This chapter explains:
• how you can change your name;
• what happens to your name when you marry;
• what surnames you can give a child;
• how children’s names can be changed; and
• how a child’s birth certificate can be changed.
You can assume a new name simply by consistently using a new name. According to section 30 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (Vic) (“BDMR Act”), a new name is to be recognised if it is established by reputation or usage. Provided you do not assume your new name for a criminal purpose, you are free to call yourself what you like, and to assume a new name whenever you like.
“Changing a name” includes adding, omitting or substituting names. Some religions restrict the way their members can change their names, but these restrictions have no legal effect. Registering a name and changing a name are dealt with in parts 3 and 4 of the BDMR Act, respectively.
You do not need to fill in any documents to make an assumed name legal, but many government departments (e.g. Centrelink and the Australian Passport Office) require written proof that you have changed your name, in the form of a new birth certificate or a change of name certificate.
If you need written proof of a name change, you should:
1 obtain an application form to register your new name from Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM Vic); and
2 fill out the form and lodge it at BDM Vic; you have to pay $110.50 to register a new name and get a certificate of name change (as at 1 July 2019; the fees change each year).
Forms can be lodged at the BDM Vic office or via their website (www.bdm.vic.gov.au).
Applications usually take five working days to be processed. For priority processing, an additional fee of $112 applies. If you need your application processed by a specific time, contact BDM Vic.
A person can only register one new name in any 12 month period. This rule may be waived in exceptional circumstances (e.g. for personal safety).
If you are an adult who has been living in Victoria for the last 12 months, or if your birth is registered in Victoria, you can apply to register a new name in Victoria.
For a child younger than 18 – who was born in Victoria, or who has been living in Victoria for the last 12 months – their parents may apply to register a new name (see “Changing a child’s name”).
If you were born outside Victoria (but within Australia) and your birth was registered interstate, you must apply to the births, deaths and marriages registry in the state or territory you were born in. The same applies to children.
If you were born overseas and wish to register a new name in Victoria, there are special requirements that must be satisfied. You must provide proof of your legal entitlement to remain in Australia indefinitely (e.g. a citizenship certificate, Australian passport or Australian permanent resident visa) and proof that you have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months (e.g. copies of utility accounts or bank statements). You must also provide proof of the place of your birth (e.g. a birth certificate or passport).
The registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (“BDM registrar”) can waive the 12 months residency requirement if a new name is sought to protect the person or a child, or because the person is getting married.
Sex offenders can change their name, but the BDM registrar must notify the Chief Commissioner of Police of the name change.
In Victoria, prisoners and those on parole must get approval from the Secretary of the Victorian Government Department of Justice and Community Safety before applying to register a new name.
When dealing with an application to register a new name, the BDM registrar must comply with the human rights protections enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic).
You can correct your registered name by filling in an “application to correct the register” form (available at www.bdm.vic.gov.au).
If you were born in Victoria and your application to register a new name is accepted, you will be given an updated copy of your birth certificate (showing your new and previous names) and a change of name certificate. If you were born outside Australia and your application is accepted, you will only receive a change of name certificate.
Before registering a change of name, the BDM registrar may ask to see satisfactory proof of the identity and age of the person whose name is sought to be changed; if this is not provided, the BDM registrar can reject the person’s application to change their name. The BDM registrar may also need to be satisfied that the change of name is not being sought for a fraudulent or improper purpose. The BDM registrar may refuse to register a new name if, upon registration, it would become a prohibited name. A prohibited name is:
• an obscene or offensive name; or
• a name that would not be practicable or cannot be established by reputation or usage because it is too long, consists of symbols or includes symbols with no phonetic significance, or for some other reason; or
• a name the registration of which is against the public interest.
If your application to register a new name is rejected, you may appeal the decision in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) (see “Contacts”) (see Appealing government and administrative decisions).
An appeal must be lodged within 28 days of:
• the date of the decision, or
• the date the applicant is provided with a statement of reasons for the decision, or
• the date the applicant is notified that a statement of reasons will not be given.
While you may use a deed poll as evidence of having assumed a new name, you cannot use a deed poll to administratively register a new name. Since 1 November 1986, a change of name can only be registered by applying to the BDM registrar on the prescribed form, as described above. However, a deed poll registered before 1 November 1986 is considered legal, and a certified copy can be obtained from BDM Vic.
You should notify all the authorities that you deal with that you have changed your name, such as your employer, telephone provider, electricity and gas company, local council, VicRoads, the Commonwealth Electoral Commission, the Australian Passport Office, the Australian Taxation Office and the Commissioner of Land Tax (if you own a house). Your will is still valid even if you have changed your name.