Navigate Up
Sign In

Data Collection Overview

National Coronial Information System (NCIS)

Data Collection Sources

The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) is a database of coronial information on every death reported to a Coroner in Australia and New Zealand.The NCIS collects demographic, contextual and circumstantial information on every reportable death in Australia and New Zealand, as well as legal, medical and scientific reports such as the coroner's finding, post mortem report, toxicology report and police summary of death reports. Supplementary data is provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the New Zealand Ministry of Health. All deaths occurring in Australia and New Zealand are coded in accordance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) International Classification of Death – Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes.

Institutional environments

The NCIS was established as an initiative of the Australasian Coroners’ Society, and is now maintained by the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation on behalf of the NCIS Board of Management. The NCIS is funded by a range of Australian Federal and State/Territory agencies, and the New Zealand Ministry of Justice. Each of the states and territories has a licensed agreement with the Victorian Department of Justice that permits the transfer of coronial information for storage and dissemination via the NCIS. Each state and territory also has its own Act, which governs the powers and duties of the Coroner.

The role of the NCIS is to assist coroners in their role as death investigators (by providing them with the ability to review previous coronial cases that may be similar in nature to current investigations), and to provide access to coronial data to approved government and research agencies. The provision of coronial data to Coroners, government and researchers enhances the ability of these groups to identify and address systematic hazards within the community.
Data entry is performed at each coronial office into local case management systems by coronial clerks. Data from these case management systems is uploaded daily to the NCIS database, including full text documents, such as post-mortem and toxicology reports. All information transferred to the NCIS is performed in accordance with State and Federal Privacy legislation.

NCIS is continually working to obtain as many documents in electronic format as possible. Regional reports are sometimes only available in a paper form, and some laboratory systems may not yet be able to transfer their reports electronically. ICD-10 codes are provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and particular work related coding is provided by Safe Work Australia. Additional data fields arising from other projects involving the national police form and drugs module may also be added to the NCIS data set in the future.

Relevance and Scope

The data contained in the NCIS is provided by all coronial jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand. The collection commenced in July 2000 in Australia (Queensland in July 2001) and July 2007 in New Zealand. Information is sourced from the investigation conducted by a Coroner into the death of an individual. The purpose of the investigation is to determine the identity of the deceased and the cause of death.  All Australian and New Zealand coronial jurisdictions investigate deaths in accordance with their respective Coroners Act. Each Act defines what constitutes a ‘reportable death’ to determine which deaths must be investigated Information is sourced from the investigation conducted by a Coroner into the death of an individual. The purpose of the investigation is to determine the identity of the deceased and the cause of death.  All Australian and New Zealand coronial jurisdictions investigate deaths in accordance with their respective Coroners Act. Each Act defines what constitutes a ‘reportable death’ to determine which deaths must be investigated by a Coroner. The definition of a ‘reportable death’ may vary between jurisdictions and may change over time. As a result, not all deaths are contained in the NCIS. Deaths reported directly to Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages are excluded as the NCIS only contains coronial data. Cases where the Coroner begins an investigation but then determines that the case does not to constitute a reportable death are removed from the NCIS.

A full list of the NCIS core data fields and explanatory notes  is available on the website and includes further information about the scope and coverage of the data collection.


Data is collected by NCIS at the time of notification of death to the Coroner and updated throughout the investigation. A coronial investigation can be a lengthy process and only after completion of the investigation, when a cause of death has been determined and the Coroner has made a finding, all case details and documentation are finalised and the case is closed on the NCIS database. The data then becomes accessible to researchers.  For public statistics, data will only be included in reporting where at least 80% of cases are closed on the database to ensure reliability.
Reports available on the NCIS website include the NCIS Annual report, which lists usage of NCIS data, and Fatal Facts, which summarises all coronial recommendations reported to the NCIS. These reports are available online from


Data is coded locally by each jurisdiction and information is sourced from documents such as the police notification of death, autopsy and toxicology reports and coronial findings. It is acknowledged that completeness and consistency of these documents may vary between, and within each jurisdiction. There are also inherent differences between the state and territory legislative provisions governing the reporting of a death to a coroner, which impact on the type, quality and quantity of the information collected and reported by each jurisdiction.
Quality is therefore both a local and central responsibility. NCIS provide a national standard for coding classification through the NCIS Data Dictionary and Coding Manual and ensure the code set reflects current international standards. The NCIS Quality Assurance team carry out quality reviews to maintain systematic quality analysis and monitoring, as well as provide training and support for coders within each jurisdiction. Quality reviews verify that the data conforms to the defined code sets and that data fields are coded correctly. The majority of data fields collected in the NCIS are controlled by a limited dataset which is specific to each data field. Drop-down menus are used to make data entry as easy and accurate as possible. Where applicable free text data fields are used, these fields allow coders to enter case specific information which cannot be explained using the standard code set. Automated validation rules are incorporated into the database to ensure that mandatory data fields are completed prior to the closure of the case. These rules help to ensure that the minimum of information and coding is completed before the case is closed off.
The NCIS Unit manually checks all external death cases and some types of natural death cases for accurate coding. The NCIS strives to confirm the accuracy of each case on the database within 6 months of the case being completed by a coroner.


Direct access to NCIS data is only available to death investigators assisting the coroner (forensic scientist, pathologist, and assisting police) and third party users (defined as an individual or organisation with a role or interest in public health and safety or with a statutorily mandated statistical role). All third party applications are referred to the Victorian Department of Justice Research Ethics Committee for consideration. If the application seeks to access identifying information from WA, an application to the WA Coronial Ethics Committee will also be required. Death investigation users contact the NCIS, to arrange appropriate authorisation from the State or Chief Coroner in the relevant jurisdiction. Before the NCIS Applications Officer submits an application to the Department of Justice Ethics Committee it will be reviewed by the NCIS Research Committee (NRC). Applications will be considered in the order in which satisfactorily completed applications are received.
Applications for online access to the NCIS must be made through and approved by the Victorian Department of Justice Research Ethics Committee. There are two levels of access to completed cases: Level 1 - all data; and Level 2 - non-identifying data only. Compliance with the NCIS Privacy Protocols is a term of the Access Agreement. Direct access is not available to individuals, the media or private organisations, however
de-identified statistics can be produced on request.


All data on the NCIS has been coded as defined by the rules and definitions in the NCIS Data Dictionary and NCIS Coding Manual to assure comparability and interpretability. These manuals further detail limitations associated with the coding of any data on the NCIS and are periodically updated. Codes provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ICD-10) are available on the NCIS for all closed cases. The extensive nature of ICD enables classification of causes of death at various levels of detail. The underlying cause of death is coded, as are a maximum of 20 multiple causes. The NCIS also conducts geocoding based on the ASGC classification for external cause deaths from 2006 onwards (based on residential and incident address).

Maternity Information Matrix © 2011-2014 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and University of New South Wales | Copyright information | Disclaimer