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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008-2009 Week 1 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 163..


MRS DUNNE (continuing):

article summed up what is really needed for FOI reform. He says that FOI reform needs in government a change in culture. For the ACT, Mr Speaker, that culture change starts today. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell) adjourned to the next sitting.

Adoption Amendment Bill 2008

Mrs Dunne, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.50 am): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill was prepared during the term of the Sixth Assembly by my former colleague Mr Stefaniak, who was to have presented this bill in the last sitting week. However, it was overtaken by other Assembly business and I am pleased now to be able to present this bill as a legacy of Mr Stefaniak's work.

This bill seeks to achieve two things. Firstly, it removes the requirement for a court to be satisfied that there are "exceptional circumstances"to justify an adoption order for a person aged 18 years or over. It does, however, retain the requirement that the court must be satisfied the person is of "good repute". The requirement for "exceptional circumstances"is redundant and could be discriminatory if there are no particular "exceptional circumstances"applying in a particular case.

It is especially redundant when consideration is given to the fact that the relevant section of this amendment applies to adult persons. It should simply be sufficient that the parties involved in an adult adoption would be of one mind in relation to that adoption.

Additionally, for a court to adjudge whether there are "exceptional circumstances"would require a degree of subjectivity on the part of the court. It could potentially result in long legal arguments and could result in considerable cost to parties who simply wish to form a new family arrangement or, more probably, formalise an existing one. It is simply not fair for our law to set a bar so high as to prevent families from being families.

The second amendment removes the prohibition on adoption orders in respect of a person who is or has been married. Quite simply, there is little or no public policy benefit in excluding married or previously married persons from adoption. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission in 1997 said "the exception is discriminatory". New South Wales subsequently removed the provision and currently only the ACT and the Northern Territory carry the provision. Again, it is an insurmountable and utterly redundant barrier to people who may wish to form or formalise a family structure and relationship. Who are we to judge that a married or previously married person should be ineligible for adoption merely because he or she is or was married?


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