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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (29 November) . . Page.. 5079 ..


Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2018

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Corrections and Justice Health, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety and Minister for Mental Health) (11.58): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to introduce the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2018 today. This bill takes a compassionate and sensitive approach to the sad situation where a child dies in utero before 20 weeks of gestation but is born after 20 weeks. The bill will allow parents the option to register a child as a stillborn child in these circumstances, acknowledging that for some parents the formal registration of their child's birth provides an important recognition of the life lost but that for others a requirement to register may be an additional and unwanted burden while dealing with their grief.

The bill will change the registration requirements for the birth of a child who showed no sign of a heartbeat at some point before 20 weeks of gestation but who was born after 20 weeks. The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 is the primary legislation that provides for the registration of all births in the ACT. In the case of a stillbirth, the act currently requires parents to register the birth of a child if the child is born after 20 weeks gestation and shows no sign of respiration or heartbeat immediately after birth. The birth of a child before 20 weeks gestation is not legally considered a stillbirth.

However, not all children who die in utero are born immediately after their heartbeat ceases. In some circumstances there can be a delay between the death of a child in utero and the birth of the child. In such situations, practice is currently inconsistent. Some physicians may state the time when the child showed no sign of a heartbeat on the birth notification statement, while others do not. Birth notification statements from physicians and midwives notify Access Canberra about each birth in the ACT. If a statement indicates that a child showed no sign of a heartbeat before 20 weeks gestation, then currently the child cannot be registered, whereas if this is not indicated and the child is born after 20 weeks gestation, the parents must register the birth.

The death of an unborn child under any circumstance is traumatic, and this grief can be compounded by the requirements of a registration system that may be experienced as arbitrary and insensitive. For some parents in this situation, the requirement to give their child a name and to register a birth can compound their trauma, whereas for others it may provide important recognition, and they may experience further distress if not able to register their child. This bill will allow a birth parent to decide whether


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