It tells us as much about life as it does about death. The Bureau of Statistics' causes of death data paints a picture of nearly 150,000 lives which ended in 2010.
Some lingered, some disappeared in the blink of an eye.
More than 43,000 people were taken by the Big C, even more by circulatory conditions like heart disease. But four people passed away ice-skating, skiing, roller-skating or skateboarding. And six people came to a grisly end after a run in with snakes, lizards, hornets, wasps or bees.
Many drowned or fell from ladders. Many more died violently through assault or car accidents.
Derek Williamson spends his days leading tours though the history of death in his role as director of the Museum of Human Disease at the University of NSW.
As he walks among the samples - diseased arteries, cirrhotic livers, even an ovarian tumour grown out of confused cells that have allowed it to sprout hair and teeth - he sees warnings for the living.
''So much of this is about quality of life. Long before you die from lung cancer, smoking has affected your life in so many ways,'' he says.
Williamson says our biggest killers are self-inflicted. "Twenty years ago we didn't worry about most people in the population getting diabetes, it was the few people who were born with it," he says.
Childhood has become safer, though, with vaccination programs virtually eliminating diseases like measles and diphtheria.
A big cut in smoking, a better diet and better traffic safety have meant a faster rise in life expectancy for Australians compared to Americans, says Theo Vos, the director of the Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost-effectiveness at the University of Queensland.
In 1970 in the US and Australia, a 15-year-old boy had a similar chance of dying before the age of 60 - about 23 per cent in the US and just over 21 per cent here. Today this figure has decreased to only 8 per cent in Australia but is still up around 14 per cent in the US, according to an online database the university developed with the University of Washington.
"Homicides are a substantial proportion of the injuries in the US, whereas you can hardly see the homicides in the Australian figures," Vos says. ''And when it comes to ischaemic heart disease, we have continued to improve whereas the US seems to have subsided in the last 10 years.''
Despite this good news, death in Australia can be controversial. The director of the Research Centre for Injury Studies at Flinders University, James Harrison, says the recording of suicides has been a hot issue.
"The statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2000 to 2010 seemed as if the suicide rate was declining really sharply," he says. "But when we and others looked at it … there was something misleading in the data".
The bureau has made changes to try to fix the problems (which largely stem from the way coroners choose to record, or rather not record, suicides) but it is still a controversial topic.
So how will death come in 20 years? University of Western Australia experts have estimated that if current trends in obesity continue, Australians aged about 20 will be the first to see their life expectancy fall.
Advances in surgical techniques and drugs can only do so much. In the end it is the way people live their lives that determines how they die.