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3.8 Changing names

Contributed by KelliFleay and current to 1 November 2017

A person's name is changed by registration of the change under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (BDMRA). The Act provides that it is not unlawful for a person to simply change their name by reputation or usage provided the name is not used to deceive or defraud. However, such a change and any related documentation can no longer be registered, recorded or accepted for safe keeping in the Registrar-General's office [BDMRA s.28].

Please contact the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) for confirmation on current requirements and application forms.


An adult who wishes to change their surname or given names has to fill out the appropriate form available at the BDM office and pay a fee. If posting, a registered mail fee is also payable. Proof of identification is also required, such as a current passport or driver's licence.

The person has to first advertise their change of name in a newspaper published and circulating in the NT. They must have been residing in the NT for twelve (12) consecutive months prior to their application. If born in the NT and details of the change of name are to be recorded in the birth register, the original birth certificate needs to be returned to the BDM office for cancellation.

All name changes are registered in the Register of Changes of Name and only immediate family and authorised agents can request access to information held in the register.

Anyone whose birth is registered in the NT and in another Australian State or Territory can change their name using this method. If their birth is registered in an overseas country then they must be either a permanent resident or citizen of Australia before they can change their name using this method. Anyone whose birth is not registered in the NT must provide evidence that they have lived in the NT for at least twelve consecutive months. Any evidence of residency can't be more than six months old and must accompany the application, for example, bank statements listing transactions within the NT, utility bills, rent agreements.

Anyone lodging a change of name application must now specify if they have any registration and reporting obligations under the NT Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Registration) Act or any other corresponding act from another jurisdiction. Anyone lodging a change of name may also be required to undergo a National Police Check through NT Police. Applicants are given the option to either agree or disagree to the National Police Check. No fees will be charged if applicants agree to the National Police Check being completed by the BDM Office. Criminal History information relating to any offences committed by an applicant that was punishable by imprisonment for twelve months or more must also be provided in the change of name application.

When a person registers a name change, they are given a change of name certificate and can apply for additional copies. It takes between five to ten business days to process an application. According to the Change of Name Policy operating in the Office, a person can only change their name once every 12 months.

A change of name is not automatically registered on a person's birth certificate. If the birth certificate was issued in the NT, the details are recorded on the back of the certificate and the name on the certificate is changed if the client specifically asks for it to be done.

On marriage or separation

There is no law requiring a woman to take her husband's surname on marriage. If a woman decides to adopt her husband's surname, usually no formal registration is required. Generally, the woman needs only to provide a legal marriage certificate issued by an Australian BDM Office, to prove the marriage and the subsequent change of name to agencies that require it. To change official documents, such as land title documents, she usually needs only to produce a marriage certificate and complete a form. However, where a husband is adopting his wife's surname or if both parties intend to use a combination of their surnames, they may need to undertake a formal name change to satisfy various authorities.

A married woman who is known by her husband's or former husband's surname, but wishes to revert to her maiden surname may do so however, it is becoming more common due to an increased risk of fraud, for a woman to undertake a formal name change to satisfy various authorities.


Additional requirements need to be met when changing the surname or given names of a child. An applicant has to satisfy BDM that they have the necessary parental authority and consents. These necessary consents include the consent of the child if they are 14 years of age or older or aware of the meaning and implications of the new name [BDMRA s.25].

An application to change the name of a child whose birth is registered in the NT must be made by both parents if they both signed the birth registration statement. A single parent can change the child's name if they are the only one to have signed the birth registration statement or the other parent is deceased and there is no other person who would be required to consent. A guardian can apply for a child's change of name to be registered if the parents are dead, can't be found or are unable to exercise their parental responsibilities [BDMRA s.24]. If requested, details of the change are recorded on the back of the certificate and birth names are changed accordingly.

The Supreme Court can hear applications for changing a child's name, and where the parents don't agree on the name change, the BDM would also be bound by a Family Court order approving a proposed change of name for a child.

A couple who wish to change their child's name should seek legal advice on the process.

Prohibited names

The BDM can refuse to register a change of name, if, in the change, the name becomes a prohibited name [BDMRA s.26]. A prohibited name is a name that is considered obscene or offensive, isn't practical because it is too long or made up of symbols that don't represent vocal sounds, includes or resembles an official title or rank or is contrary to the public interest [BDMRA s.4]. The Registrar BDM has issued a Prohibited Names Policy which is available from the BDM Office.

Notifying authorities

When a person changes a name, certain authorities need to be notified, irrespective of whether the change is registered or not. It is the individual's responsibility to notify these authorities; the BDM doesn't provide this service. The authorities that require notification include:
  • Medicare and other health insurers
  • Centrelink
  • banks and credit and loan agencies
  • superannuation offices
  • insurance companies
  • the Electoral Office
  • the Motor Vehicle Registry
  • Australian Taxation Office when lodging a tax return
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade when applying for a passport
  • Land Titles Office if a landowner
  • health services for hospital records
  • utilities companies for water, sewerage and electricity charges
  • Local Council for rates
  • telephone service providers
  • employers.

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