Specific childhood injury types are ranked by occurrence rate for mortality, hospital admission and emergency department attendance. Cases are drawn from the resident population of Brisbane South, 0-13 years of age, for the period 1 July 1985 to 30 June 1991. A total of 47,244 injuries, 7056 admissions and 99 deaths were analysed. The overall mortality rate was 12.6/100,000 per year (95% confidence interval (CI), 10.2-15.3), the overall admission rate was 911/100,000 per year (95% CI, 890-932) and the overall hospital attendance rate was 6013/100,000 per year (95% CI, 5958-6067). A fall was the most frequent injury mechanism for admissions and 65% of attendances involved injury in the child's own home. The surveillance data establish regional variation for childhood injury risk within Australia and identify an unexplained downward trend in head injury that requires further investigation. The future development of injury surveillance in Australia requires simplified coding which can be integrated into new computerized patient management information systems.