Whats In A Name? Plenty, Says The Law
Some day you might meet a New Zealander with the bizarre name Number 16 Bush Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay or twins called Benson and Hedges. You might meet a Swede called Lego or Google. Travel to the United States and you might meet Messiah – 762 babies were given the name in 2012.
All were allowed to be registered as the legal names of babies, but in Australia the law comes down pretty firmly on what parents can write down as names on the birth certificate.
A baby can take the surname of the mother or father, but parents in NSW who want to name their babies Ke$ha, Jasm!ne, J@yne, 7 of 9, Lord, Lucifer, Messiah or Stupid will run into problems with Section 21 of the Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1995. There’s no list of banned names as such, but the Act lists seven reasons for a “prohibited name”. These are names that are obscene or offensive, too long, use symbols without phonetic significance or resemble an official title or rank. A name can be refused if it “could not practicably be established by repute or usage” – legalese for not being able to inflict a name like Stupid on a baby. Then there is the bureaucratic catch-all reason to ban a name that is “contrary to the public interest for some other reason”. That eliminates names such as Hitler, Satan, Go Bulldogs or Saint George.
While using titles such as King, Queen or Judge as a name is prohibited, frustrating parents who wanted their own little Prince George or Princess Di, there is nothing to stop parents giving their little darlings titles from works of fiction. Khaleesi is a title from the TV show Game of Thrones, but the registry has allowed it as a name. Other names from the popular sword and sorcery show such as Arya, Sansa and Tyrion are being registered. Seven of Nine, a Star Trek cyborg, isn’t allowed as it is a number.
It is possible to challenge the Registry’s rulings. One couple went to court to name their son Duke. They won even though it is a title. The judge must have liked John Wayne movies. With some parents willing to inflict bizarre names on their offspring, it’s no wonder the District Court sometimes has to rule on disputes between parents over a baby’s name. Of course when little Khaleesi or Tyrion grows up they can change their name. However those in the criminal justice system are stuck with their name. Get legal advice if your name is causing you grief.