Published: 19 December 2018

THE politics of fear and prejudice are being used around the country and world. In more recent times, this approach is being rejected. People claim they can’t trust politicians, stating they are only in it for their own gain, they don’t follow up on promises or commitments and they revert to fear-mongering to win elections.

I feel as frustrated and disappointed as other members of our community.

Last week we saw the federal Morrison Government, particularly Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert, doing just this with his comments regarding the recording of birth details of Tasmanian babies and the subsequent detail recorded on birth certificates.

When a baby is born, the medical staff are required to lodge a notification of birth with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

This form contains information regarding the birth including date of birth, sex of the baby, place of birth and details of the parent or parents. They are also required to lodge a birth registration form, including all the details above plus the name of the child and other relevant details.

This data is entered onto the Register. This information is stored and remains on the register, even if the details change over time, such as a change of name by Deed Poll or marriage.

This is the Register that is utilised for statistical data collection, to inform the planning of health and other services.

This all currently occurs under Tasmanian law and will not alter under the proposed changes.

An individual, or the parent(s) of a child, are not automatically provided with a birth certificate. A birth certificate must be applied for. To do this, a form is completed and a fee paid.

Currently the practice is to record the gender of the person on the birth certificate when issued even though it is not required by law. The only time a birth certificate has been used to confirm the gender of a person was prior to the legalisation of same-sex marriage when two people wished to marry and the marriage celebrant needed to be sure he or she was not marrying two people of the same sex. This is no longer necessary.

The birth certificate is an identity document used to confirm your name, date of birth and nationality (place of birth).

Changes of name and the re-issuing of a new birth certificate do not erase the historical data from the Register. Police can still identify people with criminal histories under different names and do not require or use a birth certificate.

A change of gender following so called sex-change surgery does not remove the former gender from the Register, it just doesn’t appear on the re-issued birth certificate.

No one is ever asked to produce a birth certificate as proof of gender to access services or use public facilities that are gender-specific, such as male or female toilets, women’s legal or health services, etc. A driver’s licence can often be used as an identity document to prove name and age.

About 10 years ago, gender was removed from driver’s licences because it served no purpose. In the past, race was included on birth certificates and was removed many years ago, again because it served no purpose.

The proposed change will mean that people requesting a birth certificate will be provided with the option of choosing to have a certificate issued that does not, or does, include gender. It will be their choice — a simple tick in a box. I expect the vast majority will include gender and effectively nothing will change.

Threats to override state legislation, particularly in an area clearly the domain of the state, is simply wrong. This is not a Federal Government matter. The registration of births, deaths and marriages is a state matter.

The same data will continue to be collected and stored as it is now. The allegation of “far-reaching implications for the way we collect valuable statistics to deliver essential services” is absolute rubbish. An example of ignorance and blatant misrepresentation of fact from Tasmanian Senator Jonathon Duniam.

Another change being sought, that has been less contentious, is removing the requirement for a person to undergo invasive and very costly gender reassignment surgery in order to change their gender on government records, including birth registers and thus birth certificates. Much of the required surgery is not available within Australia. The former gender remains as historic data on relevant registers, but does not appear on the current birth certificate.

At least four other Australian jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth, have already adopted this approach.

These changes are important to gender-diverse Tasmanians and would have almost no impact on the rest of us who wish to have gender listed on their birth certificate if/when one is applied for. It does matter to individuals who present and live as a gender that is not consistent with their birth certificate.

It matters to these people when they apply for a job or entry to a school or other educational institution where the identity document requested by the employer or school, is a birth certificate. This identity document is not an accurate reflection of their identity.

The detail being sought is confirmation of the person’s name, date of birth and occasionally nationality. Having an incorrect gender can, and currently does, result in discrimination toward and distress for, this person.

Contrary to the politics of fear, prejudice and shame spouted by Mr Roberts and Senator Duniam with claims that data collection and service planning would be “screwed up”, we will see no change to data collection and service planning, almost no change to the majority of Tasmanians who will continue to include gender on their birth certificates and a major benefit to those who are gender-diverse and wish to exclude gender from their birth certificate.

The Mercury 19 December 2018


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