2009 Media Release: More accurate reporting needed to address life expectancy gap

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

More accurate reporting needed to address life expectancy gap

New data indicating that the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous is approximately 10 years and not the 17-years previously estimated, highlights the need for new ways to identify Indigenous people from death records, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said today.

Commenting on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data released yesterday, Commissioner Calma said the data set was based on a new methodology that compensated for the significant undercount of Indigenous death records.

“This new data shows that we need a new way to secure the identification of Indigenous people in death records so that the ABS no longer has to use assumptions to calculate an estimate of what the undercount might be,” Commissioner Calma said.

‘We need a firm data foundation on which to plan and implement for Indigenous health equality by 2030.

“I welcome the commitment in the Federal Budget for improved data collection and I urge all Australian governments and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to commence work as soon as possible to address this issue.

“Efforts to close the life expectancy gap must be based on rock solid data, not estimates that can fluctuate.

“We also need a broader effort to improve Indigenous health-related data collection to support efforts to achieve Indigenous health equality." 

Commissioner Calma welcomed Minister Macklin’s comments recognising that the new figure should not be interpreted as an ‘achievement’ of Australian governments, and her commitment that the Australian Government would continue its efforts to close the life expectancy gap.

“A gap of either 10 or 17 years is utterly unacceptable in a country like Australia that prides itself on a fair go for all, and the ‘level playing field’,” he said.

“The Close the Gap Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality will continue to work for significant investments to be made in Indigenous health, and to hold the Australian Government to it’s commitment to achieve equality in life expectancy by 2030. We look forward to a partnership between government and Indigenous peoples in urgently developing a national action plan to Close the Gap in life expectancy.

“The fundamentals have not changed. A divide of such magnitude indicates that black and white Australians still have very different life experiences, especially in terms of their access to doctors and medical services, the housing they live in and the food they eat.”

He said all other negative impacts on health such as unemployment and lower access to a quality education had to be addressed.

“It is still clear, underneath the statistics, that Indigenous Australians have significantly less chances to be healthy than other Australians.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott on (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597.