The NCIS is a national repository containing data on deaths reported to a coroner in Australia and New Zealand. These explanatory notes detail the system's scope, coverage and data fields, and interpretation of NCIS data.
Refer to the following resources for further information:
- Data sources + classification structures - how data is collected and classified
- System manuals - detailed information on NCIS coding fields and values
- System updates - detailed information on NCIS system enhancements
- Quality management - how the NCIS Unit ensures data quality.
Scope and coverage
The NCIS contains demographic information about the deceased, contextual details on the circumstances of the death, and searchable reports including the coronial finding, autopsy and toxicology report, and police notification of death report, where available. Not all deaths are contained in the NCIS. The collection contains data on reportable deaths only.
Information contained in the NCIS may not be comparable with other data sources due to differences in data collection and classification. In addition, reporting of cases from the NCIS may vary over time due to differences in methodology and changes in case data, such as increases in case closure and data availability.
The NCIS contains data on reportable deaths only. The Coroners Act within each jurisdiction determines what constitutes
a ‘reportable death’ that must be investigated by a coroner. For NCIS purposes, a reportable death is generally a death that:
- is unexpected or unexplained
- is the result of an accident or injury
- occurs in care or custody
- is healthcare related, or
- is a case of unknown identity.
The Coroners Act within each jurisdiction is subject to change; this impacts the data collected in the NCIS over time.
Natural cause deaths
Deaths due to natural causes are only included in the data collection when investigated by a coroner. Deaths that are certified by a medical practitioner are not reported to a coroner and are therefore excluded.
The number of deaths in the NCIS is not representative of all deaths that occur. On average, 12 per cent of deaths per year are certified by a coroner. For a detailed description and statistics on the coverage and processing of all death data (certified by a coroner or medical practitioner), refer to the Australian Bureau of Statistics .
Data collection for all Australian states and territories commenced on 1 July 2000, except Queensland, for which data collection commenced on 1 January 2001. Data collection for New Zealand commenced on 1 July 2007 - this data was added to the NCIS in the 2012-13 financial year.
Cases are removed from the NCIS if they do not meet the criteria for a reportable death or if they are outside the NCIS parameters.
This may include cases where:
- the date of notification to the coroner is outside the reference period
- the coroner does not have jurisdiction to investigate the death
- a medical practitioner provides a cause of death that is accepted by the coroner and no further investigation is required
- the case is a stillbirth
- the remains are non-human
- the remains are determined to be ancient
- a death did not occur (non-fatal fires are reported to coroners in some jurisdictions).
Cases may be removed from the NCIS where a duplicate has been created for the same deceased person. Duplicate cases may occur due to administrative practices such as:
- transfers between courts within and between jurisdictions
- multiple remains later identified as from the one individual - information and documentation for multiple remains cases is consolidated into one case record in the NCIS
- repatriation cases, where a case has been opened in both the residential jurisdiction and death jurisdiction.
Duplicate cases for the same deceased person will be retained and linked in the NCIS if multiple coronial investigations into the death have been completed across different jurisdictions.
The NCIS Unit undertakes regular duplicate case reviews to ensure duplicates are managed appropriately.
Cases contained in the NCIS can be restricted at the discretion of the State or Chief Coroner in accordance with the NCIS Licence agreement which stipulates the provision and use of coronial data. Coroners may restrict cases that are particularly sensitive to the community. Restricted cases are not able to be accessed by users of the NCIS either via online access or data extract. A small proportion (<1%) of cases in the NCIS are restricted.
Data fields and interpretation
The NCIS contains a subset of the material generated during a coronial investigation into a death. The data is coded by court staff in each jurisdiction. The majority of data fields are pre-determined by a code set specified to each field. Automated validation rules are incorporated into the database and the data is quality assured and organised to facilitate search and discovery.
See System manuals for detailed information on coding fields and values.
NCIS core data set
The NCIS core data set refers to the minimum data collected for each case in the NCIS. Some data fields are only collected for cases that meet specific criteria.
- Date of birth
- Age and age unit
- Marital status
- Indigenous origin (AUS) / Ethnicity (NZ)
- Country of birth
- Address of usual residence (geocoding provided)
- Employment status
- Usual occupation
Case specific data
- Local case number
- Case type (notification and completion)
- Intent type (notification and completion)
- Perpetrator relationship to deceased
- Occupational health and safety/Work health and safety investigation
- Inquest held
- Coroners court (court responsible for investigation)
- Coroner's recommendations made
- Death notification date/time
- Coroner closed date
- NCIS closed date
- Restricted case
Cause of death
- Medical cause of death
Causative or contributing external factors
- Mechanism of injury
- Object or substance producing injury
- Mode of transport
Event circumstances - incident, death, body found, last known alive
- Event address (geocoding provided)
- Event location type
- Event date/time
- Activity type (incident only)
- Sport and exercise type (incident only)
- Industry and occupation (incident only)
- Coroner's finding
- Autopsy report
- Toxicology report
- Police summary of circumstances
Externally provided codes
- ICD-10 Cause of death (Australia)
- ICD-10-AM Cause of death (New Zealand)
- Indigenous status and birthplace (Australia)
- TOOCS, Occupation and industry related codes for work-related deaths (Australia)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification and ethnicity
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification
The NCIS contains two fields which indicate whether the deceased identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. These are available for Australian cases only.
The fields are:
- Indigenous origin (Coronial) – part of the NCIS core data set provided by the Coroners Courts in each Australian jurisdiction
- Indigenous status (BDM) – provided by the Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) registries in each Australian jurisdiction.
The Identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people data statement provides detail about variables in these fields, consistency across fields, coverage, collection method and limitations.
The NCIS contains an Ethnicity field for New Zealand cases only. This forms part of the NCIS core data set provided by the Coroners Courts in New Zealand. Ethnicity refers to the ethnic group or groups with which the deceased identified and is a cultural affiliation rather than a race.
Birthplace of the deceased is indicated for Australian cases through two fields:
- Country of birth (Coronial) – part of the NCIS core data set provided by Coroners Courts in each Australian jurisdiction
- Place of birth (BDM) – provided by Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) registries in each Australian jurisdiction.
Only the Country of birth (Coronial) field is available for New Zealand cases.
The Birthplace of deceased data statement provides detail about variables in these fields, consistency across fields, coverage, collection method and limitations.
Up to four documents may be contained for each case in the NCIS:
- coronial finding
- autopsy report
- toxicology report
- police summary of circumstances.
Documents are attached as a searchable PDF. These are copies of the original documents produced throughout the coronial investigation. Documents available in the NCIS are not a replication of the full coronial file.
Not every case contains all four documents. There are instances where certain procedures are not performed, so no report is produced. The availability of documents also varies across jurisdictions. This can impact the accurate identification of relevant cases using the keyword search function of the available documents. Other limitations relate to the transfer of documents.
The NCIS Unit continues to work with jurisdictions to maximise document attachment.
See operational statistics for information about NCIS document attachment rates.
Australian cases are uploaded to the NCIS soon after notification to the coroner. New Zealand cases are uploaded to the NCIS upon closure within the court system. The NCIS does not contain open case data for New Zealand cases.
Until the investigation is completed by the coroner and the coding of all relevant fields is completed by the court, the Case status remains open in the NCIS. When the investigation and relevant coding is complete, the court changes the Case status to closed in NCIS.
Some coded fields are only required to be completed on case closure in the NCIS. Information available in coded fields in open cases may be subject to change upon conclusion of the coronial investigation. Validation rules attributed to data fields are typically activated upon case closure and will not yet have been applied to the majority of data provided in open cases.
See operational statistics for information about NCIS case closure rates.
Case type and intent type
The NCIS Case type and Intent type fields describe the nature of the death. Two instances of each of these fields are available in the NCIS:
- Notification - refers to the Case type and Intent type identified at the time the death was notified to the coroner
- Completion - refers to the Case type and Intent type determined at the completion of the coronial investigation.
The Case type field classifies cases based on the nature of the death; whether death was due to natural, external or unknown causes, or where the body was not recovered.
The Intent type field is available for cases where the Case type is coded as death due to external cause(s) or unlikely to be known.
Intent type refers to the role of human purpose in the event resulting in death. This field is coded according the finding of the investigating coroner.
Where a coroner specifically states that the deceased intentionally self-inflicted harm, regardless of whether the anticipated outcome was death, the Intent type will be coded as intentional self-harm. When a person dies as a result of their own actions, it can be difficult to ascertain the intent of the person at the time the action was taken. Coroners attempt to make a determination about the intent of the person and are bound by legal requirements.
Cause of death
Cause of death - medical
The Cause of death field is coded according to the determination of the investigating forensic pathologist following the completion of all relevant medical investigations related to the death.
Reference to injuries, diseases or drugs within the medical cause of death is not subject to standardised terminology. For example, the Cause of death for a death due to hanging may be expressed as ‘hanging’, ‘neck compression’ or ‘asphyxiation’. Drug detection levels that warrant inclusion in a medical cause of death are also not standardised. This can influence the identification of cases based on Cause of death field.
Cause of death - ICD-10
The ICD-10 is an international classification system produced by the World Health Organisation that uses unique alphanumeric codes to classify disease, conditions leading to disease or injury.
ICD-10 codes are provided for Australian case records on the NCIS by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and ICD-10AM codes are provided for New Zealand case records by the New Zealand Ministry of Health .
The NCIS does not quality assure the coding provided by the ABS or the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
Death notification and case closure
There are three date fields included on the NCIS which provide key information relating to the movement of the case through the coronial investigation:
- death notification date
- coroner closed date
- NCIS closed date.
Death notification reflects the date and time that the case was reported to the Coroners Court. This field is auto-populated as the case is entered into the court's case management system.
Coroner closed reflects the date the responsible coroner closed the coronial investigation. Usually this is the date stipulated on the coronial finding or similar court documentation. Note: This data field was implemented into the NCIS in May 2005. Cases closed prior to this date may contain the default date of '09/09/9999'.
NCIS closed reflects the date the case was closed in the local case management system and/or NCIS, depending on the court's data entry process.
Analysis of the intervals between the three data fields provides an overview of investigation and administration periods for a specific jurisdiction or multiple jurisdictions.
See operational statistics for information about NCIS case closure rates.
Drug contribution to death is coded in NCIS according to the findings of the investigating pathologist based on toxicological testing and other available evidence.
Forensic testing practices vary within and between jurisdictions, and over time. Some substances may not always be routinely tested for as part of post-mortem toxicological analysis. In some circumstances, testing of certain substances may only be undertaken where specifically requested by an investigating coroner or pathologist. In addition, differences in jurisdictional coding practices may impact the frequency of drug and/or alcohol-related deaths identified in the NCIS.
The NCIS Pharmaceutical substance for human use codeset is the standard used by the NCIS to classify the contribution of alcohol and pharmaceutical substances, whether licit or illicit, to a death.
See system manuals for further information about drug classification.
Employment and occupation
The Employment status field reflects the employment status of the deceased at the time of their death. This field does not reflect type of employment or previous employment status.
Usual occupation data is indicated through two fields:
- Usual occupation text – a mandatory free text field that provides the usual occupation of the deceased. This forms part of the NCIS core data set.
- Usual occupation code – an optional coded field that is populated according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (2013) – Version 1.3 .
The Usual occupation data statement provides detail about variables in these fields, consistency across fields, coverage, collection method and limitations.
Incident industry and occupation
Incident industry and occupation data is available for cases where the Activity is coded as paid work or unpaid work. These data are indicated through four fields:
- Industry at incident text and Incident occupation text – optional free text fields that provide the specific industry and occupation in which the deceased was involved at the time of injury.
- Industry at incident code and Incident occupation code – conditional coded fields that provide the industry and occupation in which the deceased was involved at the time of injury based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) and the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) .
Geocoding of address data
Geocoding is the process of converting a street address to latitude and longitude coordinates. It also refers to the process of assigning geographic boundaries such as Local Government Areas (LGA).
The residential, incident and death addresses for almost all Australian cases in the NCIS have been geocoded. The NCIS uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Version 2016 as the main structure to assign boundary areas.
Geocoding is not applied to the location of last known alive or body found address codes.
Limitations of geocoding
There are occasions where it is not possible to assign a valid geographic boundary to a location. The cases will be marked in the NCIS record as not available. These instances include circumstances where:
- the deceased has no fixed address or it is not known
- the address is outside Australia
- the geocoding software is unable to provide a sufficiently accurate geocode.
Geocoding is not currently applied to New Zealand cases in the NCIS.
Where the incident or death address is a physical location without a standard street address, a geocode will be produced for the nearest street or suburb to the physical location. This includes, but is not limited to:
- areas of water
- particular locations on railway lines or railway stations
- national parks or bushland
- landmarked points on a stretch of road
- cliffs or lookouts.
Local case number
A local case number is the unique identifier assigned to a case by the Coroners Court. It should be used as the reference should any enquiries about a case be made to a Coroners Court directly.
The format used for local case numbers will differ between jurisdictions and some are case sensitive when searching in the NCIS (as indicated by * in the below table).
The format in which New South Wales and Victoria store local case numbers in their local court systems (and therefore in the NCIS) can differ from how these jurisdictions reference the case numbers in general use. If a New South Wales or Victorian local case number has been obtained from a source other than the Local case number field in the NCIS, it may need to be translated into the format outlined below in order to locate it using the Find case screen.
Mechanism and object contributing to death
Mechanism and object
The Mechanism of injury and Object or substance producing injury fields describe the way in which the injury resulting in death was sustained and the objects, substances or phenomena which produced the fatal injury. For example, drowning as the Mechanism of injury and a river as the Object or substance producing injury.
These fields are only required to be coded where external factors contributed to death.
These fields are mandatory when the Case type is coded as death due to external cause(s), but can also be assigned where external factors contributed to a natural death. For example, death due to alcoholic disease.
To reflect the context of these factors, the NCIS accommodates up to three levels of Mechanism of injury and Object or substance producing injury coding.
Transport injury events
Mode, Counterpart, Context and User coding fields are only applicable for cases where the Mechanism of injury is coded as transport injury event.
Perpetrator relationship to deceased
In cases with an Intent type code of assault, the Perpetrator relationship to deceased field indicates the relationship between the perpetrator and the deceased person.
The relationship definitions were developed by the NCIS. Detailed data about perpetrators is not intended to form part of the NCIS data collection.
The NCIS does not include a flag for domestic and family violence-related cases. To identify assault deaths related to domestic and family violence, users can select the relationship codes of interest in the Perpetrator relationship to deceased field.
The Sex data field refers to the physical or biological characteristics of a person at the time of death. This includes reproductive organs, hormones and chromosomes.
In a small number of cases, the variable in this field may reflect a person’s gender if a coroner has referred to a deceased person by their gender rather than their sex in a coronial finding.
The Sex data statement provides detail about variables in this field, its relationship to gender, limitations and future developments.