Rates of natural deaths have fallen in the Tiwi Islands’ Indigenous community, forming an increasing and progressively ageing population, a recent research study shows.
The observational study, conducted by University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research, documented cause of natural and unnatural deaths of the Tiwi people from 1960-2010.
The Tiwi Islands are made up of the Bathurst and Melville Islands and located roughly 80 kilometres off the coast of the Northern Territory.
Death rates in the Tiwi community have been one of the highest in Australia, with the 1990s documenting deaths six times higher than the Australian mainstream population.
University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research expert Professor Wendy Hoy said the figures reflect the much younger age of Tiwi people at death.
“Against a background of low birthweight and with maternal and child health services still developing, most deaths in the Tiwi Islands during the 1960s were in infants and children,” she said in a University of Queensland statement.
The report shows lung disease, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure as the leading causes of adult death in the Indigenous community.
However, from 1986 the rate of natural deaths of adults has fallen, with the population rising by 85 per cent over the 50-year research period, from 800 in 1960 and 2260 in 2011.
Ms Hoy said the results represents triumphs in healthcare for remote-living Aboriginal people.
“With progressively improving health services, most frail and underweight infants and children are now surviving into adulthood,” she said.
“Birth weights are now trending towards a more healthy range, and while it will be a generation or two before this is fully reflected in adult health, we can look forward to further improvements.”