The Council of Australian Governments funded the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to review past, ongoing and planned data linkage studies that have an Indigenous focus. This report reviews these data linkage activities and is a companion document to the National Best Practice Guidelines for Data Linkage activities relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This review presents various Australian studies and analyses based on linked data relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We reviewed whether the purpose of each study was:
- to enhance the value of Indigenous status information across datasets, or
- to enhance data other than Indigenous status for the purpose of undertaking research that cannot be undertaken using data from only one source.
The review also examined:
- the core themes of the studies
- the datasets used
- the data linkage methodology used, or intended to be used, in the studies
- data quality issues encountered or anticipated
- problems with the quality of the Indigenous status variable on the various datasets
- the method of analysis
- what algorithms or methods were used or are planned to be used in deriving Indigenous status if Indigenous status was missing or was inconsistent across input datasets
- whether researchers explored, or intend to explore, the impact of various algorithms or methods for deriving Indigenous status on the estimated outcome measures.
We found that an emphasis on the use of data linkage to improve accuracy of Indigenous status in datasets has only recently emerged. Moreover:
- the use of survey data as a 'gold standard' for Indigenous status information when linking with other datasets has great potential
- to date, data linkage has rarely been used for exploring topics related to Council of
- Australian Government's (COAG) Closing the Gap Performance Indicators
- there has been little consistency in how Indigenous data linkage is done or evaluated
- there is a small evidence base for the relative merits of different approaches to identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through data linkage
- the existing evidence base may not be universally applicable across all Australian jurisdictions and datasets.
The amount of work using linked data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people varies greatly between different states and territories. This partly reflects how long data linkage nodes have existed in each jurisdiction, but differences in legislative regimes between states and territories may also be partly responsible. Only the AIHW and ABS are currently linking data related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a national scale. This report should be read in conjunction with the National Best Practice Guidelines for Data Linkage activities relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and its online attachment, Thematic list of projects using linked data relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (henceforth referred to as the Thematic List).