Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:11 :16 ): I move:
That this house request the Legislative Review Committee to inquire into an amendment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulations 2011 to enable de facto relatio nships to be recognised on the r egister recording the death of a person (death certificate).
Currently the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 includes in part 6, division 4—Registration of death:
The Registrar registers a death by making an entry about the death in the Register including the particulars required by regulation.
As you would expect, the current regulations are fairly straightforward. They include things like the deceased’s name and residential address, place of birth, date of birth, the deceased’s age at their last birthday, the deceased’s sex, the date and place of death, whether the deceased was of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent or both and, if the deceased was over the age of 16, his or her marital status at the time of death. There are several others, probably another eight or so. The regulations also say:
(g) in relation to each marriage of the deceased—his or her age at the date of the marriage and the name of the person that he or she married.
That is all very straightforward, and I am sure none of us would have any concerns about that, but the regulations do not include anything whatsoever about de facto relationships. I am certainly not trying to encourage de facto relationships in any way, nor am I opposing them, but the reality is that in today’s current world if de facto relationships are not included then the death certificate, in my view, is an incomplete record with regard to that person.
This is something that has been raised by constituents. I have been contacted by a constituent whose long-term de facto partners have died and yet former partners by marriage have been registered on the death certificate but not the de facto partners. Again, this is not about excluding the inclusion of the married partner but including the de facto partner where appropriate.
This has caused great distress to the surviving de facto partners and also complicated administration associated with the death. I will give two examples. In one case a surviving de facto relationship partner where the relationship existed for 33 years was excluded, as is currently lawful, from the death certificate. In another case, the former husband had physically abused the former wife, who had died, during and after the marriage and yet that former husband was recorded on the death certificate but the de facto partner of the woman who died was not, and that caused him great distress.
South Australia is the only Australian jurisdiction that does not record de facto relationships on death certificates. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, ACT and Northern Territory legislation/regulations provide for the inclusion of details regarding marriages and de facto relationships in the death certificate, while Western Australia and Tasmania make no specific provisions but, if information as to a de facto relationship is received when the death is registered, it can be included on the death certificate.
Given the very high percentage of de facto relationships, in my view the current regulations are outdated and should be amended to reflect the real world. According to the ABS, the number of people in de facto relationships in South Australia has increased from 79,635 in 2001 to 113,166 in 2011, a 42 per cent increase, and in line with the national rate. Interestingly, the number of people aged 55 and over in de facto relationships has increased by 156 per cent, the largest increase of any age category, and I am sure that an enormous number of those people would have been in previous marriages, so it would apply to them very specifically.
I say again that my interest in this is purely that legislation on death certificates reflects the real world, reflects the state and the society that we live in. I think this is an incredibly important issue for families and an incredibly important issue for children and grandchildren, and so on. People deserve to have the relationships that are recognised in other parts of society, both legally and socially, included upon death certificates. De facto families are very much part of the real world, and if de facto relationships are excluded from death certificates then those death certificates are an incomplete record and so will not reflect the intent of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
One of the issues that has been raised with me in regard to this is that of same-sex de facto relationships. I am not trying to confer any additional rights upon people in same-sex de facto relationships, but I am very clearly saying that if they are recognised in administrative processes from the ATO all the way through our society, then it would be remiss for them not to be recognised on death certificates. I say again that I am not trying to confer any additional rights on any people in any de facto relationships that they do not already have, but I believe very, very strongly that to exclude them from the death certificate does great harm to the surviving partners. Again, it is an incomplete record of the person’s life on the death certificate, and so does not fulfil the intention of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.