death Revisions for further information on the revision process.


Non-sample errors are most likely to influence accuracy in datasets which constitute a complete census of the population, such as the Causes of Death collection. Non-sample error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. The most significant of these errors are: mis-reported of data items; deficiencies in coverage; incomplete records; and processing errors. Every effort is made to minimise non-sample error by working closely with data providers, running quality checks throughout the data processing cycle, training of processing staff, and efficient data processing procedures.
The ABS has implemented a new revisions process that applies to all coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2007. This is a change from previous years where all ABS processing of causes of death data for a particular reference period was finalised approximately 13 months after the end of the reference period. The revisions process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner certified deaths as it becomes available over time, resulting in increased specificity of the assigned ICD-10 codes. See Causes of Death, Australia, 2009: Technical Note: Causes of Death Revisions for further information on the revision process.


In addition to the Causes of Death commentary report, a series of data cubes are also available providing detailed breakdowns by cause of death. The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.
If the information is not available from the commentary or the data cubes, then the ABS may also have other relevant data available on request. The latest publication is Causes of death, Australia, 2014.


Information of mortality rates, as well as data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with the statistics presented in the Causes of Death publication can be found in the Explanatory Notes, Technical Notes, Appendices and Glossary.
Information on some aspects of statistical quality may be hard to obtain as information on the source data has not been kept over time. This is related to the administrative rather than statistical purpose of the collection of the source data.

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