In 2017, the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM) ran the My Name project.
The project’s goal was to learn about issues faced by refugee migrants trying to change their name, and assist them to access the change of name process. The project participants were refugee migrants from Myanmar, now resettled in Victoria.
The My Name project ran in partnership with WEstjustice (External link).
Watch a short video on WEstjustice’s role in the My Name project (External link).
Cultural differences in naming practices
In Australia and elsewhere, many government and private agencies require clients to state their family name (‘last name’).
However, members of the Myanmar communities often have only a given name (a ‘first name’).
As a result, Myanmar refugees often want to take on a family name to meet this cultural expectation.
(Note that BDM does not require people to have a family name.)
The project identified that the refugee migrants faced difficulties with the change of name process. For example:
- The cost of change of name application fee was high, especially for large families
- The change of name application form is only available in English
- A person applying to change their name must provide proof of identity and other documents. Meeting these requirements was difficult for the refugee migrants.
Between 1 March and 30 June 2017, BDM completed 96 changes of name for the participants, free of charge.
At the end of the project, BDM shared the participants’ data with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). This enabled DHA to issue ImmiCards (External link) with little effort from the participants. It also gave DHA insights about its name recording processes at its outposts in Thailand and Malaysia.
The My Name project was a finalist in the 2018 Human-Centred Service Delivery Award (External link). The Award was presented by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA).
BDM is investigating or making the following changes as a result of this project.
- Individual consultations
BDM continues to investigate an appointment based one-on-one consultation service at its service centre. This remains on our pipeline of future service delivery enhancements.
- Communications for people whose first language is not English
- Telephone translations: BDM offers the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) to customers. Customers who need a translator or interpreter to complete BDM forms can phone TIS. TIS then phones BDM on the customer's behalf
- Web pages in other languages: BDM has begun publishing web pages in a range of other languages. This includes:
- Information about registering a birth
- General information about BDM
The 'In your language' button in the footer takes customers to translated pages.
- Access to financial hardship fee waiver
BDM has published its hardship and fee waiver policy on its website. The application form is available to anyone experiencing hardship
The project also highlighted requirements of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 that could be considered for change. These will be logged to inform any future review.
BDM welcomes enquiries from agencies and organisations helping disadvantaged communities. Contact us if there is a service we could improve by working together.