Teen birth rates show more resources are needed

December 1, 2023

After a decade of declining teen birth rates, the numbers have plateaued nationally in 2022 with increases reported in a number of areas.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that while birth rates to parents aged under 20 has continued to fall since 2012, one in 60 births in Australia in 2022 were to a teen parent. The birth rate for teen parents in 2022 was 5021, a marginal decline from 5102 in 2021. However, the data shows a stark difference between fertility rates (number of live births per year per 1000 women aged 15-19) in metropolitan compared with regional/rural areas, and teen birth rates between First Nations and non-Indigenous parents. For the first time, the data also revealed an increase in births to fathers aged between 15-19 years in 2022.

Brave Foundation CEO Jill Roche said the data underscores a critical need to provide effective support for young parents, many of whom continue to face stigma and isolation. More resources are needed to support young parents and their children.

“At Brave Foundation we know that young parents face isolation, stigma and more entrenched barriers to work and study all while balancing the demands of raising a healthy happy child. But more importantly, they are tenacious and resilient young people and can create happy, healthy and skilled families when they have the right support in place.”

“There are higher rates of teen pregnancy amongst First Nations peoples, so it is particularly important that these young parents are supported with culturally appropriate services.”

Young First Nations people have disproportionally higher fertility rates and number of births when compared to non-indigenous adolescents at both the national and state level. First Nations teen birth rates (1694 in 2022) were 34% higher than non-indigenous teens across Australia (5021 in 2022). The number of First Nations birth numbers increased in SA, VIC, NT, NSW between 2021 and 2022. QLD, NSW and WA recorded the highest birth numbers for First Nations adolescents in 2022.

Additionally, teen fertility rates in rural and regional areas were higher compared to metropolitan areas. Compared to the adolescent fertility rate in metropolitan areas of 4.9 in 2022, remote/very remote areas recorded a fertility rate of 34.3 and inner/outer regional areas recorded a fertility rate of 12.1. Though the broader trends reflect decreasing teen fertility rates, there are several LGA pockets within states that demonstrate increasing trends and would benefit from targeted support.

While the data suggests a steady decline in the national number of births to fathers aged 15-19, a 3.9% increase was identified between 2021 (2083) and 2022 (2165).

With strong support from the Commonwealth government, Tasmanian government and philanthropic foundations, Brave Foundation has been delivering the Supporting Expecting and Parenting Teens (SEPT) program since 2018 and has supported expecting or parenting young people to achieve goals in the areas of education and workforce participation, life skills, health and wellbeing and parenting.

As Commonwealth funding for the SEPT program is scheduled to conclude in June 2024, Ms Roche emphasised the importance of ensuring effective programs like SEPT continue.

“Funding for targeted support, such as that provided by Brave Foundation, is needed to address the specific needs of young parents. Our staff are experienced at walking alongside participants throughout the program – from referral and first contact, to setting goals and working to achieve them, to celebration of their achievements and graduation from the program. Young parents trust us because they know we exist only to see their family thrive!”

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