'Aboriginal' removed from WA birth, death, marriage certificates

The WA registrar of births, deaths and marriages is removing mentions of race, including "Aboriginal".

The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 will proceed to the Upper House in coming weeks.

The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 will proceed to the Upper House in coming weeks. Source: AAP

The term "Aboriginal" will be redacted from birth, death and marriage certificates in Western Australia.

In a statement, the WA registrar of births, deaths and marriages said staff were removing all mentions of race from its certificates in response to several racial slurs in older certificates.

The terms reportedly scrapped include "half-caste", "nomad", "native" and also "Aboriginal".

The ABC carried a statement from registrar Brett Burns which said that many details on certificates from the 19th and 20th centuries contained observations that "would be considered exceedingly offensive, inappropriate and hurtful".

The statements said up until approximately the mid-1980s there had never been a legal requirement for registrars to note the race or ethnic background.

"Some district registrars in the 1800s and 1900s entered such details on historical registers from personal observations which may have had no basis in fact," it said.

"Current legislation allows the registrar to remove reference to terms that may be offensive (or hurtful). That is why, and for no other reason, that birth certificates that reference Aboriginality is removed.

"This approach is consistent with practice across state and territory registries."

However, the move has been met with criticism.

Emeritus professor of history at the University of Western Australia Jenny Gregory told the ABC that while "way back in the past people might have hidden their Aboriginality … it's now a source of pride for many people of Aboriginal descent today."

"In my view, and I think most historians would agree with this, the registrar is tampering with history ... he's making, if you like, fake histories."

Curtin University history professor Anna Haebich told the Guardian that she was "shocked" to hear the news.

"I would not imagine that anyone could tamper with records of births, deaths and marriages," she said, adding that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in WA should have been consulted before the decision was made.

SBS News contacted the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages but it did not provide comment before deadline.

Published 17 May 2018 at 7:56pm, updated 17 May 2018 at 8:11pm
Source: SBS