The idea for the development of a national database of coronial information had been discussed among Australian Coroners since the early 1990’s. Coroners often relied on ad hoc conversations or their annual conferences to exchange ideas or information on deaths and fatal hazards. What was needed was a systematic way of collecting and retrieving this information on demand.
In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that a national coronial record keeping system be established. The Australian Coroners’ Society (ACS) was formed in that same year, and in 1993, the ACS considered that the formation of a "computerized process with database to enable the results of coroners’ investigations to be nationally accessible" was essential.
A feasibility study was subsequently undertaken in 1994 by the National Injury Surveillance Unit at Flinders University, and Drummond Research P/L was engaged in 1996 to report on the implementation aspects of developing a national database.
In 1997 a consortium of three Monash University Departments (Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine; Department of Forensic Medicine; and the Monash University Accident Research Centre) formed the Monash University National Centre for Coronial Information (MUNCCI), which was to be responsible for the development and management of the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).
In March 1997, the Standing Committees of Attorneys-General gave their in principle support to the development of the NCIS. Subsequently endorsement was sought and obtained from other relevant Ministerial Councils - health, consumer affairs, transport, labour and police.
Initial funding for the development of the NCIS was provided by Monash University, the Victorian Department of Justice, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, the Federal Office of Road Safety, and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
Over the next few years, local case management systems were developed to allow coronial input of required data, data dictionaries and coding classification systems were developed, and licence agreements signed with the relevant jurisdictions. In December 1999, the ACS was awarded the 2nd National Kidsafe Award for its work in establishing the NCIS, an award presented annually to identify and recognize outstanding contributions to the prevention of child death and injury.
In July 2000, the National Coronial Information System was officially launched, with Australia being the only country in the world at that time to have developed a national collection of coronial information.
Ongoing funding for the system was provided by the Justice Departments in each State and Territory, and a number of Federal government agencies. In kind support was provided by Monash University, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, the National Injury Surveillance Unit, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australasian Coroners’ Society.
In 2003, further government operational funding for the NCIS was secured, along with the implementation of a user pays system for third party users. Required changes to the governance and management of the NCIS resulted in the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine assuming responsibility for the management of the NCIS in 2005.
In 2012, management of the NCIS transferred to the Victorian Department of Justice. It was also in 2012 that New Zealand coronial data was added to the system, expanding the NCIS into an Australasian resource.