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Would you give your bank statements to Births, Deaths & Marriages?

For reasons of privacy, I don’t like giving my bank statements to the government – but I’ve just been required to do exactly that.

After four marriages the time had come: I’m reverting to my birth name. While most people married and divorced within Victoria would have no problem reverting to their birth name, I am sure many other women in Victoria fall into my category: getting married overseas causes issues.

It starts when you get married overseas. While Australia recognises overseas marriages for most legal purposes, an overseas marriage certificate is not recognised for legally changing one’s name. For that (in Victoria at least), a Change of Name is required. Once you have had one Change of Name, you can forever thereafter only change your name by applying for another Change of Name.

To apply for a Change of Name at Births, Deaths and Marriages you must provide proof you have lived in Victoria for the preceding twelve months. There are four ways you can prove this, as shown in the above photo.

I had been living with my daughter and her husband for ten of the twelve months. Therefore I have no utility accounts covering the period. I did not have a lease agreement with my daughter (although Centrelink accepted a rent certificate from her). I was not enrolled in a Victorian tertiary institution (I was enrolled at an RTO). That left me with only one option – providing twelve months bank statements showing Victorian transactions.

When I objected on the grounds of not only privacy but also security (Births, Deaths and Marriages now has all the information required to impersonate me on the phone to the bank) I was told everything was strictly confidential as they are a government registry. Excuse my concern, but in my experience that doesn’t absolutely guarantee security. One just needs to look at the Trump leaks at the moment for evidence of that.

I also asked why a statutory declaration from my daughter was not acceptable. After all, Centrelink had no issue with accepting the situation. “Centrelink and us operate differently“, I was told.

So, much against my better judgement, I handed over twelve months worth of bank statements.

I can understand a car registration not being acceptable as proof I have been living here. After all, yes, I could live in NSW but own a car in Victoria which I let a family member drive. I’m not sure why my mobile phone records would not be acceptable, but then again do I want them knowing who I have called any more than I want them to have my purchasing history? We are required by law to change our address with VicRoads within fourteen days of moving, so I am not sure why my licence was not acceptable proof.

My situation is, I admit, rather unique. However I can’t help but feel this is yet another example of “big brother” being just a little too brotherly. There are other ways to prove I’ve been living in Victoria: payslips from employers, Centrelink communications to me in Victoria, licence (as noted above), medical bills from Victorian providers, a statutory declaration.

This whole situation made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. I am seriously considering closing that bank account and opening a new one. For security purposes.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages staff were lovely. They don’t write the policies, they just have to follow them.


16 comments

  1. aravis1

    I am wondering why you would bother applying for a change of name, when one’s birth name is always a legal name. I was married in France, and after my husband’s death I eventually decided to revert to my birth name. I did nothing other than change the name on my utilities etc. The only problem would have been if I wanted an Australian passport renewal in my birth name; that would have required an official application. I got round that by getting a NZ passport in my birth name, since I was born there. But I am now legally able to use either name. So, why not just do the same?

  2. Robyn Dunphy

    You could revert because you never did a Change of Name to start with – that is the main issue. Essentially, once you do a Change of Name, your birth name is no longer your legal name – it isn’t said in so many words, but that’s the crux of it. The passport was also an issue. I travel. Plus some places (more and more these days) require your passport as identification. I also have an NZ passport, but it is expired and I can’t remember which of the four names it was actually in – I don’t think it was my birth name.

  3. bobrafto

    only 4 marriages, hey.

    you’re either a dreamer or a masochist. lolx3

  4. Keitha Granville

    The lunacy of beauracracy is everywhere . You would think they’d get it all lined up. To be perfectly honest I was in favour of the Australia card then we wouldn’t have any of this nonsense. They already know everything about us from birth to death so what’s the bother ? Anyway as another example of lunacy – some little time ago (it escapes me for what) my husband was required to provide 100 points of ID. He didn’t have a passport at the time and the form listed several alternatives, one of which must have a photo and name on. He produced a gun license which has just that. It wasn’t listed as acceptable, so they didn’t accept it.

    Lunacy.

  5. Deanna Jones

    This is exactly why I warn women against changing their name on marriage. It’s just so stupid, and makes things like criminal history checks and working with children checks unnecessarily complicated. Isn’t it odd that to change your name for any other reason but marriage, you have to jump through hoops, but for women, getting married is considered good enough to automatically be subsumed by a man’s identity.

    Robyn, aravis1 is right. You can be known as the name on your birth certificate is my understanding.

  6. Robyn Dunphy

    Deanna, yes, UNLESS you have had a previous Change of Name, which I had BECAUSE the overseas marriage certificate is not accepted here for name change purposes. Trust me, I investigated to the nth degree before going through this nightmare for a SECOND time! Had I been married in Australia and never needed the first Change of Name (the old Deed Poll), there would not have been an issue.

    bobrafto – both.

    Keitha – exactly, no idea what they can’t line it all up. I was also rather keen on the Australia Card idea. One card for everything and be done with it. Simplification. I have a Medicare number, a Tax File number, a licence number, a passport number etc etc etc. How many damn numbers does one person need???

  7. Robyn Dunphy

    What I find interesting, however, is readers seem not the least concerned with being required to hand over my bank statements to a government entity. Are we so accustomed to government interference in our lives? The concerns expressed in the comments are more around whether I needed to do the Change of Name (I did, otherwise I would not have).

  8. Graham

    Another interesting and insightful article Robyn. Something that should be straightforward isn’t.

  9. Matters Not

    Robyn Dunphy, While I don’t do my own Tax Returns – I leave that to the accountant – I think you will find that the Taxation Department has access to bank details anyway. The interest earned on term deposits and the like is forwarded to the Tax authorities on an annual basis as a matter of course – I believe.

    Belief in ‘privacy’ is so yesterday.

  10. Robyn Dunphy

    Matters Not, yes, income earned is reported by the institutions to the ATO and also any transactions over $10,000 (it used to be $10,000, may have changed). However that is NOT every single damn transaction over a twelve month period. It is not my buying patterns or details of my doctors or medication purchases. Given I don’t subscribe to pornography or hire “professional services” or pay drug dealers or ship money off to the Cayman Islands (what a boring life I lead) I’m not particularly concerned about the transaction details IN MY PARTICULAR CASE. I just find it very invasive, even if I can’t explain clearly why I find it so invasive. I am concerned about the potential for fraud by a disgruntled BDM employee. These things DO happen. Admittedly, the ATO have the same information used to check identity in a phone call to the bank. Name, address, date of birth – and of course the account details. So do Medicare and Centrelink. But those entities don’t have the level of detail provided by TWELVE MONTHS of daily transactions to support impersonation.

  11. Ele

    If “Privacy” doesn’t matter why is Matters Not using a pseudonym ?

  12. Deanna Jones

    Robin yes I totally get the principle of privacy. If you’re sensitive to state surveillance and have even a scrap of political consciousness, the sense of intrusion is magnified, a kind of micro-violation. I didn’t mean to condescend earlier, I was rushing to work, of course you would have covered off all bases. I don’t think the men commenting quite grasp the whole change of name thing.

    Ele, I imagine MN was being ironic, or at least I hope so.

  13. Matters Not

    Is ‘Ele’ using a pseudonym? Who knows? Who cares? Does the Ele identity add anything to the conversation on this thread – the here and now? Perhaps it matters not?

    The point I was trying to make is that these days ‘privacy’ is not possible if an ‘agency’, government or otherwise, really, really wants to establish ‘identity’ then they will. The wonders of technology – cross checking and all that.

  14. Deanna Jones

    I’m sure we are all aware of Big Brother, MN. It’s kind of the whole point of the post.
    Thanks for the ‘splain.

  15. townsvilleblog

    Robyn, Centrelink knows exactly how much money you have in every account, in the 21st century no Aussie has any privacy at all if I were you I would seek community legal advice and then give them what they want, this is the way it is these days.

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