TRENDS IN INDIGENOUS FERTILITY RATES
Total fertility rate
Graph 3.2 presents TFRs for Indigenous and all women for the period 1963 to 2008. Due to the poor quality of historical Indigenous birth registrations data, fertility rates of Indigenous women up to 1991 were derived using data collected in the Australian censuses (Gray, 1997).
With improvements in coverage, birth registrations data has been used for 1996 onwards. Due to the uncertainty in numbers of Indigenous births as well as Indigenous population estimates used as denominators in the calculation of fertility rates, data should be interpreted with caution. For more information on Indigenous population estimates, see Experimental Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1991 to 2021 (cat. no. 3238.0).
In the early 1960s, the total fertility rate (TFR) of Indigenous women was 5.8 babies per woman, compared with 3.2 babies for all women in Australia. Since then, fertility rates of both Indigenous and all women have declined substantially, with the largest decreases being recorded during the 1970s. While fertility rates for all women began to decline in the 1960s, fertility rates for Indigenous women remained relatively stable during the 1960s, followed by a sharp decline during the 1970s and slower decreases during the 1980s.
In 1996 the TFR for Indigenous women was 1.97 babies per woman, the lowest on record. Over the following decade the TFR remained at around 2.1 to 2.2 babies per woman, with an increase to 2.40 babies per woman in 2007. In 2008 the TFR for Indigenous women increased further, to 2.52 babies per woman (compared with a rate of 1.97 for all women in Australia).
3.2 Total fertility rates(a)
Age-specific fertility rates
High fertility rates at younger ages contribute to the relatively high overall fertility rate of Indigenous women compared to all women. Births to women aged under 30 years contributed more than two-thirds (70%) of the total fertility rate of Indigenous women in 2008, compared to less than half of the total fertility rate for all women (46%).
3.3 Age-specific fertility rates(a) -
For Indigenous women, the peak age group for births in 2008 was 20-24 years (147 babies per 1,000 women), followed by women aged 25-29 years (132 babies). In contrast, the peak age group for all women was 30-34 years (128 babies).
In 2008, births to teenage Indigenous women (2,200 births) accounted for 20% of all births to Indigenous women (11,000 births). In comparison, births to all teenage women accounted for only 4% of all births.
The teenage fertility rate of Indigenous women (75 babies per 1,000 women) was more than four times the teenage fertility rate of all women (17 babies), while the fertility rate of Indigenous women aged 20-24 years (147 babies) was two and a half times the fertility rate of all women in this age group (57 babies). Conversely, fertility rates of Indigenous women aged 30 years and over were lower than those of all women for 2008.