We die sooner, terribly much sooner



The average age of death for people in Central Australia is over 20 years younger than the national median, a staggeringly low of 56.5 years of age.

Nationwide, the median age of death is 78.

This number is an average of the median age of death for the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Barkly, Central Desert, MacDonnell and Alice Springs.

These statistics have come to light thanks to a broad and ongoing study by the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) at Torrens University, looking at essentially every registered death across Australia between 2014 and 2018.

The information they have compiled is called the Social Health Atlas.

When the Northern Territory is compared at a Territory wide level to the other states and Territories, the NT lags 14 years behind the next lowest states of WA and Queensland.

In the NT, people are dying at the median age of just 63. In WA and Queensland, the age is 77.

Another portion of the study looks at same-day renal dialysis public hospital admissions in 2017/18.

By using a standardised ratio (SR) per 100,000 population, PHIDU can reflect the national average as 100 in order to give a clear image of the national picture.

If a location’s standard ratio number is below 100, it has below average admissions. If the number is above 100, it is above average. 

The average number for the Barkly, Central Desert and MacDonnell is a horrendous 6079.

In Alice Springs it is 766.

Again for perspective, the number in regional WA is 101, slightly above the national average.

The ratioed number for the NT as a whole is 1004.

Across the entire country there is only one LGA that is higher than Alice Springs that is not in the NT. That LGA is South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, on the NT border, which has an SR of 1540.

The work done by PHIDU also calculated the potential years of life lost for given areas, assuming that a healthy person would live to 75 years.

Information supplied for the Alice Springs News by PHIDU Director Dr John Glover, shows that in Alice Springs there were 680 deaths between 2014 and 2018, with a devastating 10,269 potential years of life lost.

Using the standardised ratio technique, that is 204, nearly double the national average.

In the remote areas around Alice Springs the potential years of life lost SR was 385.

In Barkly / Tennant Creek, it was 405.

Take any of the above numbers and they all come down to this: people are dying unnecessarily in Central Australia.


  1. Can Dr Glover explain the reasons why the average age of death for people in Central Australia is more than 20 years younger than the national median?

  2. It is appropriate the journalist (Julius) brings attention to this major issue.
    @ Jason – I find your comment to be callous. Neither people in Newman or Alice should die so much younger than other Australians.
    I know many talented Martu people in Newman who have been lost to their children, families and communities too young.
    And in Alice I’ve been so concerned about the prevalent deaths in this town to have made a short video called Somebody’s Child. – I made it after losing my own child to an illness.
    With that experience, I am awed by people’s strength to withstand repeated premature deaths. Where is the empathy in any of the above comments?

  3. @ Dr Fiona J Walsh. Good point, I really liked your short video.
    I’m wondering if you could take up Michael’s question (above).

  4. @ jason: I was actually hoping Julius Dennis or another reporter would follow-up with Dr Glover and the Alice Springs Hospital to help readers understand the many sad stories hiding behind these impersonal numbers!

  5. @ Michael: In our seven million word archive you will find hundreds of reports dealing with crime, alcohol abuse, neglect of children, voluntary unemployment and government incompetence. Those are the “sad stories hiding behind these impersonal numbers”. Google them. There is no point in repeating them.
    Kind regards, Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  6. @ Erwin: Wow, how refreshing to see you go straight to the point about the actual causes of these early deaths.
    Not sure about government incompetence though, there are plenty of other incompetent governments and the places where there governments “govern” do not have such an early death rate.
    The other points you raise are the leading causes, and it really comes down to what was pushed many years ago, self determination and personal responsibility.
    It is not callous, it is simply the truth, thanks for being brutally honest, Erwin.

  7. So would it be fair to say Aboriginals die prematurely because of obesity, alcohol excess, poor nutrition, road deaths, assaults, domestic violence, suicides and lack of care.
    I’m not aware of by whom, where and why the three roadside memorials in the above photo were posted, but I have a pretty good idea of who, why and how the deaths occurred.


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