Birth registration is a significant life event, the first step in the process of formal recognition by the state. Similarly, a birth certificate is a step in creating an individual’s civil law identity. Without it, a person may not be able to take full advantage of their rights as citizen.
In 2012, the Commission began a Community Law Reform Project on Victoria’s birth registration and birth certificates laws. It arose from research conducted by the Castan Centre for Human Rights about barriers faced by Aboriginal Australians in registering births and obtaining birth certificates, and the high number of unregistered births in rural and remote areas. We examined whether current Victorian law met community expectations and, in particular, focused on the experiences of people from disadvantaged, Indigenous and CALD backgrounds.
In September 2012, the Commission released a consultation paper, in response to which we received 13 submissions. We also engaged in extensive community consultation in metropolitan and regional areas.
Completed in August 2013, our report on birth registrations and birth certificates was subsequently tabled in Parliament on 12 November. Its 26 recommendations aimed to make it easier for people to register the births of their children. We recommended reducing the cost of a birth certificate for those experiencing financial hardship and making it easier for people to obtain identity documents when applying for a birth certificate later in life. We also suggested changes to the process for birth registration in cases where domestic violence may be an issue.
The report and other documents can be accessed from the links below.
Community Law Reform Projects are conducted in accordance with section 5(1)(b) of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic), which empowers the Commission to initiate inquiries of general community concern, provided they are limited in size and scope. More about Community Law Reform can be found here.
The Commission’s review coincided with a review by Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of its services.
In its media release welcoming the Commission’s report, the Government announced that work was being done by the Registry on many of the Commission’s recommendations including:
- providing additional information in birth registration forms, including clarifying what information will be printed on the birth certificate
- additional protections for identifying information where the applicant is at risk of family violence
- the development of an online system for parents to register births;
- a new page on the Registry website providing information about Koori services
- revisions to proof of identity requirements when registering a birth
- the development of guidelines for waiving of certificate feel.