A birth certificate is key to citizenship and improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Being able to produce your birth certificate means you are able to prove you are Australian and a lawful citizen of the country. A birth certificate is our most vital document as it provides us with access to education and employment in Australia. This is something most people take for granted.
We know from research that without a birth certificate you can find yourself isolated and excluded from society starting from a very young age. Becoming isolated and excluded is easy without a birth certificate. Australian children and adults are excluded from accessing child care and early childhood education, schools, vocational education centres and universities. Without a birth certificate entering the workforce is almost impossible as you need a birth certificate to apply for a driver’s license, a tax file number, or even open a bank account to be paid.
For most Australians having access to education and employment is a given. However for a number of Australians, predominantly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not having a birth certificate means missing out on the benefits of citizenship and spending many years not fully participating in society. New figures reveal key Close the Gap targets are slipping back with only 2 of the 11 targets that measure outcomes in health, education, homelessness, and employment on track to be met.
There have been calls for the Australian Government to provide free birth certificates for many years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. With free access to a birth certificate, access to education and employment would be greatly increased. With greater access to education and employment, we would see a flow on the effect of improvements to the overall health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
For many years now Pathfinders have been providing free birth certificates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and have been campaigning for funding to provide free birth certificates. Having already provided over 14,000 free birth certificates, the program is aiding in improving the overall health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. Delivered by a team of Aboriginal staff Pathfinders National Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program is not funded by the Australian Government and relies on public donations to provide free birth certificates to communities. This year alone the program has received donations from over 3000 supporters worldwide through Chuffed.org and a second significant contribution from UNICEF Australia.
The Close the Gap campaign has achieved a lot since its launch in 2006, but we need to continue support from all corners of the Australian community to overcome the entrenched inequality faced by too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that their life outcomes are equal to all Australians.
At Pathfinders, we believe that having access to birth certificates is a critical step in achieving greater outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. While Australia has a somewhat well-managed system for birth registration, we are still failing to achieve 100% birth registration and providing legal identification. We cannot expect to achieve real progress in closing the gap until we prioritise birth registration and provide free identification for ALL Australians.
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