Free Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program Coming to Bourke

More than 5,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have obtained a free birth certificate through the Pathfinders National Aboriginal Birth Certificate (NABC) program, and now, residents of Bourke will have a chance to obtain their own.

The NABC program will be attending Law Week in Bourke on the 18th of May from 9am to 3pm and the 19th of May from 9am to 11:30am to help Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders register their births or obtain a birth certificate for free.

About 500,000 Australians, majority being Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, don’t have birth certificates making it incredibly challenging or impossible to enrol in schools or access mainstream services like applying for a driver’s license, obtaining a job, opening a bank account, joining a sporting club, getting a passport or voting.

As a result of these statistics, the not-for-profit’s Aboriginal birth certificate program emerged with the aim to close the gap in birth registrations and birth certificates.

Pathfinders NABC program coordinator, Hilton Naden, said they hope to address and eliminate the barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face when trying to obtain a birth certificate or register births.

“Fear, mistrust, cost, time and access are just a handful of things preventing or making it difficult for Aboriginal people to get a birth certificate,” he said.

“Each certificate is about $55 a pop, and for a family with several kids, it can be quite expensive. We try to make it as easy as possible for them so they can access more services and become active members of their communities.”

The two-year-old program provides free birth certificates and registration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 21 years and younger through email applications and outreach support in identified areas where there are significant numbers of Aboriginal people who don’t have registered births or birth certificates.

Outreach support consists of sign-up days, where program staff in conjunction with Births, Deaths and Marriages registries, other organisations and volunteers travel to the identified towns and help with transportation, filling out forms and eliminating the costs involved in obtaining a birth certificate.

Indigenous Strategy and Engagement Manager of Pathfinders, Joe Craigie, said the results of this program will snowball into helping to close the gap in other areas.

“More than 84 percent of applicants wanted their birth certificates to access education and employment,” he said.

“Getting more Aboriginal people into education means progressively closing the gap in school enrolment, attendance, numeracy and literacy rates, and seeing more Aboriginal people in the workplace.”

The program has travelled through New South Wales and Queensland visiting more than 35 Statistical Divisions to conduct sign-up days. Its target is to have 7,500 total applicants by the 31st December, 2017.

Pathfinders provides a broad range of complementary programs to 10,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and families per year. They have been established for over 30 years, starting life as a crisis youth refuge in 1984. Service delivery extends across 87% of regional, rural and remote communities in the New England, North West and Mid North Coast regions of NSW.

For more information on the National Aboriginal Birth Certificate program or how you can help, contact Hilton at 04 2772 6559 or at hiltonn@pathfinders.ngo

For more information on Pathfinders programs and services, contact Noelia at 04 2937 1489 or noeliat@pathfinders.ngo or visit the website www.pathfinders.ngo