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TRENDS IN NATIONAL FERTILITY RATES
Between 1966 and 1971, the TFR remained around 2.9 babies per woman. The reinterpretation of abortion law in New South Wales in late 1971 had a substantial impact on women's ability to control their fertility (Carmichael, 1998). Subsequently, a fall in births to young women contributed to a further decrease in the TFR and an increase in the median age of mothers (graph 2.6).
In 1976, the TFR fell to replacement level (2.1), and continued to fall as increasing numbers of women chose to delay or forego having children. The TFR then stabilised somewhat during the 1980s, before resuming a more gradual decline during the 1990s. The TFR reached a low of 1.73 babies per woman in 2001 before increasing to a thirty-year high of 1.96 babies per woman in 2008. In 2009, the TFR declined slightly to 1.90 babies per woman.
Care should be exercised in interpreting trends over time using the 'period' TFR as presented in this publication. While the TFR is widely used as a summary measure of a population's current and historical fertility trends, it does not reflect tempo changes in fertility. Tempo changes are the effect of successive cohorts of women who delay or forego having children only to catch up in subsequent years. Analysis of age-specific fertility rates and parity may assist in understanding tempo effects in fertility over time.