The current data support the findings of the Northern Territory Department of Health's 1986 review of health and illness in the Territory: Aboriginal ill-health is a major cause of premature deaths and excess hospitalisation, and many of the causes of ill-health are preventable.

Overall, Aboriginal mortality is four times that of the total Australian population. The major cause of Aboriginal deaths in the Northern Territory, as in other parts of Australia, is disease of the circulatory system, including heart disease. However, in terms of the excess mortality experienced by Aborigines, the various infectious diseases, including those of the respiratory tract, make the largest contribution. The greatest difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal death rates is found among young and middle aged adults.

The net result of the excess mortality experienced by Aboriginal males is that the expectation of life at birth is about 19 years less than that of other males in the Northern Territory. For females, expectation of life at birth of Aborigines is almost 16 years less than that of other females in the Territory.

Despite substantial improvements since the early 1970s, the mortality of Aboriginal infants in the Northern Territory remains more than 3.5 times that of the total Australian population, and perinatal mortality is about four times that of all Australians.

The rates of hospitalisation of Aborigines are around twice those of other Northern Territorians. The greatest differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal admissions are for infants and young children and for young and middle aged adults.

By virtually every health status measure, the health of Aborigines in the Northern Territory, and elsewhere in Australia, is much worse than that of other Australians. The extent of Aboriginal health disadvantages clearly justifies the attempts by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and Aboriginal communities to develop a National Aboriginal Health Strategy. The elimination of Aboriginal health disadvantages urgently needs the implementation of the broad-based strategy, along with complementary strategies aimed at redressing their social and economic disadvantages.