Indigenous Australians have a relatively high level of mortality with injury being the leading cause of the fatal disease burden (24%). Injury also accounted for 15% of the fatal gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Most injury related deaths are preventable.

Over the 5-year period 2011–12 to 2015–16, it is estimated that at least 2,145 Indigenous Australians who lived in 5 Australian jurisdictions with adequate Indigenous identification levels (New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory) died as the result of an injury—an annual average of 429 deaths. The rate of injury death for Indigenous males was nearly double that for females.

The age-standardised rate of injury death for Indigenous Australians was nearly twice that of non-Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have assessed the 5 included jurisdictions as having adequate identification of Indigenous deaths from at least 2001 onwards.

Among cases from these jurisdictions, the highest age-specific injury death rates for Indigenous males and females in the 5-year period were for those aged 65 and older (167 and 144 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).

The highest age-standardised rates of Indigenous injury death were for residents of Remote and Very remote areas.

The 3 most frequent external causes of death for Indigenous Australians were Suicide (706 deaths in 5 years; 33% of all injury deaths), Transport crashes (430 deaths; 20%) and Unintentional poisoning by pharmaceuticals (301 deaths; 14%). These three causes of death were responsible for a total of 1,437 (67%) deaths. Other frequent causes of death were Homicide and Falls (204 and 172 deaths, respectively, during the 5-year period).


Over the 5-year period, 706 Indigenous Australians died as the result of suicide—an average of 141 per year. Suicide accounted for around one-third of all injury deaths of Indigenous Australians.

Suicide deaths among Indigenous Australians were 2.4 times as common for males as for females. For both sexes, over 8 in 10 of these deaths occurred between the ages of 15 and 44. For children aged 5–14, suicide rates for Indigenous boys and girls were 9 and 7 times as high, respectively, as those of their non-Indigenous children.

The highest rate for Indigenous male suicide was in Remote areas, where the age-standardised rate of 61 deaths per 100,000 population was around twice the rate in other remoteness areas.

Over the period 2001–02 to 2015–16, suicide rates for Indigenous males were relatively stable, while rates for Indigenous females rose by an annual average of 6%.

Transport crashes

Over the 5-year period, 430 Indigenous Australians died as the result of Transport crashes—an annual average of 86 deaths. This cause of death represented one-fifth of all Indigenous injury deaths. Around two-thirds of transport deaths involved males and, for both sexes, around 4 in 10 deaths occurred between the ages of 25 and 44.

The most frequently reported specific injury sustained in deaths due to Unintentional transport crashes for males and females was an injury to the head (28% and 30%, respectively).

Rates of transport-related death generally rose with the remoteness of the person’s place of usual residence.

Over time, deaths due to this cause fell for both Indigenous males and females by an average of 3% per year.

Unintentional poisoning by pharmaceuticals

There were 301 deaths of Indigenous Australians due to this cause over the 5-year period—an average of 60 per year. These poisoning deaths accounted for 14% of all Indigenous injury deaths. Around 6 in 10 of these deaths involved males and, for both sexes, they were most frequent between the ages of 25 and 44.

The drug type most frequently involved in these deaths was Narcotics and psychodysleptics [hallucinogens], which were recorded in nearly three-quarters of the male deaths and over two-thirds of the female deaths. Psychotropic drugs were also commonly recorded in the data, more so for females (48% of female deaths) than for males (28% of male deaths).

Unlike some other causes of injury death among Indigenous Australians, Unintentional poisoning rates for males and females were highest for residents of Major cities.

Between 2001–02 and 2015–16, male rates rose by an annual average of 6%. Female rates rose by an annual average of 8%, though this trend estimate value may be less reliable due to low annual case numbers in the early part of the period.