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Scope and Coverage
Scope of birth registration statistics
3 The scope of the statistics includes:
4 The scope of the statistics excludes:
5 The scope for each reference year of the Birth Registrations collection includes:
6 Birth records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2019, which were registered in 2018, were assigned to the 2018 reference year. Any registrations relating to 2018 which were received by the ABS from April 2019 were assigned to the 2019 reference year and will be reported in the next iteration of this publication.
7 Prior to 2007, the scope for the reference year of the Birth Registrations collection included:
Coverage of birth statistics
8 Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of births should be recorded as all those occurring within a given reference period such as a calendar year. Due to lags in registration of births and the provision of that information to the ABS from state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages, data in this release are presented on a year of registration basis, unless otherwise stated.
9 There are three dates attributable to each birth registration:
10 Data in this release are presented according to date of registration, unless otherwise stated. The registration date differs between states and territories, and should be taken into account when analysing birth statistics:
11 Nuptiality relates to the registered marital status of the parent(s) of the child at the time of birth. Confinements and births are classified as:
12 This issue of Births, Australia includes data cubes containing birth and fertility statistics on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) and the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). For further information refer to:
13 Registration of births is the responsibility of state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and is based on data provided on an information form completed by the parent(s) of the child. This form is the basis of data provided to the ABS by the Registries for compilation into aggregate statistics in this release. Core data items are collected in all states and territories and therefore statistics at the national level are available for key characteristics. Some states collect additional information.
14 Hospitals and birth clinics notify state and territory registries of recent births on a regular basis. For births where a notification has been received by a registry, but has not been registered within the prescribed time period, parents are contacted by reminder letters and/or phone calls.
State and territory data
15 As a result of an amendment made in 1992 to section 17(a) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 (Commonwealth), the Indian Ocean territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands have been included as part of geographic Australia since 1993, hence another category of the state and territory classification has been created. This category is known as 'Other Territories' and includes Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Jervis Bay Territory. From 1 July 2016, Other Territories also include Norfolk Island following the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015.
Prior to 1993, births to mothers usually resident in Christmas Island or Cocos (Keeling) Islands were included with Offshore areas and Migratory in Western Australia, while births to mothers usually resident in Jervis Bay Territory were included with the Australian Capital Territory.
In 2018, there were 44 births to mothers usually resident in Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island.
Birth statistics for states and territories have been compiled and presented according to the state or territory of usual residence of the mother regardless of where in Australia the birth occurred and was registered, except where otherwise stated. In the following table, data are presented on both a state or territory of registration basis and usual residence basis. Births which took place outside Australia are excluded from the statistics. Births to mothers who were usual residents of Australia's Other Territories (Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island) cannot be registered in Other Territories but are registered in other Australian states and territories.
17 Age-specific and total fertility rates for sub-state/territory regions (for example, Statistical Areas Level 2) and the states and territories presented in this release are average rates for three years ending in the reference year. Rates for Australia in all other tables are based on birth registration data for the reference year only.
Interval between occurrence and registration of births
18 There is usually an interval between the occurrence and registration of a birth (referred to as a registration 'lag') and as a result, some births occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later. This can be caused by either a delay by the parent(s) in submitting a completed form to the registry, or a delay by the registry in processing the birth. Births which occur in November and December are also likely to be registered in the following year.
Of the 315,147 births registered in Australia in 2018, 84.0% occurred in 2018, 12.2% occurred in 2017 and the remainder (3.9%) occurred in 2016 or earlier years.
Effects of registration lags on multiple birth statistics
19 In recent years there have been small number of twin and higher order births from the same confinement that are registered in different reference years. Due to this reason, the number of twin and higher order births registered in a reference year may not match the number of such confinements registered in that year. For more information on the coverage of a reference year, see explanatory note 5.
Registration lags in Queensland
20 As a result of changes in the timeliness of registration of births in Queensland, care should be taken when interpreting changes in Queensland births between 2005 and 2010.
In 2009, the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages devoted significant time and resources to follow-up and finalise birth registrations where there was previously incomplete information. As part of the 'Retrospective Births Project', 1,780 births were registered, with approximately 40% registered as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births. This project is now complete.
In 2017, there was a substantial increase in Queensland Indigenous births. Investigations into this increase highlighted that the Queensland Registry had undertaken intensive community engagement work aimed at registering and providing birth certificates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in communities across the state. For more information see explanatory notes 26 and 28.
New South Wales births registrations
21 In June 2014, the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (NSW Registry) transitioned to a new data processing system which resulted in temporary processing delays. These delays caused a number of birth records received by the NSW Registry in 2014 to be processed in 2015. As a result, the total number of births registered in New South Wales in 2014 (91,074) was 9,388 (9.3%) less than the number registered in 2013 (100,462). For a more complete understanding of the births occurring in NSW for 2014 users should consult Table 13 in the .PDF version of Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0), as well as the dataset Births, by year and month of occurrence, by state (in this publication).
Analysis by the ABS showed that the distribution of important characteristics such as sex of child, age of mother, usual residence of mother and Indigenous status in 2014 data is similar to that in 2011-2013 data. The delayed birth registrations contributed to the increase of 9,005 registrations between 2014 and 2015. There was a greater registration lag, indicated by the high proportion of births registered in New South Wales in 2015 that occurred in 2014. After taking account of the extra lag, a decline in registrations after 2013 is still apparent.
In 2016 and 2017, there were lower than expected registration counts for New South Wales. The ABS worked with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (NSW RBDM) to investigate these counts, noting that changes to identity requirements in 2016 had prevented some registrations from being finalised. The NSW RBDM worked with parents to finalise these registrations, enabling many to be included in 2018 counts. Other initiatives also contributed to the higher count of births in NSW in 2018, including the implementation of an online birth registration system and a campaign aimed at increasing registrations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.
Tasmanian births registrations
22 The Tasmanian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999 requires hospitals, doctors, midwives or other responsible persons to provide the Tasmanian Registry with a list of babies born containing basic information such as date of birth and sex of the baby. In the case of a live birth, the birth notification must be provided within 21 days of the birth. These notifications have been provided to the ABS since 2002 and are also used in producing quarterly population estimates.
Under the Act, the birth of a child must also be registered by lodging a birth registration statement with the Registry within 60 days after the date of birth of the child. Once the parent(s) submits the birth registration statement, the record is updated and the Registry provides the ABS with a complete registration record. Where a match between a birth notification and birth registration statement is identified, the record is quality assured to ensure completeness of the record.
Prior to 2007, records for which a birth registration form was not received were coded as 'ex-nuptial, paternity not acknowledged'. As a result, the number of ex-nuptial births in Tasmania may be overstated for 2002 to 2006. Since 2007 these records have been excluded from all nuptiality statistics. Since 2013 the ABS no longer received birth notifications, and therefore there are no more unmatched birth registration forms.
Northern Territory births registrations
23 In 2018, the Northern Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages identified a processing issue that led to delays in some registrations for births that occurred in previous years being sent to the ABS. These registrations have since been received by the ABS, resulting in 355 additional births being included in 2018 data, the majority of which (339) were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Care should be taken when interpreting changes in birth counts and fertility rates for the Northern Territory in recent years.
Australian Capital Territory births registrations
24 An increase in the processing of late registrations in 2017, compared to earlier years, contributed to a higher than expected fertility rate for the territory in that year. Care should be taken when interpreting changes in the Australian Capital Territory births when comparing 2018 to earlier years.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births, registrations and fertility rates
25 The ABS Birth Registrations collection records a birth as being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander birth where at least one parent reported themselves as being an Aboriginal person, Torres Strait Islander, or both on the birth registration form. Therefore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births may be attributed to:
There are several data collection forms on which people are asked to state whether they are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian. The results are not always consistent. The likelihood that a person will report, or be recorded, as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian on a specific form is known as their propensity to identify.
Propensity to identify and be recorded as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian is determined by a range of factors, including:
26 Data in this release may therefore underestimate the level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births and the reliability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fertility in Australia. Lags in registrations may also affect reliability of measures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fertility. Caution should be exercised when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data in this release, especially with regard to annual change.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registered births (number) - 2011 to 2018
27 From 2006 to 2013, the Indigenous status of the mother and father for births registered in New South Wales was inconsistent with other jurisdictions. Specifically, where one parent was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian, the other parent was processed as either 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' or 'Not stated'. Furthermore, where one parent was 'Non-Indigenous', the other parent was processed as 'Non-Indigenous' or 'Not stated'. The Indigenous status of the child, where the birth was registered in New South Wales, was derived from the Indigenous status of either of the parents. The Indigenous status of births registered in New South Wales from 2006 to 2013 should therefore be interpreted with caution. The New South Wales Registry has since changed their processing rules and registration data since 2014 is consistent with the rest of Australia.
Several initiatives by the NSW Registry, including the implementation of an online birth registration system and a campaign aimed at increasing registrations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, have contributed to a higher count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian births in 2018. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fertility rate for 2018, particularly for NSW, should be used with caution.
28 In 2017, Indigenous births in Australia increased by 9.9% to 20,400 births (compared to 2016). This was largely driven by a substantial increase in Queensland Indigenous births. Investigations into this increase highlighted that the Queensland Registry had undertaken intensive community engagement work aimed at registering and providing birth certificates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in communities across the state. This work included a partnership with Pathfinders, a federally funded (by Prime Minister and Cabinet) organisation which ran a National Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program. Approximately two-thirds of the increase in registrations could be accounted for by registrations of births that occurred in previous years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fertility rate for 2017, particularly for Queensland, should be used with caution.
29 This release reports on the number and characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births and fertility rates in each state and territory, excluding the Australian Capital Territory and Other Territories. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for the Australian Capital Territory and Other Territories are not analysed separately due to small numbers, but are included in totals for Australia.
30 The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fertility rates included in this release were calculated using:
It is also possible to derive indirect estimates and projections of numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births, based on 2011 Census-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates:
31 The ABS has investigated recent annual variability in the number of births of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2018, 130 births were to mothers who reported themselves as being an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian (0.8% of children to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers), and who were born overseas.
Since 2011, these instances have accounted for less than 1.1% of annual births to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers. Of these births in 2018, 58% were to mothers born in neighbouring countries in the Pacific, such as New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, and of these the majority (49 births) were to mothers who reported themselves as being Torres Strait Islander, or both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on the birth registration form. This may indicate that these mothers are seeking to report their Pacific Islander ancestry (for which provision is not made in the Birth Registration Statement forms in Australia) rather than reporting to be Torres Strait Islanders. However, the 5 births to mothers born in Papua New Guinea in 2018 who reported being Torres Strait Islanders may be correctly recorded. The ABS continues to monitor this and work with Registries to improve quality assurance around these data. However, caution should be exercised when interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data presented in this release.
32 During editing processes for the births collection, some items are set to unknown where information is missing. In 2018, there were 1,380 birth registrations for which the Statistical Area of usual residence could not be determined. These have been coded to 'Special purpose codes'. These registrations are included as usual residents in the state/territory in which the birth was registered.
Parity (previous children of mother)
33 Australian parity figures are not published in this edition due to parity data being of poor quality for 2014 to 2018 registration years.
Age of parent(s)
34 Each year, a small number of birth registrations record the mother or father's age (as at the birth of the child) as different to that which is derived using their date of birth and the date of birth of the child. In 2018, there were 236 records for which the derived age of the mother was found to be inconsistent with the reported age. For these records, the derived age of the mother was used. The same process was applied to information on the father's age, for which 222 records were affected.
35 To protect confidentiality, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has adopted a technique to randomly adjust cells with small values. Cells with a value of zero have not been affected by this randomisation. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals. The technique has been applied to all data issued in this release with the exception of median age calculations and any sub-state data. These very minor adjustments allow for a greater amount of data to be released, and as they are small, do not affect the utility of the data.
36 The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.
Where necessary, tables in this release have had small values suppressed or randomised to protect confidentiality. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals. These adjustments allow for a greater amount of detailed data to be released, and, as they are small, do not affect the utility of the data.
37 Calculations as shown in the commentary sections of this release are based on unrounded figures. Calculations undertaken by data users using rounded figures may differ from those released. Where figures have been rounded in tables, discrepancies may occur between sums of component items and totals.
38 The ABS' releases draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. The ABS values the efforts of each state and territory's Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to improve the data quality, coverage and timeliness of birth registration information, processes and systems. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
Additional Statistics Available
Birth Registrations compared to the Perinatal Data Collection
39 Birth registrations data in this publication are not the only births data available in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) also collects birth data from midwives and other health professionals who attend births. These data are published annually in Australia's Mothers and Babies.
As information from these two collections are from different sources, the number of live births may differ. Births from the AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection are released on a year of occurrence basis, while registered births from the ABS Birth Registrations collection are predominantly released on a year of registration basis. The AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection reported the occurrence of 305,667 live births in Australia in 2017 (the latest available data), 1.1% less than the 309,142 births registered in the same year. Since 2002 the size of the difference between the two collections has varied between -2.6% and 3.5%.
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