My greatest wish for humanity is not world peace, nor equality, sustainability, or technological advancement. These are all great and noble ideals, but I yearn for something greater. Mine is a basic, simple desire.

I wish that every male on the planet was named ‘Jack’ and every female was named ‘Rose.’ And not just because I am a fan of the 1999 movie Titanic. I assure you, I am not. The only good thing about that movie is Billy Zane, who is criminally underrated as an actor.

My reasons for wanting everyone to be called Jack or Rose are, in my humble view, good and sensible.

They are easy names to remember, spell, and say. As someone whose name often gets mispronounced, I would love to have a simple, straightforward name, rather than one that I have to slowly spell out, letter by letter, each time I attempt to reserve a table at a restaurant or tell my parents who it is they are speaking to on the phone.

But more importantly, two of my good friends are called Jack and Rose, and they are truly awesome people. More people should be like them, or at least named in honour of them. Hi, Jack and Rose, you guys are amazing!

I do not believe anyone should be prevented from changing their name so long as they have a decent reason for doing it and the name they choose is half-way sensible. The law agrees, and all states and territories allow you to change your name except in some very limited circumstances. That then leads into the inevitable next question: is any name off limits?

First things first: You are legally allowed to call yourself anything you want, provided you do not assume your new name for a criminal purpose. So, if your name is John, but you want to call yourself Steve in everyday life, go ahead. Known as Erin but want to be called Erryn? Um, sure go ahead and good luck with that.

It is important to know, however, that while you can change your name by simply calling yourself something else, you will not be able to use your new name in any legal way in the real world without registering the change with various government bodies.

For example, if you want to fly to another country you would still have to use your original name, as shown on your passport. Try using your informally adopted name on your departing passenger card, and you will at best be told you need to complete the card properly using your legal name, and at worst be in trouble for identity fraud.

That then brings us to the fun world of legally changing your name and getting it officially registered with the various government departments. I know you are excited, all you soon to be Jacks and Roses. Let’s read on!

The most common reason why someone might change their name, and get this legally registered, is because of marriage, with one partner taking the surname of the other. Congratulations, by the way, if this applies to you.

Registering your change of name due to marriage is straightforward. You take your marriage certificate and a few other forms of identification to every relevant government department and request new documentation in your new name. Given there could be over 60 different government departments that hold your old name on their files, it might take a while. Alternatively, you could just choose to keep your maiden name and avoid all of this administrative nonsense, which would make my mum very proud of you.

What if you want to register a change in your name other than due to marriage? I hope you like filling in forms, because that is what you will be doing every night for the next few weeks.

For once, all the states and territories have the same legal process (with one exception, mentioned below) for registering a change of name.

The first step is to prove that you are not a ‘restricted person’ – these people include criminals in prison, convicted paedophiles, and other ne’er-do-wells who need special permission before they can change their name.

Next, you must be a resident of the state or territory in which you wish to record your change of name. In some states and territories, you must have lived there for a year or more or been born in that state or territory. For others, like New South Wales, the minimum requirement before you can change your name is that you have lived in that state for at least three consecutive years. That means you can’t be from, say, New South Wales and while passing through Melbourne on a quick road trip decide to change your name to ‘Carl Ton.’ Unfortunately, nowhere in Australia allows you the freedom to change your name on a whim.

Third, and this is the really fun part, you have to give a good reason for wanting to change your name. And you cannot just say ‘because I want to’ or ‘none of your business.’ Nope, you have to write a mini essay on the topic, explaining why it is important to you to change your name and how by doing so you would not be doing it for an improper purpose (like trying to commit a fraudulent act by impersonating someone else).

Now, I mentioned earlier that one place is a little unusual when it comes to the rules around changing your name, and that place is the Northern Territory. There, you also have to take a further step of advertising your proposed new name in one of that territory’s fine newspapers, which might include:
⁃ The NT News;
⁃ The Sunday Territorian;
⁃ The Centralian Advocate;
⁃ The Tennant Creek and District Times;
⁃ The Katherine Times; or
⁃ The Alice Springs News.
You must include a copy of the advertisement in your application to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Northern Territory. I would so take out a full-page advertisement if I had to do this. If you are going to do a job, do it properly, I say.

Finally, for all states and territories, you cannot select a ‘prohibited name.’ This means you cannot pick a name that is (deep breath): obscene, offensive, impracticable, too hard or complex to use in everyday society, or against the public interest.

The relevant officer in the government department is the one who decides whether the name you have chosen is a ‘prohibited name.’ That means your chances of success are dependent upon the personal beliefs and attitudes of this anonymous government officer. Whether your name is acceptable is a product of the time in which we live, too. While in the 1800s, the name ‘Adolf Hitler’ might have been acceptable, I suspect that unless the civil servant assessing your change of name application is particularly clueless, or a white supremacist, you might have a harder time getting it through in our modern age.

Also, if you wanted to change your name to something like ‘#Sexyman’, ‘4ndr3w’, and / or ‘And / Or’ you are not going to have much chance of success, as those types of names are considered ‘impracticable’, meaning (I think) they are too hard for government departments to print on your various cards and licences, or are just plain dumb, and hence not acceptable.

It is safe to assume that if you choose a new name that is rude, or offensive, it will be rejected, as will anything with a hint of racism. Unfortunately, spelling names like Jason with a ‘y’ and a ‘nne’ at the end are not offensive or prohibited for these purposes. Stupid name spellings are offensive to me, though!

Want the quick and simple version of all of this? If you want to change your name, keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it short.

Like Jack or Rose!