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What do we know about Indigenous births?

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[Information about births in Tas and the ACT are included in Australian totals, but, because of the small numbers involved, are not referred to specifically in relation to birth rates and birthweights.]

Indigenous women in Australia have more babies than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women generally have babies earlier in life than non-Indigenous women.

What do we know about the number of Indigenous births?

In 2011, there were 17,621 births registered in Australia where one or both parents were Indigenous (six out of every 100 births) [1]. The actual number of Indigenous births was probably greater as not all births are correctly identified. Completeness of identification varies across the country, with Vic, Qld, WA, SA and the NT having consistently high levels in recent years (above 90% identification).

For Indigenous births in 2011 [1]:

What do we know about births to Indigenous mothers?

Indigenous women have more babies and have them at younger ages than do non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women had, on average, 2.7 births in their lifetime (compared with 1.9 births for all Australian women) [1].

In 2011 [1]:

What do we know about the weights of babies born to Indigenous mothers?

The average birthweight of babies born to Indigenous mothers in 2010 was 3,190 grams, which was 186 grams less than the average for babies born to non-Indigenous mothers (3,376 grams) [2].

The average birthweight of babies born to Indigenous mothers varied among states and territories [2]. It ranged from 3,3113 in WA to 3,241 in NSW. In contrast, the average birthweights of babies born to all Australian mothers varied little across Australia, except for the NT.

Babies born to Indigenous women were almost twice as likely to be of low birthweight than those born to all Australian women (12.0% compared with 6.0%) [2]. (Low birthweight - less than 2,500 grams - can increase the risk of health problems.) The highest proportions of low birthweight were for babies born to Indigenous women in SA (16.3%), WA (14.8%), and Vic (14.2%). (Due to small Indigenous population numbers, the proportions for the ACT were not considered here.)


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Births, Australia, 2011. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Li Z, Zeki R, Hilder L, Sullivan EA (2012) Australia's mothers and babies 2010. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
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