Closing the

Gap on


Birth Registration

A project of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law  

in conjunction with Monash Indigenous Centre, Monash University  

& the Centre for Health & Society, University of Melbourne


Our Project - the qualitative study

This component of the project is designed to tell us more about the reasons why Indigenous Australians are under-registered, and about the problems which people may have in obtaining a birth certificate.

It is being undertaken by Associate Professor  Paula Gerber, Melissa Castan and Rod Hagen, of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, with assistance from Professor Lynette Russell of the Monash Indigenous Centre.

Our partner organisations are also providing valuable advice and assistance in the course of the project.

The primary aim here is to obtain the views and experiences of Indigenous Australians and workers in the field relevant to problems associated with birth registration and certification, with a view to formulating locally and culturally appropriate proposals for their amelioration, whether this be through changes in legislation, administrative process or education.

In looking at such matters we seek to answer questions about the way Indigenous Australians, and agencies who assist them, see the birth registration and certification process.

By way of example:

How do Indigenous people today see such things as birth registration, an official process which requires them to provide personal details to authorities, and does this have implications for attempts to increase Indigenous birth registration?

Are changes needed to administrative or legislative structures to reduce any such fears?

Have recent politico-bureaucratic activities such as the NT “Intervention” and “Stronger Futures” processes had any impact on such matters ?

Is there a need to provide free certificates, or a modified fee structure for Indigenous people or for people of limited means generally?

Where low levels of registration occur in Indigenous communities, does this appear to be related to relative poverty and / or perceptions of the purpose and value of registration?

To what extent do differences in the evidence and procedures required to obtain registration in later life affect Indigenous registration and access to documentation of identity?

How suitable are the processes and forms currently provided for use by Indigenous people whose first language is other than English,  or whose naming practices differ from those found in mainstream Australia?

What assistance do the relevant government and non-Government agencies provide for translation or interpretation where needed?

How do Indigenous Australians themselves experience the impact of identification difficulties?

How do certification requirements impinge on Indigenous people and communities? 

To what extent do certification issues flow on to exacerbate problems in the areas of education, employment and high levels of conviction at the community and national levels?

Where alternative processes of identification are available, how aware are community members of them and how effective are they in overcoming the problem of the absence of a birth certificate?

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Associate Professor

Paula Gerber

Paula Gerber is a Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University. Her academic focus is on international human rights law generally, with particular emphasis on children’s rights and gay rights.

Paula has also had a long and successful career in private practice, specialising in construction law in the UK, California and Australia.

Melissa Castan

Melissa Castan is a Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash Univeristy, and Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty, where she teaches, researches and writes on constitutional law, Indigenous legal issues and legal education..