Pathfinders, an Armidale based not-for-profit, and UNICEF Australia have joined forces to shine a spotlight on the pressing and urgent issue that too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have not had their births registered or obtained a birth certificate.
“Aboriginal people experience unique barriers to gaining access and receiving their birth certificates. Costs, literacy, limited access to technology and records, remoteness and a history of broken relationships with government, make applying for a birth certificate complex,” said CEO of Pathfinders, Alan Brennan.
Together, the partnership of Pathfinders and UNICEF Australia will see work continue towards ensuring that every birth is registered in Australia and a birth certificate obtained.
“Too many Australian children have not had their births registered and do not have their birth certificate. Without a birth certificate young people struggle to access the essential services needed to live their lives including opening a bank account, applying for a tax file number, Medicare card or drivers’ licence, which can have life-long impacts,” said Tony Stuart, CEO of UNICEF Australia.
“The partnership with Pathfinders, a leader in this field, will raise awareness about this issue and the need for increased action in this area.”
UNICEF Australia will support the Pathfinders National Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program, which aims to address and eliminate the barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face when obtaining a birth certificate or registering births.
UNICEF Australia is able to bring unique expertise in this area, leading programs to register births in countries across the world and supporting them to improve their birth registration practices.
Pathfinders estimates there are more than 200,000 Aboriginal people without a birth certificate. Since the program started a number of years ago, Pathfinders have supported 13,000 Aboriginal people to apply for their birth certificates, however, there is a lot more work to do in this area.
Initially through the partnership there is series of six community events across NSW and the ACT where parents will be able to register their child’s birth. Three signup days have already been held in Wellington, Bathurst and Orange and a further three are planned for 18, 19 and 20 October in the ACT.
In addition, UNICEF Australia and Pathfinders will jointly advocate to drive awareness around this issue with the ultimate ambition of achieving universal birth registration in Australia.
Why is this an issue?
Society first acknowledges a child’s existence and identity through birth registration. In Australia, if a person’s birth is not registered, or they don’t have evidence of this in the form of a birth certificate, it prevents them from fully participating in society and accessing the essential services needed to do so, like gaining a driver’s licence, passport, tax file number and bank account.
An analysis of birth data in Queensland shows that approximately 15-18% of births to Indigenous mothers were not registered compared to 1.8% of births to non-Indigenous mothers. Similar research conducted in WA found that 11% of children born to Indigenous mothers had not had their birth registered.
UNICEF Australia’s decision to partner with Pathfinders and this program is based on UNICEF’s global commitment towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, including birth registration and legal identification for all. A birth certificate is also central to all 17 targets of Australia’s National Agreement on Closing the Gap.