Longevity continues to increase in Australia. The period 1979–2011 saw increases in life expectancy at birth of 6.9 years to 84.7 years for females, and 9.5 years to 80.2 years for males. A decomposition analysis reveals that the majority of the increase, particularly for females, is attributable to mortality improvement at older ages, and that gains are being made at increasingly older ages over time. Improvements in circulatory disease mortality account for a very significant component of life expectancy gains over the period—75 % for females and 60 % for males—with land transport accidents, congenital and perinatal mortality, and neoplasms also making significant positive contributions. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and lung neoplasms for females, have had a negative impact. Females currently outlive males by 4.5 years on average, with ischaemic heart disease and prostate and other neoplasms the important positive contributors to this differential, and breast cancer having a negative effect. With 93 % of females and 88 % of males now surviving to age 65 in Australia, continued life expectancy improvements will depend to a large extent on success in delaying death at the older ages.