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Many Aboriginal births unregistered in Western Australia

Photo: Many Aboriginal children have no identity
A report has found there is an "unacceptably" high number of Aboriginal children in WA who haven't had their births registered.

Nearly one in five Aboriginal children aged under 16 in Western Australia have no official identity because their births haven't been registered, research has found.

A new report, published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, has found between 1996 and 2012 there were more than 4500 unregistered Aboriginal births.

Aboriginal children born to mothers under 16 years were five times more likely to be unregistered than those born to mothers aged 30 years and older, according to the report.
The finding was made by linking birth records from the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to births recorded in the state's Midwives Notification System

Lead author Alison Gibberd from University of Sydney says it's a basic human right to have your birth registered and it's unacceptable there's such a high number of Aboriginal children who don't achieve this right.

She blames the WA's birth registration system and calls for more support for Aboriginal mothers, who often struggle to fill out the registration forms because of poor literacy skills.

"In its current form, Western Australia's birth registration system doesn't ensure that all children have registered births," Ms Gibberd says.

For most Australians, a birth certificate is the first documentary evidence of identity and proof of identity and Australian citizenship are essential for many rights, including obtaining a passport, a driver's licence and opening bank accounts.

Barbara Henry, CEO of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Inc, says the report clearly suggests Aboriginal families face major barriers registering the birth of newborns.

"Now that we understand the scope of the problem, we can turn our attention to raising community awareness and finding creative solutions," Ms Henry says.

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