A deed poll is a legal contract involving one party and was
traditionally used for Australians to change their name. The contract
was most often drawn up by a solicitor and then signed by the person
wanting to change their name and two witnesses. The deed was then
registered with a government body (usually the Land Titles Office in
the state of registration).
Deed Polls haven't been used in Australia since the 1980's, but Deed Polls registered before 1st November 1986 are still considered legal. They are still used in lots of countries for registering name changes, such as in the UK. The process of changing your name in Australia has now been changed to a more simple registration process that is administered by each state's Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. In most states you will complete an application to change your name, send it in to the Registry with a fee, and then they send you back a certficate confirming your change of name. Voila. NSW have recently changed their process and instead of filling out an application form you will be filling out a statutory declaration. A different form, but essentially the same process. After your name change is official, you can change your name with friends, family, government departments and other companies and organisations.
Just to make things confusing, some people still use Deed Polls to make it known that they want to assume a new name. And you can still do this, you just aren't able to register the Deed Poll. So, for example, if you write a Deed Poll, sign it and have it witnessed and then go about using your new name in your work place and amongst your family and friends, but then want to go and change your name on your bank account, or passport ... you'll encounter some problems. Most organisations require written proof before they will change your name, and the only written proof they will accept is name change certificate issued by the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (or a marriage certificate if you are changing your name by marriage or divorce).
Why do people still use Deed Polls? I'm not sure. Because legally you can start using an 'assumed name' or 'name by association' at any time that you want. If you want to change your name to Jane or Jack Jones you can start using that name straight away without filling in any paperwork and it is perfectly legal (but as I've just stated above, you'll need written evidence if you want to change your name with organisations).
Thinking of changing your name but worried about the paperwork and process? Use our name change kit to make it quick and easy!