Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Maternal deaths high for Indigenous women

Joint Media Release with:

  • Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing

While Australia’s overall low maternal death rate has fallen, the mortality rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is still unacceptably high and of great concern to the Australian Government.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today released Maternal deaths in Australia 2003-2005, which showed that overall there was a considerable drop in the number of maternal deaths.

Nationally, 65 deaths were reported, compared to 84 over the previous three-year period. This represents a maternal death rate of 8.4 per 100,000 women, one of the lowest maternal death rates in the world.

But the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was far higher – 21.5 deaths per 100,000 women; more than two and half times the non-Indigenous rate of 7.9.

These shocking rates of maternal deaths for Indigenous mothers are unacceptable. This is an entrenched trend which has not changed over several decades.

The Australian Government is determined to address this appalling inequity through initiatives aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their babies.

The Government has allocated $261.4 million over five years to tackling Indigenous maternal and infant health through New Directions – An equal start in life for Indigenous Children.

This includes an innovative program for nurses to visit Indigenous women and their children to ensure they get the support they need earlier. It involves home visits from skilled health professionals, starting during pregnancy.

The Government has committed $10 million to establish new hostels and expand existing accommodation facilities in major cities and regional centres to enable Indigenous mothers in remote areas to receive proper medical care in the final weeks of their pregnancy and immediately following the birth of their child.

The Government is also developing a national maternity services plan to support national coordination of maternity services.