In Australia parents do get the majority say on what the name that their new bundle of joy carries. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can name them anything they want.
There are in fact a number of very specific rules in Australia around what names the Government will allow to be registered at birth. Encompassing both national laws and state laws, these rules are put in place to stop some parents from saddling their child with a name that would make their lives more difficult. Still, you’d be surprised what gets through.
So, what do you need to know before making your birth registry application?
No Obscene, Offensive Names
This one is pretty straight forward. Basically, it means you can’t call your child a name that is offensive or obscene in any way, so no swear word or racial slurs. The full law also indicates that you cannot name your child anything that is in “contrary to public interest”, which we assume is a name that infringes on the rights of another individual or group.
Must Be Short And Easy To Write
The Government is a little vague on this, so we wouldn’t worry about it too much unless you’re planning to stretch the bounds of their acceptance on purpose. In NSW the name has to be under 50 characters, but other than that it’s at the discretion of the Birth Registrars to assess whether the name/s you’ve chosen are too long.
No Useless Symbols
The next naming rule has to do with how your child’s moniker is spelt and pronounced. In Australia the Birth Registrar may reject your child’s name if it includes symbols that have no phonetic significance. That is, if your name has symbols that don’t add to the name, such as Ann@ or Ja!, or it includes numbers or numerals like Tom45, it will likely be rejected.
No Offical Titles Or Ranks
This one is going to be such a downer for those with royal or military dreams, but you actually cannot name your child with anything that is (or resembles) an official title or military rank. So that means no King, Queen, Father (like the priest), Sir, Admiral and so on. This law was only passed in 1995, which explains why these names did crop up before that. Of course, you can always challenge the decision, like a NSW couple who successfully fought the Registrar’s decision to name their son Duke.
Other baby names banned in Australia include:
English Letters Only
No need to expand on this one too much. The name you choose has to include letters that are found in an English alphabet in order to be registered in Australia.
No Trademarked Names
Turns out it doesn’t matter if you really love Coca-Cola, you cannot name your child that! Any name that is the same as, or similar to, a registered trademark is pretty much guaranteed to be rejected. This is stuff like Mac-Donalds, Redd Kross, you get the idea.
No Statements (QLD)
You might want your child’s name to be a statement, but it can’t actually be a statement in the literal sense. In Queensland, your child’s name cannot include a statement, with the examples given as Save Mother Earth or Down With Capitalism. Or, in the case of a very optimistic couple from New Zealand, Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii.
So what about surnames? Well while parents have the choice on their child’s first and middle names (within the confines of the law), the child must be given either a surname that is either their mother’s, father’s or a hyphenation of the both. You can choose whatever surname you want from these options, but think carefully on it as applying to change their surname later (particularly if you and your partner divorce) can be a challenge.
In Australia, all babies should have their births registered within 60 days, so if you haven’t got the name figured out at the start you do have a couple of weeks to get to know your child and try out a few names. But make sure you take into account the rules on baby naming, lest you end up with a name rejection!