Changing your name is a simple process. A new name is to be recognised simply if it is established by usage. However, many government departments require written evidence of a change of name; this can be obtained through Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria.

Contributors

Talya Faigenbaum

Principal Lawyer, Nest Legal

Changing a name

Last updated

1 July 2021

Introduction

This chapter explains:

  • how you can change your name;
  • what happens to your name when you marry;
  • what family names (i.e. surnames) you can give a child;
  • how children’s names can be changed; and
  • how a child’s birth certificate can be changed.

Assuming a new name

Any person over the age of 18 years 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.

However, most government departments (e.g. Centrelink and the Australian Passport Office) and financial institutions often require photo identification and may refuse to deal with you under your informal assumed name. Therefore, for official purposes, you should consider changing your name using a formal name change process.

‘Changing a name’ includes adding, omitting or substituting names. Registering a name and changing a name are dealt with in Parts 3 and 4 of the BDMR Act, respectively.

Registering a new name

If you need written proof of a name change, you need to register a change of name with the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry in your birth state.

If you were born in Victoria, 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; and
  3. pay the registration fee to register a new name and get a certificate of name change (as at 1 July 2021, the fee is $112.20 plus postage; the fee changes each year).

Forms can be lodged at the BDM Vic office or via www.bdm.vic.gov.au.

Applications usually take four weeks to be processed. If you need your application processed by a specific time, contact BDM Vic.

BDM Vic’s policy is that a person can only register one new name in any 12-month period and only three times in their lifetime.

You can apply to change your record of sex at the same time as you apply to change your name.

Who can register a new name in Victoria?

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 was born overseas but 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’, below).

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-month 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 written approval from the Adult Parole Board 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).

Birth certificates and change of name certificates

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.

Can my new name be rejected?

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.

BDM Vic has examples of each of the above categories of prohibited names on its website (www.bdm.vic.gov.au).

Appealing a decision

If your application to register a new name is rejected, you may appeal the decision in the Victorian Civil and Admin­istrative Tribunal (VCAT) (see Chapter 12.2: 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.

Changing a name by deed poll

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.

Let people know

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. However, it is recommended that you update your will when you change your name. As a minimum, let your executor know where to find your change of name certificate.

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