Australian Bureau of Statistics
4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/04/2008
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The age distribution of Torres Strait Islander people was similar to that of the overall Indigenous population. In 2006, 71% of Torres Strait Islander people and the same proportion of the overall Indigenous population were less than 35 years of age. This compared with 47% of the non-Indigenous population who were in this younger age group. Only 10% of Torres Strait Islander people were aged 55 years or over compared with 8% of all Indigenous people and 24% of non-Indigenous people (table 12.2).
A Torres Strait Islander birth is registered as such when at least one parent identifies as being of Torres Strait Islander origin or of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin. Indigenous births data are subject to under-identification and registrations do not always distinguish between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births. Identification of Indigenous births for the period 2002-2006 is estimated to be 95% for Australia and 98% for Queensland (ABS 2007a). Separate estimates of the level of identification of Torres Strait Islander births are not available.
Over the period 2004-2006, Torres Strait Islander births comprised 11% of all registered Indigenous births. In 2006, one-quarter (25%) of Indigenous births in Queensland were registered as being Torres Strait Islander births (table 12.3).
There were 4,048 births registered as Torres Strait Islander in the period 2004-2006, of which two-thirds (2,582) were to Torres Strait Islander mothers. The median age of Torres Strait Islander mothers was 25 years which was the same as for all Indigenous mothers (table 12.4). This was younger than the median age of non-Indigenous mothers (31 years).
Forty-one percent of babies registered as being of Torres Strait Islander origin in 2004-2006 had two Indigenous parents, compared with 30% of Indigenous babies overall (graph 12.5).
The AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit (NPSU) collects birth data from midwives and other health professionals who attend births. As birth registrations are based on information provided by parents to state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, different sources mean that statistics obtained vary. Only the Indigenous status of the mother is collected by the NPSU, while birth registrations collect the Indigenous status of both mother and father.
The AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection recorded an average of 1,041 liveborn babies with a Torres Strait Islander mother each year in the period 2003-2005. Of these babies, 96 each year, on average, were low birthweight babies (less than 2,500 grams at birth) including an average of 20 very low birthweight babies (less than 1,500 grams at birth) per year. With around one in ten liveborn babies (9%) recording a low birthweight, Torres Strait Islander mothers were less likely than Indigenous mothers overall (13%) but more likely than non-Indigenous mothers (6%) to have low birthweight babies.
Over the same period, the perinatal death rate was 17 per 1,000 births to Torres Strait Islander mothers. This was similar to the perinatal death rate for births to Indigenous mothers overall (18 per 1,000 births) but 70% higher than the perinatal death rate for births to non-Indigenous mothers (10 per 1,000 births).
Undercounting of Indigenous deaths is likely to result from some Torres Strait Islander people not being identified as such when their death is registered. Although identification of Indigenous deaths is incomplete in all state and territory registration systems, the ABS has determined that data for Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory have sufficient coverage to enable the production of mortality statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2001-2005, the rate of coverage of Indigenous deaths was over 50% for each of these states and 92% in the Northern Territory. Deaths data presented in this chapter have been combined from these four jurisdictions and should be regarded as indicative only.
During 2001-2005, the median age at death was 55 years for Torres Strait Islander males and 62 years for Torres Strait Islander females (table 12.6).
Cause of death
The most commonly recorded cause of death among Torres Strait Islander people in the period 2001-2005, accounting for 30% of registered deaths, were diseases of the circulatory system (e.g. heart diseases). Circulatory diseases were also the most common cause of death in the Indigenous population (accounting for 27% of registered deaths). Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than Indigenous people overall to die from cancer (malignant neoplasms) (21% compared with 15%), and were less likely to die as a result of external causes (including injury) (10% compared with 16%) (table 12.7).
This page last updated 27 May 2010
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