ACT News


New gender non-specific birth certificates for the ACT

The terms "mother" and "father" will effectively become interchangeable under new laws passed by the ACT parliament on Tuesday, with parents able to choose either label.

Birth certificates will give parents the option of choosing "mother" and "father", but will also allow "parent 1" and "parent 2", or "mother" and "mother", or "father" and "father". Any of the options are acceptable on birth certificates, regardless of the sex of the person, but government records will be a little more specific, listing the woman who gives birth as a "birth parent" and a partner as "other parent".

The changes were a further step towards recognising gender diversity in Canberra, after legislation two years ago to allow people to alter their gender on their birth certificate to male, female or "X", without the need for reassignment surgery.

Also on Tuesday, the government created a new identity document for gender diverse people not born in Canberra so unable to change their gender on their birth certificates. They will instead be able to apply for a document recognising their name and the sex they live by, so long as they have a statutory declaration from a doctor or psychologist, confirming their intersex status. Parents will be able to do the same for their children.

For ANU student and trans man Joel Wilson, 21, the change means he no longer needs to receive mail from his bank referring to him as Miss Joel Wilson. Nor does he need to explain himself when he has to show his birth certificate, which still records him as a female.

"When I present somewhere with a birth certificate that says "female" it comes into conflict with what they're seeing, so for me it just provides the opportunity not to have to explain myself every single time," he said.


Mr Wilson, who was born in South Australia, said even his driver's licence was linked to data listing him as female. Now, he would be able to live as a man for all official dealings, at least while in Canberra.

"It'll be wonderful just to not have those issues and not be worried about if I'm going to be discriminated against because of mismatching documentation."

The ACT is leading the nation in the area, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer advisory council chairperson Heidi Yates said the changes would make a significant difference to people's lives.

The Liberals supported all the changes except one, balking at the interchangeable use of "mother" and "father" for either parent.

"Most people in our community would expect that the father is male, the mother is female,  that's long established," said Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson.

"What's been brought into law today is that you can choose to be a mother or a father regardless of whether you're a male or a female... [It] is a step too far that we just weren't able to support today."

Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury said the changes "don't take anything away from the people who would identify as mother or father".

"For most people when they go to fill in their forms after a birth, it will be just like it's always been ... What these laws do is allow for people in broader situations, more diverse situations, to also fill in the form in a way that's appropriate for them."

For some, the changes were deeply important, ensuing their documents correctly reflected how they saw themselves and ensuring "that we are seen for who we are", he said. 

The government has also dropped gender specific pronouns from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act and the Parentage Act, embracing the plural use of "their" to replace "his or her". A spokesperson for Mr Rattenbury said the government did not believe the use of their" would lead to ambiguity.

​The "proof of age" card has been replaced with a "proof of identity card", which Mr Rattenbury said was seen by many, especially older people, as a more appropriate identity document.

And the law spells out that a man who contributes semen in assisted reproduction is not a parent unless he is also the domestic partner, and likewise, a woman who contributes an ovum (not for her own pregnancy) is not a parent unless she is also a domestic partner.