Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples comprise hundreds of groups with distinct languages, histories, and cultural traditions (AIHW 2020).

Health is a holistic concept for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and social and emotional wellbeing – as well as cultural, ecological and spiritual aspects – are viewed as the foundation of physical and mental health (Bourke et al. 2018; Verbunt et al, 2021). As such, the health and wellbeing of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person is linked to the wellbeing of their family, community, environment, and culture (Bourke et al. 2018).

This report will explore demographics, risk factors, health conditions and labour and birth outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, babies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies.

Box 1: Data sources, definitions and methods

This report is based on the National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC), a national population-based cross-sectional collection of data on pregnancy and childbirth. Analysis of NPDC data can show associations only – they are not suitable for determining causation.

This report primarily focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females who gave birth, however, for some key measures comparisons are made with non-Indigenous females who gave birth. Data are reported for females who gave birth in each calendar year and babies born in each calendar year, from 2005 (or earliest year of data depending on data item quality and availability) to 2020.

This report presents data by multiple geographies including:

  • Primary Health Network (PHN): established by the Department of Health and Aged Care to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of medical services and improve the coordination of care for patients
  • Indigenous region (IREG): developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as part of the 2016 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) and are based on historical boundaries. It is important to note that IREG structure does not account for the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and language groups within the geographic area
  • Remoteness area: developed by the ABS as part of the ASGS Remoteness Structure, 2016 and determined according to the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia, which is a measure of relative access to services based upon population and distance to services
  • Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (SEIFA IRSD): The measures of socioeconomic disadvantage used in this report are based on the 2016 SEIFA IRSD, developed by the ABS. SEIFA IRSD is a measure of average disadvantage of all people living in a geographic area and cannot be presumed to apply to all individuals living in the area
  • Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3): developed by the ABS as part of the 2016 ASGS and comprise geographical areas built from whole Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2).

For more information see Technical notes.


AIHW (2020) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2020 summary report. Cat. no. IHPF 2. Canberra: AIHW.

Bourke S, Wright A, Guthrie J, Russell L, Dunbar T and Lovett R (2018) ‘Evidence review of Indigenous culture for health and wellbeing’, International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society 8(4), doi:10.18848/2156-8960/CGP.

Verbunt E, Luke J, Paradies Y, Bamblett M, Salamone C, Jones A and Kelaher M (2021) ‘Cultural determinants of health for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – a narrative overview of reviews’, International Journal for Equity in Health 20(181), doi: 10.1186/s12939-021-01514-2.