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Data Collection Overview

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Perinatal Deaths

Data Collection Sources

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

Institutional environments

Statistics on perinatal deaths published in presented in Causes of Death, Australia, and previously, Perinatal Deaths, Australia are sourced from death registrations 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 neonatal deaths and those fetal deaths of at least 20 weeks gestation or 400 grams birth weight are registered. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death, or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation.
Death records are provided electronically and/or in paper form to the ABS by individual Registrars on a monthly basis. Each death record contains both demographic data and medical information from the Certificate of Cause of Perinatal 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

Perinatal death statistics provide valuable information for the analysis of fetal, neonatal and perinatal deaths in Australia. Data are available at the national and state level on registered perinatal deaths by sex, state of usual residence, main condition in fetus/infant, main condition in mother and Indigenous status. Fetal, neonatal and perinatal death rates are also provided.
ABS perinatal death statistics include all perinatal 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 perinatal deaths statistics.
From the 2006 reference year, the scope of the perinatal death statistics includes all fetal deaths of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birth weight, and all neonatal deaths (all live born babies who die within 28 days of birth, regardless of gestation or weight) which are:
• 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
• registered prior to the reference year but not previously received from the Registrar nor included in any statistics reported for an earlier period.
Data for the 1999 to 2006 reference years based on the revised scope definition of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birth weight were republished in Perinatal Deaths, Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 3304.0).
Data in the Perinatal Deaths 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) is currently used.


Perinatal deaths data are published annually and released approximately 15 months after the end of the reference period. Prior to 2006, and from 2010, perinatal death statistics are included in the annual Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) collection.
Causes of death statistics, including those of perinatal deaths, are released with a view to ensuring that they are fit for purpose when released. To meet user requirements for timely data it is often necessary to obtain information from the administrative source before all information for the reference period is available (e.g. finalisation of coronial proceedings). A balance needs to be maintained between accuracy (completeness) of data and timeliness, taking account of the different needs of users. 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 the main influence on accuracy in datasets such as this which are a complete census of the population rather than a sample. Non-sample error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. The most significant of these errors are: mis-reporting of data items; deficiencies in coverage; non-response to particular questions; 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.
The main sources of non-sample error for perinatal deaths data are:
• completeness of an individual record at a given point in time (e.g. incomplete causes of death information due to non-finalisation of coronial proceedings)
• completeness of the dataset e.g. impact of registration lags, processing lags and duplicate records
• extent of coverage of the population (whilst all deaths are legally required to be registered some cases may not be registered for an extended time, if at all)
• particular data items which would be useful for statistical purposes may not be collected by jurisdictions where that item is not essential for administration purposes
• question and ‘interviewer’ biases given that information for death registrations are supplied about the person by someone else. For example, Indigenous origin as reported by a third party can be different from self-reported responses on a form
• level of specificity and completeness in coronial reports or doctor's findings on the Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death will impact on the accuracy of coding
The ABS has implemented a new revisions process that applies to all coroner certified perinatal deaths registered after 1 January 2007. The revisions process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner certified perinatal 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.


Prior to the 2006 reference year, and from the 2010 reference year, perinatal causes of death statistics are published in Causes of Death, Australia. From the 2007 reference year to the 2009 reference year, perinatal causes of death statistics were published in Perinatal Deaths, Australia.
In addition to the perinatal causes of death statistics in Causes of Death, Australia commentary report, a detailed data cube is 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 available from the ABS website.


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 issue of the administrative rather than statistical purpose of the collection of the source data.
Causes of Death, Australia contains detailed Explanatory Notes, Technical Notes, Appendix and Glossary that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.

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