More than 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across western NSW, including Gunnedah, have been provided with a free birth certificate at events hosted by Pathfinders and UNICEF Australia. 

For some, it was the first time they had successfully applied for their identity. 

Fiona Draper was one of about 65 people who attended the face-to-face sign-up day in Gunnedah last week.

“I think it’s really helpful having this event here, there’s a lot of us who haven’t got a birth certificate,” she said.

“It’s important to have a birth certificate, to have an identity, and to know where you came from. The sign-up event is very beneficial for a lot of people here in Gunnedah.”

Over two weeks, the Pathfinders and UNICEF Australia roadshow is visiting six towns in the western region including Cobar, Nyngan, Warren, Gilgandra, Coonabarabran and Gunnedah. 

The events are part of the Pathfinders National Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program, which is open to parents who would like to get birth certificates for their children, as well as adults who don’t have a birth certificate. 

Pathfinders CEO Alan Brennan said there is an estimated 200,000 Aboriginal people in Australia who do not have their birth certificate and are unable to fully participate in the community. 

“It’s always a privilege to attend these events and witness someone receiving their proof of birth for the first time. It’s a very special occasion and something that will make life a lot easier for them,” he said.

“A birth certificate is essential for enrolling in school, getting a driver’s licence, voting, opening a bank account, getting a tax file number, a passport and applying for 
government benefits. 

“Pathfinders and UNICEF Australia know that a birth certificate is a critical step in giving children opportunities in life, but it is never too late to get a birth certificate.”

Experts from the community including local land council members, joined Pathfinders on the day to help make the process simple and answer questions from attendees. 

UNICEF Australia’s chief advocate for children, Nicole Breeze, said having your birth recognised and having a birth certificate is extremely important. 

“A birth certificate is a pivotal document which unlocks access to all other rights needed to fully participate in society,” she said. 

“Without this access, children and young people face cascading disadvantage which compounds over the course of their life. 

“The first step to securing a child’s future is by giving them a legal identity. 

“It’s more than just a piece of paper, it’s a symbol of hope, opportunity and protection.

“The attendance at these events by people who, up until now have faced unique barriers to receiving a birth certificate, is nothing short of inspiring.” 

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