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The joys of government bureaucracy

When I got married, we submitted all the correct paperwork to the marriage celebrant who was the medium between us and the government system that authorises marriages. We checked that all the paperwork was in order, and all the spelling and details were correct.

Maybe you can already imagine where this is going…

So after the marriage we got the marriage certificate in the mail. We noticed typos, where the spelling of our address was incorrect, and so was the spelling of Fanfan’s maiden name.

So acting on the advice of our celebrant, we went to the Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages here in Canberra. We waited a little while and then our number was called out. The lady behind the counter heard our problem, took a look at our marriage certificate, and said we were in the wrong place. The certificate was for New South Wales (NSW), not ACT (Australian Capital Territory). This was because we got married across the border in NSW, so we’d have to take it across the border to the NSW government office.

We did that a few days later. We got there, waited a little while, and then spoke to someone about the errors in the certificate. They tried to find a form we’d need to fill in, but couldn’t find it in their system. So they phoned their helpdesk and I spoke to a helpful man who got my email address and told me he’d send me the form by email.

Ok, great. So we went home to wait for the form. It came that afternoon and we filled it out to ensure corrections were made with the marriage certificate.

By this time, however, it was almost Christmas, so we didn’t do anything about it until today.

We took the form back across the border to the NSW state government office and waited until we could see someone. They spent five minutes in silence, reading the certificate, the correction form, and whatever was on their computer screen. In silence.

I was getting annoyed by the counter girl’s silence and slowness in whatever the hell she was doing. Lots of reading, no talking.

Eventually she printed something out and gave us the printout, the certificate and the correction form. She then spoke and told us that we’d need to provide proof of ID.

I said we’ve got proof of ID with us. She said we’d need to put copies of the proof of ID with the proof of ID form, scan them, and then send them by fax or email to their helpdesk.

There was nothing in the original email from the helpdesk that said anything about proving ID. It was just a simple correction form we needed to provide.

This woman was adamant, and didn’t want to do anything more with us. We needed to send everything by email.

Awesome. What a waste of time all that was!

I just turned and walked out, Fanfan following me. As we were about to get into the car she asked why they were so consistently unhelpful; we just wanted to get some typos corrected.

You don’t want to know the words I used to describe government bureaucracy to her. Your ears would burn.


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