Full description Background
Prior to 1853 baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded by church authorities.
Decentralised system of Registration, 1853 - 1960
Compulsory civil registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the State of Victoria began on 1 July 1853 with the proclamation of An Act for Registering Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Colony of Victoria (16 Vic., No.26). The Registrar-General's Department was established under the Act. A Chief Registrar, who reported to the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) and later to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26), was appointed and had responsibility for the Deputy-Registrars who were assigned to various districts throughout Victoria for the purpose of registering all births, deaths and marriages. The Department was also responsible for indexing, searching for, and issuing birth, death and marriage certificates.
Officers of the department also became responsible for performing civil marriages and the registration of the clergy following the proclamation of the Marriage Law Consolidation Act 22 Vic., No.71 in 1859.
From 1873 to 1893 responsibility moved to the Office of the Registrar-General and the Office of Titles (VA 862) which were amalgamated when the administration of the Registrar-General's Department transferred to the Law Department (VA 2825).
In 1893 with the proclamation of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act (56 Vic., No.1303) responsibility passed to the Office of Government Statist and Actuary (VA 989) within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) possibly formalising what may have already been happening in practice.
Metropolitan births, deaths and marriages were registered at the Registrar-General's Office and later at the Office of the Government Statist, 295 Queen Street, Melbourne. Births, deaths and marriages occurring in the country regions of the State were registered with the local Registrars who were appointed by the Registrar-General and later by Assistant Government Statist. Returns were forwarded to head office each quarter at the end of March, June, September and December.
Centralised system of Registration, 1961 - ct
A centralised system of registration for Births and Deaths was introduced in 1961 when the previous system of registration by District Registrars was abandoned in favour of central registration through head office, at 295 Queen Street, Melbourne.
Information Forms for Birth and Death registrations were an integral part of the registration system.
In the case of births, informants, usually the parents of newly born children completed the form, available through hospitals, giving the necessary details for registration purposes and forwarded the form directly to the Office of the Government Statist, later the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, where registration of the birth would be effected. These forms were signed by one or both parents attesting the information therein to be true and correct.
In the case of deaths, Funeral Directors supplied the information form to the person arranging the funeral or a person with a knowledge of the facts who completed the form giving the necessary details for registration purposes and forwarded the form directly to the Office of the Government Statist, later the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, to effect registration of the death. These forms were signed attesting the information therein to be true and correct. The Funeral Director was also obliged to complete a form giving details of the burial of the body and a Medical Practitioner or Coroner, as the case may be, authorised the burial by completing a Medical Certificate of Death or Order of Burial. Registration of the death could not be effected until all of these papers had been received by the Government Statist or Registrar, as the position became known after the 1986 changes to the Act.
The federal Marriage Act 1961 had the effect of making laws governing marriages more uniform throughout Australia, however the registration function remained a State responsibility.
In September 1963, Commonwealth Registration Forms for marriages came into use and a more centralised system of registration was introduced. Registrations were no longer effected by District Registrars and it became the responsibility of the Celebrant performing the marriage to forward the necessary papers to the Office of the Government Statist and Actuary for registration purposes.
From 1893 to 1983 the functions of the Office included statistical collection and registration of births, deaths and marriages under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act 1893 (56 Victoria No.1303). In 1983 the Government Statist and Actuary was transferred to the Department of Management and Budget (VA 1022). Although the Government Statist remained legislatively responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages until the proclamation of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Amendment) Act 1985 (No.10244) on 31 October 1986 operational responsibility was exercised by the Assistant Government Statist (Chief Registration Officer) within the Department of Property and Services (VA 430).
With the proclamation of the 1985 Act, legal responsibility passed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (VA 983) was formally established. Services in relation to marriage are undertaken under delegation from the Federal Government pursuant to the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. These services include the maintenance of a register of ministers and celebrants authorised to conduct marriage ceremonies, as well as powers in relation to the marriage of minors.
The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages maintains records of all births, deaths, marriages, stillbirths, adoptions, legitimations and instruments of paternity which have occurred in Victoria since 1853. It now also has responsibility for the early church records from 1837 to 1853 which are the only source of births and deaths information for that period.