The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s latest report aims to make it easier for people to register the birth of their babies and reduce the cost of getting a birth certificate for disadvantaged people.
The Commission’s report, Birth registration and birth certificates, was tabled in the Victorian Parliament by Attorney-General Robert Clark on 12 November. It is the result of an 18-month community law reform project involving extensive community consultation.
The Commission has made 26 recommendations. Most relate to the policy and practice of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. They include:
Granting a fee waiver of the birth certificate fee ($28.60) for vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
Making it easier for people to obtain the identity documents they need, if they apply for a birth certificate years after their birth was registered.
Changing the process for birth registration in cases where domestic violence may be an issue.
There are around 75,000 births in Victoria every year. The exact number of unregistered births is unknown, but more than 2,500 births in 2011 were not registered six months later. Over time, this would build up a substantial cohort of people whose births were not registered.
If a birth is not registered, a birth certificate cannot be issued. Without this vital identity document, a person will have difficulty accessing the full rights of a citizen such as obtaining a passport, a Medicare card, driver licence and tax file number. It may also be difficult to enrol a child in school.
Culturally diverse groups, Indigenous communities and disadvantaged groups are more affected, and the problem appears to be more acute in regional areas. The Commission held 33 formal consultations with community groups and health professionals in regional and metropolitan Victoria to find out community views.
Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the Hon. Philip Cummins said: "This community law reform project will assist people from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups to register the births of their babies more easily and at a lower cost, to ensure that those children can access the full rights of a citizen later in life."