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Note that terms in bold type in the definitions are themselves glossary items.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

For nearly all data collections used in this website, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person is one who identified themselves, or was identified by another household member, as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. For a few data collections, information on acceptance of a person as being Indigenous by an Indigenous community may also be required. See also Indigenous.

acute rheumatic fever (ARF)

ARF is a disease caused by an auto-immune reaction to a bacterial infection with Group A streptococcus. ARF is a short illness, but can result in permanent damage to the heart—rheumatic heart disease (RHD). A person who has had ARF once is susceptible to repeated episodes, which can increase the risk of RHD. Following an initial diagnosis of RHD, patients require long term treatment, including long term antibiotic treatment to avoid infections that may damage the heart (Steer & Carapetis 2009).

Steer AC, Carapetis JR 2009. Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in indigenous populations. Pediatric Clinics Dec 1;56(6):1401-19.

administrative data collection

A data set that results from the information collected for the purposes of delivering a service or paying the provider of the service.

age-specific rate

A rate calculated for a specific age-group. The numerator and denominator relate to the same age group.

age-standardised rate

A rate that has been adjusted in order to eliminate the effect of differences in population age structures when comparing crude rates for different periods of time, different geographic areas and/or different population sub-groups (for example between one year and the next and/or States and Territories, Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations). Age standardisation is particularly important when considering events or conditions that are more likely to occur in certain age groups. For example, people become more likely to have cancer as they grow older. Populations with more old people will therefore tend to have higher crude rates – but not age-standardised rates – of cancer than populations with more young people simply because of the differences in age structure.

Adjustments are usually undertaken for each of the comparison populations against a standard population. For age-standardised rates on this website, the Australian population at 30 June 2001 was used as the standard population.


The period covering conception up to the time of birth. Synonymous with prenatal.

antenatal care

A planned visit between a pregnant woman and a midwife or doctor to assess and improve the wellbeing of the mother and baby throughout pregnancy. It does not include visits where the sole purpose is to confirm the pregnancy. Also known as an antenatal visit.

Apgar score

Numerical score used to indicate a baby’s condition at 1 minute and at 5 minutes after birth. Between 0 and 2 points are given for each of 5 characteristics: breathing, colour, heart rate, muscle tone and reflex irritability. The total score is between 0 and 10.

apparent retention rate

Indicative measure of the proportion of students who stayed enrolled in full-time education from the start of secondary school (Year 7 or Year 8 depending on the state or territory) to Year 12. A higher retention rate suggests more students are staying in school, which may result in improved educational outcomes.


Disease causing a build-up of plaque inside artery walls. The plaque consists of fat, cholesterol, and other substances found in food, hardens over time, and causes obstruction of blood flow, potentially leading to heart attack or stroke.

at-risk communities (regarding trachoma)

The National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit analysed jurisdictional trachoma screening and management data for 2018 in 120 remote Indigenous communities at risk of endemic trachoma in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.


See highest educational attainment.

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

A common framework defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for collecting and disseminating geographically classified statistics.


A number representative of a group or list of observations, calculated by summarising each individual observation, and dividing by the total number of observations. Often used interchangeably with mean.



The first weight of the baby (stillborn or liveborn) obtained after birth (usually measured to the nearest 5 grams and obtained within 1 hour of birth).

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Used to assess overweight and obesity levels. BMI is calculated as follows: BMI = weight (kg) / height (m)²:

  • Underweight: BMI below 18.5
  • Normal weight: BMI from 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI from 25.0 to 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30.0 and over.

The BMI cut-off points are derived from mainly European populations and can vary for other groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

burden of disease (or injury)

The quantified impact of a disease or injury on a population using the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) measure (AIHW 2016). See also DALY.

AIHW 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 6. Cat. no. BOD 7. Canberra: AIHW.


care and protection order

Legal order or arrangement that gives child protection departments some responsibility for a child’s welfare. The level of responsibility varies with the type of order or arrangement. These orders include guardianship and custody orders, third-party parental responsibility orders, supervisory orders, interim and temporary orders, and other administrative arrangements.


Cataract is a degenerative condition in which the lens of the eye clouds over, obstructing the passage of light and affecting vision. The most common type of cataract is associated with ageing. Other causes of cataract include:

  • smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • sunlight exposure
  • facial trauma
  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • short-sightedness
  • some blood pressure lowering medications.

cause of death

All diseases, morbid conditions or injuries that either resulted in or contributed to death, and the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced any such injuries, as entered on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. Causes of death are commonly reported using the underlying cause of death.


A person aged 0–14 unless otherwise stated.

children receiving child protection services

Children who are the subjects of an investigation of a notification; on a care and protection order; and/or in out-of-home care.


A term describing something that is persistent and long lasting.

chronic diseases/conditions

A diverse group of diseases/conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis, which tend to be long lasting and persistent in their symptoms or development. Although these features also apply to some communicable diseases (infectious diseases), the term is usually confined to non-communicable diseases.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is a serious long-term lung disease that mainly affects older people and is often difficult to distinguish from asthma. It is characterised by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. COPD includes bronchitis or emphysema.

Closing the Gap

A commitment made by Australian governments to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set seven targets on closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians:

  • closing the life expectancy gap within a generation (2006 to 2031)
  • halving the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade (2008 to 95 per cent of all Indigenous four year olds enrolled in preschool by 2025.
  • close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years (2014 to 2018)
  • halving the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade (2008 to 2018)
  • halving the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates (by 2020)
  • halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade (2008 to 2018).

With four of the seven targets expiring unmet, a new approach was needed.

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is a marked shift in the approach to the Closing the Gap framework. The agreement represents the culmination of a significant amount of work by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap in partnership between all Australian governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations.

This is the first time an agreement designed to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The agreement was launched on 30 July 2020 by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, and Pat Turner, the convenor of the Coalition of Peaks—a representative body of more than fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations that have come together to partner with Australian governments on closing the gap.

The agreement is available at

core activity limitation

A limitation where someone needs help with—or is having difficulty in using aids and equipment for—self-care, mobility and/or communication. See also disability, and severe or profound core activity limitation.

crude rate

The number of events in a given period divided by the size of the population at risk in a specified time period.


DALY (disability-adjusted life years)

A year of healthy life lost, either through premature death or, equivalently, through living with ill health due to illness or injury. It is the basic unit used in burden of disease and injury estimates (AIHW 2016).

AIHW 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 6. Cat. no. BOD 7. Canberra: AIHW.

diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye are damaged as a result of diabetes. This can seriously affect vision and in some cases may even cause blindness.


A medical procedure for the filtering and removal of waste products from the bloodstream. Dialysis is used to remove urea, uric acid and creatinine (a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism) in cases of chronic end-stage renal disease. Two main types are:

  • haemodialysis—blood flows out of the body into a machine that filters out the waste products and returns the cleansed blood back into the body
  • peritoneal dialysis—fluid is injected into the peritoneal cavity and wastes are filtered through the peritoneum, the thin membrane that surrounds the abdominal organs.


An umbrella term for any or all of the following: an impairment of body structure or function, a limitation in activities, or a restriction in participation. Disability is a multidimensional concept and is considered as an interaction between health conditions and personal and environmental factors. See also core activity limitation, and severe or profound core activity limitation.


A structure, or discrete space within a structure, intended for a person or group or persons to live in.


equivalised household income

Adjustment made to total household income to make comparison of income levels between households of differing size and composition possible. An indicator of the economic resources available to a standardised household. For a household with one person it is the same as the income of that person. For a household with more than one person, it is an indicator of the household income that a household with one person would need to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing as the household in question.

estimated resident population (ERP)

The official Australian Bureau of Statistics estimate of the Australian population. The ERP is derived from the 5-yearly Census counts, and is updated quarterly between Censuses, based on births, deaths and net migration.


The term ‘employed’ includes people who have worked for at least 1 hour in the reference week.

external cause

The term used in disease classification to refer to an event or circumstance in a person’s external environment that is regarded as a cause of injury or poisoning.


fetal death (stillbirth)

Death, before the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother, of a product of conception of 20 or more completed weeks of gestation or of 400 grams or more birthweight. Death is indicated by the fact that, after such separation, the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles.


gestational age

The duration of pregnancy in completed weeks, starting with the female’s last menstrual period, or a more accurate estimation if available.


highest educational attainment

Derived from information on the highest year of school completed and level of highest non-school qualification. It can be used as a proxy measure of socioeconomic position. Classified using the ABS Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED).


Used on this website to refer to a hospital separation; that is, an episode of hospital care that starts with the formal admission process and ends with the formal separation process. An episode of care can be completed by the patient’s being discharged, being transferred to another hospital or care facility, dying, or by a portion of a hospital stay starting or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).


Person or persons usually residing within a single dwelling, and making provision for food and other living essentials limited to the resident(s) of the dwelling.



A procedure designed to induce immunity against infection by using an antigen to stimulate the body to produce its own antibodies.


The number of new cases (of an illness, injury or event, and so on) occurring during a given period. Compare with prevalence.


Used interchangeably with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on this website.

Indigenous household

One which contains one or more Indigenous Australians.

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD)

The World Health Organization’s internationally accepted classification of death and disease. The Tenth Revision (ICD-10) is currently in use. The ICD-10-AM is the Australian Modification of the ICD-10; it is used for diagnoses and procedures recorded for patients admitted to hospitals.

investigation (child protection)

The process whereby the relevant child protection department obtains more detailed information about a child who is the subject of a notification received. Departmental staff assess the harm or degree of harm to the child and their protective needs. An investigation includes sighting or interviewing the child where it is practical to do so.


labour force

People who were employed or unemployed (not employed but actively looking for work).

labour force participation rate

For any group, the percentage of the working-age population (aged 15–64) that is in the labour force.

life expectancy

The average number of years people of a certain age would be expected to live if death rates at all ages remain as they are. Life expectancy at birth based on current death rates at all ages is a commonly used measure.


Interaction with language for different purposes and in different contexts through activities such as listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

live birth

The complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which, after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached; each product of such a birth is considered liveborn (WHO definition).


A baby is considered liveborn if he or she is alive for at least some time after birth. See live birth.

long-term unemployment

Persons aged 15 and over who have experienced unemployment for a period of 52 weeks or longer.

low birthweight

Weight of a baby at birth that is less than 2,500 grams.


maternal age

Mother’s age in completed years at the birth of her baby.


The sum of observations divided by the number of observations. Often used interchangeably with average.


The midpoint of a list of observations that have been ranked from the smallest to largest.


Often called ‘data about data’. It is the underlying definition or structured description of the content, quality, condition or other characteristics of data.

morbidity (non-fatal burden)

The ill health of an individual and levels of ill health in a population or group.

mortality (fatal burden)

Number or rate of deaths in a population during a given time period.


National Closing the Gap Targets

A list of national socio-economic targets to improve life for Indigenous Australians established through a joint agreement between Australian Governments an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.

neonatal death

Death of a live born baby within 28 days of birth.

non-school qualification

An educational qualification other than that of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. Non-school qualifications comprise a Bachelor degree; a Master degree; a Doctorate; a Diploma; a Graduate Diploma; an Advanced Diploma; a Certificate I, II, III and IV (trade certificates); and a Graduate Certificate.

Notification (child protection)

Contact made to an authorised department by people or other bodies alleging child abuse or neglect, child maltreatment or harm to a child.


Mathematical ability; the skillset, knowledge, and behaviour to apply mathematics for different purposes and in different contexts.



Marked degree of overweight, defined for population studies as a body mass index of 30 or over. See also overweight.

otitis media

Also known as middle ear infection. In severe or untreated cases, otitis media can lead to hearing loss.

out-of-home care

Overnight care for children aged 0–17, where the state makes a financial payment or where a financial payment has been offered but has been declined by the carer.


Describes a situation in a dwelling where one or more additional bedrooms are required to adequately house its inhabitants, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard. Compare with underutilisation (housing).


Defined for the purpose of population studies as a body mass index of 25 or over. See also obesity.

owner (of dwelling)

A household in which at least one member owns the dwelling in which the household members usually live. Owners are divided into two categories:

  • owner without a mortgage—if there is no mortgage or loan secured against the dwelling
  • owner with a mortgage—if there is any outstanding mortgage or loan secured against the dwelling.


per cent

The prevalence of something relative to a total value, which is set to be 100. For groups of different sizes the use of percentage allows to compare the frequency of a chosen condition if the groups were the same size. See also prevalence, percentage points.

percentage points

Number of per cent, most commonly used in the context of a change or difference between the number of per cent, either over time, or between two groups. See also per cent.


Describes something that relates to, or that occurred in, the period shortly before or after birth (usually up to 28 days after).

perinatal death

A fetal or neonatal death of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birthweight.

post-term birth

Birth at 42 or more completed weeks of gestation.

potentially avoidable deaths

Deaths among people younger than age 75 that are avoidable in the context of the present health care system. They include deaths from conditions that are potentially preventable through individualised care and/or treatable through existing primary or hospital care. They are a subset of premature deaths. The rate of potentially avoidable deaths in Australia is used as an indicator of the health system’s effectiveness. Potentially avoidable deaths are classified using nationally agreed definitions.

potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPH)

Hospital separations for a specified range of conditions where hospitalisation is considered to be largely preventable if timely and adequate care had been provided through population health services, primary care and outpatient services. The PPH conditions are classified as vaccine preventable, chronic and acute. Respective examples include influenza and pneumonia, diabetes complications and COPD, and dental and kidney conditions. The rate of PPHs is currently being used as an indicator of the effectiveness of a large part of the health system, other than hospital inpatient treatment.


The period covering conception up to the time of birth. Synonymous with antenatal.

pre-term birth

Birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation. See also term birth and post-term birth.


The number or proportion (of cases, instances, and so forth) in a population at a given time.

principal diagnosis

The diagnosis established after study to be chiefly responsible for occasioning an episode of patient care (hospitalisation), an episode of residential care or an attendance at the health care establishment.



A rate is one number (the numerator) divided by another number (the denominator). The numerator is commonly the number of events in a specified time. The denominator is the population ‘at risk’ of the event. Rates are generally multiplied by a number (such as 100,000) to create whole numbers.

rate ratio

The ratio between two rates. See also rate and ratio.


One number (the numerator) divided by another (the denominator). Describes how much of the numerator there is in comparison to the denominator. Equals to one if the numbers are the same. See also rate.

remoteness areas

These regions are defined by the Australian Statistical Geographical Standard (ASGS) and based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia which uses the road distance to goods and services (such as general practitioners, hospitals and specialist care) to measure relative accessibility of regions around Australia.

remoteness classification

Each state and territory is divided into several regions based on their relative accessibility to goods and services (such as to general practitioners, hospitals and specialist care) as measured by road distance. These regions are based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia and defined as Remoteness Areas by either the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (before 2011) or the Australian Statistical Geographical Standard (ASGS) (from 2011 onwards) in each Census year. The five Remoteness Areas are Major cities, Inner regional, Outer regional, Remote and Very remote.

rheumatic heart disease (RHD)

RHD may develop after illness with rheumatic fever, usually during childhood. Rheumatic fever can cause damage to various structures of the heart including the valves, lining or muscle and this damage is known as RHD. See also acute rheumatic fever.

risk factor

Any factor that represents a greater risk of a health disorder or other unwanted condition or event. Some risk factors are regarded as causes of disease; others are not necessarily so. Along with their opposites (protective factors), risk factors are known as determinants.



Intentional harm and/or injury brought upon its own person. In the context of hospitalisation and mortality data, self-harm can refer to persons who lost their life as an effect of the self-harm, without necessarily having an intention of ending their life.

severe or profound core activity limitation

The limitation of a person who needs help or supervision always (profound) or sometimes (severe) to perform activities that most people undertake at least daily—that is, the core activities of self-care, mobility and/or communication. See also core activity limitation and disability.

social housing

Social housing is rental housing funded, or partly funded by government, that is owned or managed by the government or a community organisation. There are four main social housing programs in Australia:

  • public rental housing
  • state owned or managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH)
  • mainstream community housing
  • Indigenous community housing.

socio-economic status

An indication of how ‘well off’ a person or group is. In this report, socioeconomic status is mostly reported using the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas. Two indices have been used—The Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD) and the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD).

specialist homelessness service

Assistance provided specifically to people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.


See fetal death (stillbirth).

substantiations (child protection)

Substantiations of notifications received during the current reporting year are child protection notifications made to relevant authorities between 1 July and 30 June, which were investigated and the investigation was finalised by 31 August of the reporting period, and where it was concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that the child had been, was being, or was likely to be, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed. Substantiation does not necessarily require sufficient evidence for a successful prosecution and does not imply that treatment or case management was provided. Substantiations may also include cases where there is no suitable caregiver, such as when children have been abandoned or their parents are deceased.


teenage mother

Mother aged younger than 20 at the birth of her baby.

term birth

Birth at 37–41 completed weeks of gestation.


Trachoma is an eye infection that can result in scarring, in-turned eyelashes and blindness. Australia is the only developed country where trachoma is still endemic and it is found almost exclusively in remote and very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Trachoma is associated with living in an arid environment (including the impact of dust); lack of access to clean water for hand and face washing; and overcrowding and low socioeconomic status (Taylor 2008).

Taylor, HR 2008. Trachoma: a blinding scourge from the Bronze Age to the twenty-first century, Centre for Eye Research Australia, Melbourne.


Trichiasis is a sight-threatening complication of trachoma where the lid margin and eyelashes turn inwards. The rubbing of the eyelashes on the cornea leads to corneal damage and blindness in later life (Commonwealth of Australia 2005).

Commonwealth of Australia 2005. Eye Health in Australia – A background paper to the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss.


A period of pregnancy. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, each about three months long.


underlying cause of death

The disease or injury that initiated the sequence of events leading directly to death, or the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced the fatal injury. See also cause of death.


The term ‘unemployed’ refers to people who are without work, but have actively looked for work in the last four weeks and are available to start work.

unemployed person

A person aged 15 or over who was not employed during the reference week but had actively looked for work and was currently available for work.

unemployment rate

The number of unemployed people as a proportion of the labour force.

usual resident

Refers to all people, regardless of nationality, citizenship or legal status, who usually live in Australia, except foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months over a 16-month period. It excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia for less than 12 months over a 16-month period.