Why "not stated" tops the baby names list in the Territory.

By: Emilia Terzon.

Last year in the Northern Territory, one baby name technically beat out the likes of Charlotte, Amelia, Jack and Noah as the most popular — “not stated”.

From just under 4,000 registered births, 90 newborns received this given name with the reasons for this complicated said David Lisson, registrar-general of the NT.

“It happens quite frequently,” he said.

Top NT baby names in 2015

  • Girls: Charlotte, Amelia, Ava, Scarlett, Ella, Emily, Sophie, Grace, Isabella, Ruby, Evie, Isla, Mia

  • Boys: Jack, Noah, Charlie, James, Cooper, Nathan, Eli, Mason, Max, Michael, Oliver, Oscar, Patrick

In the Territory, parents have 60 days after their child’s birth to register with the local Births, Deaths and Marriages office.

This applies in every other Australia jurisdiction except the ACT, which allows up to six months.

Mr Lisson said some of the common reasons parents could not decide on their newborn’s name within 60 days included disputes amongst parents and for cultural reasons.

“There may be a naming ceremony to organise and that may take some time for Indigenous children,” he said.

Lengthy names and swear words out

Alternatively, some parents could have lodged a name that might need to be questioned by authorities, thereby delaying the registration process; for instance, if the name included a swear word.

“I once had parents that came in with 11 given names for their baby,” Mr Lisson said.

“We had a long talk with them to explain how difficult it would be to fill out forms.

“They had an answer for basically all of them, as they were from a diverse cultural background. Each name had a significance. After some hard bargaining, we got them down to nine.”

Mr Lisson said this level of consultation could happen more easily in a small jurisdiction like the Territory.


And the registration office rarely enacted its legal powers, including fining the parents of babies unnamed after the 60 day period had passed.

“We’re in fact quite patient about this. We do send a reminder letter to parents if they haven’t registered a baby within 60 days,” Mr Lisson said.

“Eventually, if we hear nothing back from the mother, we will register the birth but without a name.”

This was how “not stated” technically became the most popular baby name in the Territory for 2015.

Mr Lisson said overwhelmingly a change would be made by the parents once a birth certificate was issued.

He has never had to enact his power to allocate a baby a name in his three and a half years in the job, although there are processes in place should this situation arise.

“We have a number of considerations. We’ll look at cultural background, we’ll look at any other factors in relation to the family that might give us clues,” he said.

“I understand my predecessor named a child but it’s very, very rare.”

Mr Lisson said he also understood how sometimes name delays arose from parental indecisiveness.

“People really put a lot into a name. My wife and I went through 30 or 40 ourselves,” he said.

And his advice to name-searching parents — pick names that are short and easier to spell.

“The ones that bother me are the ones that are hard to spell,” he said.

“That child is going to have to spell it out a million times in their lifetime.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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