It's a boom, baby, as births hit a new record

The number of babies is up but the national fertility rate continues to fall.
The number of babies is up but the national fertility rate continues to fall. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Australian women have rewritten the history books by giving birth to 297,900 babies last year, a new national record, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports.

Fathers also contributed in setting a new benchmark by cooling their heels before embarking on parenthood, with the average age of a new father rising to 33.1 years.

First time mothers averaged 28.9 years and the overall median age for a woman giving birth last year was 30.7 years - both an increase from previous year's numbers.

Despite the sheer volume of infant arrivals - up by more than 2200 or 0.7 per cent from the previous year - the national fertility rate drooped slightly to 1.89 babies per woman.

This continued a declining annual trend, steadily down since the recent high of 1.96 babies per woman set in 2008 and again further away from the predicted figure of 2.1 needed to maintain Australia's population by births alone.

The Northern Territory had the highest fertility rate, at 2.11 babies per woman, while Victoria had the lowest at 1.75.

NSW recorded 95,918 new births for the year, easily leading the rest of the states and territories, but recorded middle-of-the-road statistics in almost every other category.

Of the new arrivals, 16,100 births had at least one Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander parent.

The Northern Territory and Tasmania recorded the youngest mothers, who were also the most fertile of the bunch in women aged 25-29.


By comparison, the rest of Australia's most fertile women were to be found in the 30-34-year-old category.

The average age of a mother last year was 30.7; first-time mums averaged 28.9 years, and the average dad 33.1. All these ages have increased slightly from 2009.

Of the new parents, 66 per cent had made the trip down the aisle or had registered a marriage before the birth of their child.

The baby boom means there will be increasing pressure on health and hospital infrastructure and competition for childcare vacancies.

In a display of handy prescience, Minister for Childcare Services Kate Ellis yesterday announced a federal boost to childcare, with 830 additional occasional care places and 790 additional in-home care spots to be created nationwide.

The government-paid parental leave scheme cannot be attributed to any increase in the birth rate, given it was introduced on January 1, but the ABS will take into consideration the scheme as a factor when collating next year's data.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand is expected to experience a mini-baby boom of its own sometime next July.

The last time the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 1987, there was a surge in births nine months later that statisticians explained away as a country in celebration - and copulation.

Reports from the Shakey Isles have predicted Kiwi couples will reproduce the '87 effort after Sunday night's triumph over France.