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By UNICEF Australia
23 July 2023

A birth certificate is the most powerful document any of us ever receive, yet thousands of Australian children are living without theirs, which makes it harder to enrol in school, amongst other issues. Together, we can give every child in Australia and millions globally access to their birth certificate and the incredible potential that comes with it.  

In partnership with Pathfinders, UNICEF Australia is working to raise awareness on this key issue through the Pathfinders National Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program and helping eliminate the barriers people face when obtaining a birth certificate or registering a birth. 

Hear from the local community in Gunnedah

Certify education

Birth registration is a fundamental right and helps to ensure that every child has access to basic services and protection. 

But without a birth certificate many children may be denied access to school. The document is necessary for education as they prove a child's age and identity, enabling enrolment and ensuring equal opportunities for all children. 

A mother sitting at a table with her two young sons.
Aimee with her kids at the Pathfinders Roadshow, Jarvis (left) and Anton (right).
© UNICEF Australia/2023/Labade

Aimee has faced difficulties with her child, Anton, in getting him into daycare, preschool and sporting groups where they need proof of ID to register into correct age groups.  

"My kids are really good at school, so I want them to be able to continue to go."

Mum of Anton, Jarvis and Aria

Many other families at the sign-up day also reported that several schools in areas around Gunnedah do not accept children without birth certificates, leaving limited opportunities for little ones to access quality education. 

Aimee says “I ended up having to get one [birth certificate] for Anton so he could get into preschool. So now we need to get these two younger kids [Jarvis and Aria] their certificates for daycare and sport." 

She also registered for her own birth certificate, lost years ago in a move. For many Australians, obtaining birth certificates can be a complex and costly experience. Whilst registration is free in Australia, birth certificates aren’t automatically issued and have a price-tag. 

A family of three generations standing on the side of the road.
Aimee’s husband, mum and their children and cousins outside the Pathfinders roadshow in Gunnedah NSW.
© UNICEF Australia/2023/Labade

“Getting a birth certificate hadn’t crossed my mind, because cost was an issue for us, and we didn’t need them straight up. But it’s because of my kid's childcare, I realised birth certificates are needed.” she says. 

Aimee says her children love learning, and thanks to the Pathfinders program, she is excited that they can now participate in all the activities that they enjoy.  

Every child, everywhere, deserves an identity to access every opportunity to reach their full potential. 

Supporting communities to apply for birth certificates 

A man standing on the street
Ron Naden, Pathfinders program coordinator.
© UNICEF Australia/2023/Labade

Ron, a programs coordinator from Pathfinders, says that stories like Aimee's are very common in towns like Gunnedah.  

He says many people in the community have low literacy levels in part due to the barriers of this generational issue, making it harder for them to fill out the lengthy legal documentation.  

"We're getting our people, our children, their birth certificates."

Ron Naden
Programs Coordinator at Pathfinders
A dad signing a piece of paper on a table with his young son next to him.
Jarvis with his dad who is signing him up for a birth certificate.
© UNICEF Australia/2023/Labade

Did you know?

Almost 200,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders don’t have access to this foundational document in Australia. While Australians from all backgrounds experience barriers in accessing birth certificates, First Nations communities are disproportionately affected by this important issue. 

Ron explains that the Pathfinders program has so far been successful in reaching over fifty communities of all backgrounds around Australia. “The numbers of attendees are starting to come down a little bit. It's a good sign. That means that we're starting to close the gap,” he says. 

Thanks to the generous support of people like you, we can continue providing registration support and free access to birth certificates for Australian children and families to unlock a future where anything is possible. 

For over thirty years, UNICEF has been a key global player in birth registration. We’ve been working with governments and communities worldwide to register more than 16 million births and issue birth certificates to over 13 million people.   

Our aim in Australia is to achieve universal birth registration for every child.

A mother smiling at her daughter as they stand on the street. © UNICEF Australia/2023/Labade

Give the gift of a birth certificate

A birth certificate ensures a child is officially recognised and counted. It’s an essential first step to accessing life-changing services and support.

Help a child unlock the potential of a birth certificate.