Nearly one in five Aboriginal children aged under 16 years in Western Australia had an unregistered birth and are likely to have no official identity.
Researchers linked records from the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to births recorded in the state’s Midwives Notification System.
The study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, revealed that 4,628 Aboriginal births weren’t recorded in the registry in the 16 years from 1996 to 2012.
While the Midwives Notification System records all births attended or had follow-up care provided by a midwife or doctor, Birth Registrations records only include those children where the parents lodged an application to register the birth.
“In its current form, Western Australia’s birth registration system doesn’t ensure that all children have registered births,” says Alison Gibberd, the report’s lead author and a University of Sydney PhD student.
“Australia is a signatory to several international conventions to ensure that all children have the right to be registered immediately after birth, but an unacceptably high number of Aboriginal children don’t achieve this right.”
The study shows unregistered births were more common among mothers who were teenagers when they had their first child, and among those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged and remote areas.
Low birth registration rates aren’t limited to Western Australia. A recent Queensland study reported that 17% of two to four-year-old Aboriginal children did not have registered births.