4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/10/2005   
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Indigenous mothers are more likely to have their babies at younger ages than other mothers. The average age of Indigenous mothers who gave birth in 2003 was 25 years, compared with an average age of 31 years for all Australian mothers. For the period 2000-02, 78% of Indigenous mothers who gave birth were aged under 30 years, compared with 49% of non-Indigenous mothers. In 2003, the TFR for Indigenous women was estimated to be 2.15 babies, compared with 1.76 babies for the total Australian population.

Among the risk factors for poor perinatal and child health outcomes are alcohol use, tobacco use and other drug use during pregnancy. The WAACHS reported that during pregnancy, an estimated 49% of mothers of Aboriginal children in Western Australia had smoked, 23% had consumed alcohol, and 9% had used marijuana.

Babies weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth are classified as being of low birthweight. Babies with an Indigenous mother were twice as likely to be of low birthweight (13% of births) as babies with a non-Indigenous mother (6%). The perinatal mortality rate for babies with an Indigenous mother in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory was about twice that for babies with a non-Indigenous mother.

Breastfeeding and effective vaccination have many positive effects on the survival chances, growth, development and health of infants. In 2001, a high proportion of Indigenous mothers living in remote areas (95%) and non-remote areas (83%) had breastfed their children. In 2003, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had lower vaccination coverage than other children at 12 months of age (82% compared with 91%), but by two years of age, they had comparable vaccination coverage (91%).

In 2003-04, Indigenous infants were more likely to be hospitalised than other infants, while Indigenous and other children aged 1-14 years were hospitalised at similar rates. In the period 1999-2003, the mortality rate for Indigenous infants in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory was almost three times that for non-Indigenous infants. The death rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1-14 years was more than twice that of non-Indigenous children of the same age in these jurisdictions.

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