Using the latest data to help close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage

The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy at birth is 11.5 years for males and 10 years for females. The Council of Australian Governments recognises that disadvantage has multiple causes and is committed to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

High quality data is essential to enable accurate reporting and to help close the gap for Indigenous Australians.

How does the Population Health Research Network help?

The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) was established with Australian Government support from the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), and state and territory government support. PHRN has built a network that enables existing health data from around the nation to be brought together for vital health and health-related research.

In 2011, PHRN provided funding to SA NT DataLink to develop e-Research infrastructure through the use of hardware and software processes for the management of data.  Thereby improving reporting on Northern Territory Closing the Gap initiatives, with the Northern Territory Government also providing cash and in-kind support. The Northern Territory Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages was actively involved in the project’s development as was the Northern Territory Government Department of Health.

The new infrastructure has enabled secure linking of Northern Territory birth and death records, together with health information such as hospitalisations. This improves the quality of data in a number of ways, including removal of duplicate records. This infrastructure will support more accurate reporting on infant mortality and life expectancy in the Northern Territory. It will be used to support better service planning and health research for Indigenous Australians, as well as for reporting against Northern Territory Closing the Gap targets.


SA NT DataLink has now linked Northern Territory births and deaths data back to 1868 and 1870 respectively. This information has also been linked to the Northern Territory Government Department of Health Client Master Index, which covers services provided by the department since 1976. Northern Territory perinatal data from 1986 onwards are currently being linked and validated.

The de-identified data is stored in the Northern Territory Department of Health in a specially prepared secure area, with procedures and policies in place to enable its approved use.  The quality of the data has also been assessed and statements on data quality are available to assist data users.

“The establishment of the privacy protecting anonymised Closing the Gap data repository within the Northern Territory Department of Health has enabled Northern Territory births and deaths data to be made available securely for approved research and policy analysis.”
Wendy Endenburg, Deputy Registrar of Northern Territory Births Deaths and Marriages

Did you know?

  • Before PHRN was established in 2009, there were data linkage units on population-based health and health-related information in only Western Australia and New South Wales.
  • PHRN now connects the whole country — with nodes in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart and Adelaide allowing information to be shared and used securely and safely for the benefit of the whole nation.
  • Since 2009, PHRN has supported provision of linked data for more than 125 projects. These include health research projects covering a wide range of areas like cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, chronic disease and child development, as well as evidence-based monitoring of government health policy.

The Australian Government is proud to provide funding for PHRN’s important work through NCRIS.

You can find out more about the Population Health Research Network and about other NCRIS initiatives on their websites.