Open Access Open Badges Research article

Improvement of maternal Aboriginality in NSW birth data

Fenglian Xu1, Elizabeth A Sullivan1, Richard C Madden2, Deborah Black2 and Lisa R Jackson Pulver3*

Author Affiliations

1 PRERU, University of New South Wales, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia

2 Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney University, Lidcombe NSW 1825, Australia

3 Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, School of Public Health & Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-8

Published: 30 January 2012



The Indigenous population of Australia was estimated as 2.5% and under-reported. The aim of this study is to improve statistical ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth in New South Wales.


This study was based on linked birth data from the Midwives Data Collection (MDC) and the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) of New South Wales (NSW). Data linkage was performed by the Centre for Health Record Linkage (CHeReL) for births in NSW for the period January 2001 to December 2005. The accuracy of maternal Aboriginal status in the MDC and RBDM was assessed by consistency, sensitivity and specificity. A new statistical variable, ASV, or Aboriginal Statistical Variable, was constructed based on Indigenous identification in both datasets. The ASV was assessed by comparing numbers and percentages of births to Aboriginal mothers with the estimates by capture-recapture analysis.


Maternal Aboriginal status was under-ascertained in both the MDC and RBDM. The ASV significantly increased ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth and decreased the number of missing cases. The proportion of births to Aboriginal mothers in the non-registered birth group was significantly higher than in the registered group.


Linking birth data collections is a feasible method to improve the statistical ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth in NSW. This has ramifications for the ascertainment of babies of Aboriginal mothers and the targeting of appropriate services in pregnancy and early childhood.

Birth; Aboriginality; data; Australia