Sunday, 10 October 2010

A rose by any other name...

The Passport Office's strict new rules to guard against terrorists, financial swindlers and the like obtaining passports in assumed names has a new victim. Me!
At the grand age of 61, I have had to apply for a change of my family name; ironically to the only family name I have used for my entire life and the only family name I ever knew my parents to use. How has this come to pass?

I was born in Sydney in 1949. For schooling and employment purposes I provided a standard extract of birth certificate which was a simple typed certificate produced by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) and which contained full name, birth date and birth place. This was sufficient in those days to also allow the grant of passports including Ordinary passports for personal travel and both Official and Diplomatic passports issued to me in the days when I worked overseas for the Australian Government.

Some time in the 1980s the Passport Office changed it's rules and insisted on full birth certificates rather than the formerly acceptable extract certificates. The full certificates contain all the details of your birth registration including parents names and their employment and marriage details amongst other information.

I obtained a full certificate for the first time in 1986 - by which time I was aged 37 - in order to renew my passport and it came in the form of a photograph of the actual handwritten registration. A lovely historical document except that I was amazed to learn for the first time that my father's family name was recorded as a double barrel name and by virtue of that my family name was also a double barrel one. Never mind that I had never known of this name, let alone used it, nor had I ever known either of my parents to use the name.

Whilst a shock, the revelation did not prove a problem at the time and the Passport Office subsequently issued further passports to me in my habitual name in 1988 and again in 1993, the last passport issued to me which expired in 2003.

Fast forward to 2010 and I have applied for a new passport in advance of my trip to Europe next May. Well things have changed a lot haven't they, especially after 11 September 2001. Now the Passport Office will only issue a passport in the name on your birth certificate, never mind that I have never used that name for any purpose whatsoever and that not one of my, at least seven, previous passports has been issued in that name.

What to do? Well either I would need to adopt my 'new' birth name for all purposes which I have no intention of doing or I have to apply to the BDM for a change of name. And so it was on Friday that I went to the BDM, applied to change my name to the only name I have ever used and applied for a birth certificate in my new (old) name. Of course, all of this is only achieved with fancy fees attached.

Can any new indignities await me?


  1. Suddenly you are not you. Wonderful. And this is supposed to make you feel safer? I, too, have been using an official extract of my birth record for nearly 30 years. Then, a couple years ago, some branch of the French government decided it wasn't good enough because it did not include my parents names and birthplaces on it. So I had to contact the vital statistics office in my hometown and have them send me a copy of my actual certificate (which I had never seen before).

    Fortunately, my name had not changed.

  2. You have missed a chance to expunge yourself from records everywhere. You could have run up big debts and taken a slow boat to China.

  3. wcs - meanwhile actual terrorists obtain fraudulent passports with ease.

    Andrew - I suppose I could have except that I have already lived in China.

  4. What's wrong with going there [China] again, Victor? Surely you don't have any creditors waiting for you there still?

  5. marcellous - My memories of China are from 1980-82. The gang of four was on trial (daily on television), the four modernisations were just getting underway, there was no private car ownership and the country was still so obviously different from Western urban society. From what I see on television now the big cities look increasingly like any other modern big city. It would be interesting to see it all again but it would also diminish the happy memories of my days there.