Birth Registration

Birth registration is a necessary step for all children in order to access their rights to an identity and nationality, as well as access to health, education and community services. As a developed country, Australia enjoys high rates of birth registration across its population. However, some persons may be disadvantaged by the birth registration process as a result of poor literacy levels, lack of understanding of procedures and lack of support from authorities. The CRC has particularly expressed its concern in relation to the low birth registration rates of Aboriginal children. Where a child’s birth is not registered, their rights cannot be adequately protected, their identity cannot be confirmed and access to community services, education and the public health system will be obstructed.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s (“CRC”) recommended that Australia should seek to review its birth registration process in order to:

  • Ensure that no child is disadvantaged by procedural barriers to birth registration;
  • Raise awareness among Aboriginal communities of the importance of registration;
  • Provide special support to illiterate persons to register their children; and
  • Issue birth certificates free of charge in all states in order to prevent additional barriers for economically disadvantaged persons.
  • Article 7: all governments must ensure under law that all children are registered immediately after birth and have the right to a name, nationality and to be cared for by their parents as far as that is possible
  • Article 8: all governments must respect the rights of children to have an identity, and should provide assistance and protection to a child illegally deprived of his or her identity
  • Article 28: all children have the right to education

Positive developments

 NSW: NSW Attorney-General in talks with UNE Minimbah Project Coordinators

A grassroots university-based program at the University of New England has garnered enough public support and success to attract the attention of the NSW Attorney-General. The Minimbah Project was established by a group of university students at the University of New England, Armidale, after difficulties faced by local Indigenous youths in opening a bank account, due to their births not having been registered in the past. As a result, the Minimbah Project was created, and volunteer team members now hold birth registration days in local primary schools in order to raise community awareness of the importance of birth registration. Children whose births have not been registered are given the opportunity at these registration days to register for a birth certificate. Assistance is provided in completing the complex forms and the fee for the issuing of the birth certificate is covered by corporate and individual donations.

Since its inception in 2011, the Minimbah Project has organised and funded an estimated 1400 birth certificates for indigenous children as well as other disadvantaged children and adults

Team members have now initiated a national campaign for free and automatic birth certificates for every Australian child, which they hope to table before the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) within the next year. The aim of this campaign is to promote a Partnership Agreement between States and Territories to standardise the birth registration process and remove all fees. [1]

VIC: Monash University ‘Closing the gap on Indigenous birth registration’

The Australian Research Council has provided funding to Monash University to undertake research into the problems faced by the Indigenous people when trying to access the birth registration process. This project will be undertaken in 2012 – 2014. [2]

VIC: Victoria Law Reform Commission Community Project

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) has reviewed the process for birth registration and obtaining a birth certificate in Victoria and has launched a community consultation program for public submissions. The project involved research into the barriers Victorian families face when applying for birth registration or a certificate. [3]

In November 2013 the VLRC released its report, Birth registration and birth certificates, which made 26 recommendations to the Victorian government in order to address barriers to current birth registration practices, assessing the effectiveness and accessibility of current practices with particular regard to indigenous communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and the disadvantaged and vulnerable. [4]

Currently in Victoria, a birth is notified at a hospital or by a midwife at a home birth, after which the child’s parents or designated person must register the birth. At that point, it is possible to apply for a birth certificate, for a fee.

The VLRC proposes a number of changes to the way in which the particulars of birth notification are collection and the birth registration process. This includes the provision of information as to whether a child is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander at the first notification instance in order to ensure preliminary recording in the case of later non-registration by parents. Furthermore, the VLRC recommends that the birth registration statement be changed in order to make the registration process more effective and accessible, and that the category of acceptable identification documents to support an application be broadened. The report also makes a number of recommendations pertaining to situations where family violence may be a barrier to the registration of a birth. [5]

The VLRC also recommends that the Registrar consider ways to better facilitate birth registration and access to birth certificates for cross-border Indigenous communities. This includes a fee exemption, applicable to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. In order to be entitled to this exemption the already-established categories of an ‘eligible beneficiary’ under state legislation would apply (i.e. holders of a concession card or recipients of a Youth Allowance government benefit). [6]

Finally, the Commission makes a number of recommendations regarding access and awareness and the needs of vulnerable groups. This includes a plan to amend the relevant legislation to include a specific promotional and education function for the Registrar. [7]

It is important that the Victorian government seek to act on these recommendations in order to promote acceptable levels of birth registration in the state and ensure that the right of vulnerable and disadvantaged young children to an identity and future access to services are protected.

Areas lacking progress

NATIONAL: Barriers to birth registration and obtaining a birth certificate continue

The CRC recommended in June 2012 that all states of Australia remove the procedural barriers to registration and increase awareness among Indigenous people about the importance of birth registration and obtaining a certificate.

However, in all states parents continue to be required to apply to register a child’s birth and then complete a lengthy application form as well as paying a not insignificant fee to obtain a birth certificate for their child. [8] Forms may be confusing in particular for illiterate persons or persons speaking English as their second language and mistakes are expensive to rectify. [9]

At this stage, only the NSW website advertises an interpreter service on its website for non-English speaking parents [10] and also offers an Indigenous Access Program which promotes the value of registration and offers registry services with Indigenous staff members. It also provides information for members of the Stolen Generation to apply for a fee waiver when obtaining their birth certificate. [11] While other states have such programs, such as the Indigenous Access Fund in Victoria, they are not advertised widely, a point criticised by the VLRC. [12]

Furthermore, the VLRC has also found that no state or territory has a specific function within legislation that provides for the registrar to undertake educational or promotional work about the need to register and obtain a birth certificate for children. This function is needed to fully protect children’s rights and allow them access to services in the future. [13]

All state governments need to work to remove procedural barriers for Indigenous, disadvantaged or non-English speaking parents. It is desirable that the registrars of each state registry engage in promotional work in the future, that forms are simplified and that greater access be provided to the public on the website in different languages.

Negative developments

NATIONAL: Cost of birth certificates continues to rise

In the CRC’s Concluding Observations it was recommended that Australia issue birth certificates upon the birth of a child free of charge. However, the cost of obtaining a birth certificate in all Australian states continues to rise.

In NSW in 2006, the fee for issuing a birth certificate was $40.00. [14] Under new regulations introduced this year, a birth certificate now costs $51.00 in NSW (including $7.00 postage). [15] The fees in other Australian states range from $29.20 to $44.00. [16] This may be viewed in comparison to the UK where ‘short certificates’ are issued free of charge, and ‘full certificates’ containing additional parental details of the child cost £9.25 ($15 approx.). [17]

All states and territories (with the exception of Queensland) allow the registrar in appropriate circumstances to waive fees for birth certificates being issued. [18] However, as found by the VLRC, “in all jurisdictions fee waivers are seldom granted” [19] and are not widely advertised, except in the case of a few time-limited waivers following emergency events (such as the Victorian bushfire in 2009). [20]

State and territory governments must seek to remove fees for accessing birth certificates and in the interim, provide more information and waive fees for economically disadvantaged persons.

  • Birth certificates should be automatically issued at the birth of a child in Australia free of charge, and in the interim, fees waived for economically disadvantaged persons.
  • The national and state governments should undertake initiatives to raise awareness of the advantages of birth registration, particularly in Indigenous, non-English speaking and economically disadvantaged communities.
  • The birth registration process should be simplified and support should be provided to ensure that birth registration and certificates are accessible to all Australians.
  1. Kerrin Thomas, ‘AG interested in Minimbah Project on birth certificates’, ABC News (online) 2 September 2013,
  2. Monash University, ‘Closing the gap on Indigenous birth registration’, available  (accessed 29 August 2013)
  3. Victorian Law Reform Commission, ‘Consulting on birth registration and certificates’ 3 April 2013, online at (accessed 17 September 2013)
  4. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (2013) p. xv-xviii
  5. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (2013) p. xv-xviii
  6. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (2013) p. xv-xviii
  7. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (2013) p. xv-xviii
  8. Birth certificates currently cost $51.00 in NSW: Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, ‘Birth certificates’ 27 August 2013, (accessed 17 September 2013)
  9. For example changing a birth certificate in Western Australia costs $44( ), and a change of name in Tasmania costs $176.66 (  (accessed 15 August 2013)
  10. Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (NSW), ‘About Us’ (accessed 17 September 2013)
  11. Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (NSW), ‘Contact Us: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ (accessed 17 September 2013)
  12. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (Community Consultation Paper) (2012) p.18
  13. Ibid.
  14. Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulation 2006 (NSW) Schedule 1 [repealed]
  15. Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment (Fees) Regulation 2013 Schedule 1
  16. See Department of the Attorney-General (WA), ‘Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages’, 6 December 2011 (accessed 17 September 2013); Department of Justice, Births, Deaths, Marriages (VIC): ‘Fees’, at (accessed 29 August 2013);
  17. UK Government, ‘Register a birth’, 30 May 2013, (accessed 17 September 2013)
  18. Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW) s 55; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA) s 49; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (Vic) s 49; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 (ACT) s 68; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1998 (WA) s 70; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999 (Tas) s 49; Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (NT) s 47.
  19. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Birth registration and birth certificates (Community Consultation Paper) (2012) p.19
  20. Ibid.
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