What is the NCIS?
The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) is a data repository containing information about deaths reported to a Coroner in Australia and New Zealand. Established as a resource for Coroners, the NCIS was launched in 2000 with the objective to securely share case information beyond state and territory borders for the purpose of coronial investigation and death prevention.
In the first of its kind anywhere in the world, the NCIS contains medico-legal data about all deaths reported to a Coroner in Australia and New Zealand. This includes demographic information about the deceased, contextual information about the nature of the fatality and full text reports of coronial findings, post mortem and toxicology reports and police notification of death reports. The data contained in the NCIS provides an invaluable resource for those working towards safer communities through injury and death prevention. The data is utilised by Coroners, police, all levels of government, community and advocacy groups, researchers and the media as an evidence base for awareness raising and death prevention initiatives.
Accessible online, the NCIS has attracted international interest from researchers and death investigators in England, Canada, Japan and Singapore. Data is quality assured and organised to facilitate ease of search and discovery.
As the NCIS was the first such repository in the world it remains a leading example of the role of data as evidence to inform research, policy development and coronial investigation.
The idea for a national database for coronial information had been considered in Australia since the early 1990s. At this time, each of Australia’s eight separate coronial jurisdictions had their own system of data collection and storage. Prior to the establishment of the NCIS, coronial records had been based on a manual filing system without indexes to identify clusters of similar cases. There was no systematic way of sharing information and Coroners relied on ad hoc conversations at annual conferences to exchange ideas and information on fatal hazards. The concept of a national data repository was developed as a way to formalise this exchange and to provide a place and a method for retrieving information on demand.
In 1994, the Australian Coroners’ Society commissioned the National Injury Surveillance Unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to undertake a feasibility study on a national database for coronial information. This study was funded by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. It recommended the establishment of a national database, and the recommendations were taken up by the Australian Coroners’ Society.
In September 1997, the Australian Coroners’ Society endorsed a business plan for the development and management of the NCIS, put forward by a consortium called the Monash University National Centre for Coronial Information (MUNCCI). The consortium was made up of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (a statutory agency of the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety, which also hosts the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University), Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, and the Monash University Accident Research Centre.
The NCIS was managed by MUNCCI until 2004. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine subsequently managed the system from 2004-2012. Since 2012, the NCIS has been part of the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety through the Service, Strategy and Reform Division.
The value of the NCIS increases every year as more cases are added to this vast evidence base. The NCIS is a ‘work in progress,’ much like our understandings of preventable death.
Governance and funding
The NCIS is governed by a Board of Management comprised of Coronial, Public Health, and rotating jurisdictional representatives from Australian State/Territories and New Zealand. The role of the Board is to ensure effective management of funds, provide strategic direction and ensure all legal and financial responsibilities are met.
The Board is chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety in Victoria and meets three times a year.
The provision and use of coronial data is governed by a Licence Agreement held between the NCIS and each coronial jurisdiction in Australia and New Zealand and a Memorandum of Understanding between the NCIS and Victoria. Licence Agreements are renewed regularly.
Administrative support is provided by the Department of Justice and Community Safety in Victoria. This includes: Finance, Payroll, ICT and Human Relations.
Funding for the NCIS is provided annually from core funding agencies:
- Australian State/Territory Justice Departments
- New Zealand Ministry of Justice
- Commonwealth Department of Health
- Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
- Safe Work Australia
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Australian Institute of Criminology
Further revenue is generated through user pay fees for access to data by subscription and the NCIS data report service. Annual revenue generated from user pay fees fluctuates each year and can contribute as much as 15% of the NCIS operational budget. A full financial report is included in the NCIS Annual Report.