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National best practice guidelines for collecting Indigenous status in health data sets (2010)


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare






Australian Institute of Health and Welfare



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are under identified in health related data sets. These guidelines have been developed to provide a national approach for collecting and recording accurate information on Indigenous status. Accurate data are essential for measuring the effectiveness of health services in meeting the health care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and an important process in maintaining the rights of all health service clients.

The impact of under-identification can lead to incorrect or inconsistent data collection, making analysis and the drawing of conclusions on available data problematic. The degree of under-identification varies across jurisdictions and creates difficulties for monitoring progress in 'closing the gap'. For instance, the inability to identify and control for ‘biases' affects the accurate monitoring of specific health conditions and health outcomes in the Indigenous population. Under-identification also creates problems for researchers and policy makers to identify and appreciate what works or could work to overcome the poor Indigenous health status.

The guidelines make recommendations for further research, particularly for understanding motivators for attitudinal and behavioural change amongst stakeholders. This also includes the attitudes and beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients of health services. All clients have the right to determine for themselves whether they choose to report their Indigenous status but they cannot exercise this right unless they have been asked the question. Developing guidelines ensures consistency and confidence in the measurement in each collection and self-reporting is the most accurate means of ascertaining Indigenous status.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract



Last updated: 16 May 2012
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