Indigenous Road Safety Forum 2004

Road Safety, with assistance from the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure and Planning, organised and chaired the third indigenous road safety forum held in Alice Springs on 27 and 28 September 2004. Previous forums were held in Adelaide in 2002 and in Darwin in 1999. The forum aimed to enhance and build on existing strategies and initiatives relevant to indigenous road safety and provide a resource-sharing and networking opportunity to help empower communities to implement practical solutions to indigenous road safety problems.

Over 60 delegates attended the 2004 forum in Alice Springs, comprising the key stakeholders in indigenous road safety from federal, state and Northern Territory transport, health, safety, corrective services and sport and cultural affairs agencies, including the Alice Springs Indigenous Coordination Centre, police, driver training schools, motorist associations, community organisations, local government and local aboriginal elders. The cultural affairs manager of the New Zealand Land Transport Safety Authority provided perspectives on successful measures to improve the road safety of indigenous people in New Zealand. A further 16 presentations were made to the forum on a range of topics, including communication techniques, availability of statistics, government, police and community educational programmes and other countermeasures, injury prevention plans by the health sector, a whole-of-government approach for indigenous coordination centres, local government countermeasures, licensing programs and development of a national Internet-based information sharing programme dedicated to indigenous road safety.

The forum confirmed the messages from previous forums that, although national statistical data on indigenous road safety is serious incomplete, the available data indicate that the indigenous road fatality rate may be around three times that of the non-indigenous population. The issues that were identified as requiring national attention were:

  • inconsistent and incomplete statistical data on indigenous fatality and injury rates;
  • low levels of licensed driving;
  • low seat belt wearing rates among indigenous drivers and passengers;
  • unsafe consumption of alcohol by drivers and pedestrians;
  • need to share information on indigenous road safety among key government bodies and stakeholders;
  • need to involve local communities when developing countermeasure programmes; and
  • inadequate road infrastructure.

A working group of stakeholders met at the conclusion of the forum to analyse the issues raised and recommended a list of actions. The actions, shown below, are to be monitored through a twice-yearly teleconference of the working group and at the next forum.

  1. Provide information on forum outcomes to key stakeholders and place information on the website of the ATSB.
  2. Submit a paper to the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport (SCOT) recommending that Ministers of the Australian Transport Council (ATC) be informed of forum outcomes.
  3. Examine the feasibility of collecting improved and nationally consistent data on indigenous road trauma.
  4. Implement changes and monitor progress in the following key areas: improved data collection; increased licensing; increased seat belt wearing, including child restraints; reduction in road trauma involving alcohol; improved infrastructure at high risk locations; and decrease in pedestrian risk.
  5. Recognise the need to involve local communities when developing programs that target indigenous road safety.
  6. Explore how links can be developed with other areas such as health and Indigenous Coordination Centres.
  7. Explore the availability of indigenous community language resources and make efforts to share these resources.
  8. Support the development of the Internet information sharing project coordinated by Western Australia and, when finalised, widely advertise its availability.
  9. Consider the inclusion in black spot programmes of specific funding to improve indigenous road safety.
  10. Examine possibilities for updating some information in the report Australian Indigenous Road Safety prepared by ARRB Transport Research Ltd.
  11. Monitor progress on the above actions at twice-yearly teleconferences of the Indigenous Road Safety Working Group and at the next Indigenous Road Safety Forum.

Transport Ministers have been informed of the recommended actions at the meeting of the Australian Transport Council on 19 November 2004.


The National Road Safety Strategy 2001-2010 recognises that road safety for indigenous people is a particular issue of concern. The estimated road death rate for the indigenous population is about three times higher than that of the non-indigenous population.

The draft National Road Safety Action Plan for 2005 and 2006 calls for an approach based on local consultation and action, facilitated by information sharing and co operation among jurisdictions, to identify and implement locally relevant initiatives to improve road safety outcomes for indigenous people.

These local initiatives will complement broader road safety measures in the Action Plan that will improve road safety for all Australians, including indigenous people.

The draft Action Plan also lists a specific priority in this area: development of an Internet-based system to share information on indigenous road safety initiatives. A number of jurisdictions have agreed to contribute to this project. The lead agency, WA Office of Road Safety is managing a consultancy to develop the system. This work is to be accompanied by national forums on road safety for indigenous people.

The ATSB has supported continued collaboration among jurisdictions on indigenous road safety issues by:

  • providing funding to assist the development and marketing of a video and CD road safety resource for use in indigenous communities (Corrugations to Highways);
  • funding a scoping study of indigenous road safety to examine current databases and research and identify successful indigenous road safety initiatives. The resulting report, Australian Indigenous Road Safety prepared by ARRB Transport Research Ltd is available from the website, or from the Bureau on request;
  • chairing an inter-jurisdictional indigenous road safety working group;
  • funding and providing administrative support for indigenous road safety forums in November 1999, June 2002, and September 2004; and
  • contributing funding to support development of an Internet-based information resource on indigenous road safety