About 800 babies are born every day in Australia, with over 330 women becoming a mother for the first time (AIHW 2009). Maternity data, including information about maternal, fetal and neonatal deaths, are among the key indicators of health and wellbeing.
The United Nations named a reduction in child mortality and improvements in maternal health as two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (United Nations 2001). Australia’s maternal and infant mortality rates are among the lowest in the world; however, there is significant inequality in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in particular. In 2001–2004, babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers were almost twice as likely to be born pre-term, had almost twice the fetal death rate, and had twice the neonatal death rate of babies born to non-Indigenous women (AIHW 2007). The National Indigenous Reform Agreement provides an integrated framework for the achievement of the Closing the Gap targets for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage.
The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, led by the Commonwealth Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer identified the need for consistent, comprehensive national maternity data to monitor progress towards achieving these and other key targets (Commonwealth of Australia 2009). A review of relevant Australian data collections was undertaken to determine the current depth and breadth of maternal data capture in Australia.