TECHNICAL NOTE 3 ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER FERTILITY RATES
1 There were 67,400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-4 years in the 2011 Census, which is the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children of this age group ever counted in the Census. This represents an increase of 11,800 from the 2006 Census which counted 55,600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-4 years. Possible explanations for the increase include a higher fertility rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females during 2006-2011 than was observed during 2001-2006, and an increased propensity for parents to identify their children as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the 2011 Census than in the 2006 Census. For further information about changes in propensity to identify, refer to the chapter Changing Propensity to Identify as Being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Origin between Censuses.
2 While fertility levels for the period 2001-2011 can be estimated using birth registrations, it has been found that birth registrations routinely underestimate the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. To determine whether there was a higher fertility rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females during 2006-2011 than was observed during 2001-2006, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) looked at fertility using two different methods.
3 Fertility levels can be estimated from the 2006 and 2011 Censuses (with an overlapping period from 2001-2006) using the 'own-children' method (for information about the 'own-children' method, refer to paragraphs 24-28 in the Explanatory Notes). Using Census data and the 'own-children' method, the total fertility rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females was an average 2.5 babies per woman for the five years from 2001-2006, and an average 2.4 babies per woman for the period 2006-2011. Despite the accepted limitations of the 'own-children' method, it does show that the average levels of fertility estimated across the two time periods were broadly similar.
4 It is also possible to examine the number of children ever born to females aged 15 years and over in the 2006 and 2011 Censuses. The number of children ever born to a particular woman is a measure of her lifetime fertility experience up to the point at which the Census was collected. Although it is not a good indicator of the current level of fertility, it is a reliable measure of completed fertility of women aged 45-49 years, as almost all women have had all of their children by the time they reach that age. Since young women are in the early stage of their reproductive life, it is much more informative to focus on changes in the older age groups in which women have nearly or already had all of their children (that is, those aged 40-44 years and 45-49 years).
5 Looking at the number of children every born, there were no significant changes in the fertility levels for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the older age groups between 2006 and 2011, with the average number of children ever born increasing from 2.58 to 2.59 for women aged 40-44 years and declining from 2.66 to 2.63 for women aged 45-49 years.
AVERAGE NUMBER OF CHILDREN EVER BORN, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females(a)
Average no. per female
Average no. per female
|Age group (years)|
|(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors. Includes Other Territories.|
This analysis indicates there has been no significant change in the overall fertility levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females between the periods 2001-2006 and 2006-2011. Any change in the fertility rates has been a very minor contributor to the large increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children born after the 2006 Census and before the 2011 Census.