The Red List Index (RLI), which uses information from the IUCN Red List to track trends in the projected overall extinction risk of sets of species, is among the indicators adopted by the world's governments to assess performance under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. For greatest impact, such indicators need to be measured and used at a national scale as well as globally. We present the first application of the RLI based on assessments of extinction risk at the national scale using IUCN's recommended methods, evaluating trends in the status of Australian birds for 1990-2010. We calculated RLIs based on the number of taxa in each Red List category and the number that changed categories between assessments in 1990, 2000 and 2010 as a result of genuine improvement or deterioration in status. A novel comparison between trends at the species and ultrataxon (subspecies or monotypic species) level showed that these were remarkably similar, suggesting that current global RLI trends at the species level may also be a useful surrogate for tracking losses in genetic diversity at this scale, for which no global measures currently exist. The RLI for Australia is declining faster than global rates when migratory shorebirds and seabirds are included, but not when changes resulting from threats in Australia alone are considered. The RLI of oceanic island taxa has declined faster than those on the continent or on continental islands. There were also differences in the performance of different jurisdictions within Australia. � 2012 Elsevier Ltd.