Notes on the data: Aboriginal mothers and babies

Low birth weight Aboriginal babies, 2012 to 2014


Policy context:  A baby’s birth weight is a key indicator of health status. Low birth weight babies are those weighing less than 2500 grams at birth. An infant may be small when it is born for two reasons: it may be born early (premature), or it may be small for its gestational age (intra-uterine growth restriction). Risk factors include socioeconomic disadvantage; maternal size, age and nutritional status; the number of babies previously born; illness, and alcohol, tobacco and drug use during pregnancy; and duration of the pregnancy. Low birth weight increases the risk of death and disability in infancy and of serious health problems in childhood and possibly later in life.

In 2014, the average liveborn baby of an Aboriginal mother weighed 140 grams less than a baby of a non-Indigenous mother: thus, babies born to Aboriginal women in Australia in 2014 were almost twice as likely to be of low birth weight (11.8%, 1,514) than were those born to non-Indigenous women (6.2%, 18,276) [1].


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s mothers and babies 2014—in brief. Perinatal statistics series no. 32. Cat no. PER 87. Canberra: AIHW.


  1. Northern Territory: As data were available at the Indigenous Region level only, the figures reported for each Indigenous Area are the figures for the Indigenous Area’s corresponding Indigenous Region.
  2. Australian Capital Territory total: So as to not reveal data for the confidentialised Indigenous Area of Stromlo - Namadgi, the ACT total has also been confidentialised.

Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Networks, Indigenous Quintiles and Indigenous Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Babies (both live-born and still-born) weighing less than 2500 grams at birth, born to Aboriginal mothers (data over 3 years)


Denominator:  All births to Aboriginal mothers (data over 3 years)


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from: NSW Department of Health; Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity, Victoria; Perinatal Data Collection, Department of Health, Queensland; Department of Health and Ageing SA; WA Department of Health; Tasmanian Perinatal Database; NT Department of Health; and ACT Health.


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