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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 95..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

More recently, we have seen other changes in the structure of the family. As Hugh Mackay pointed out at the launch of the Social Plan last week, only a small minority of households are now made up of a married couple and their exclusive children. There is an increasing number of single-parent families and of families where the parents have decided not to get married. There is an increasing number of blended families, where the children do not necessarily have the same parents. There are also families where the parents are in a same-sex relationship.

The structure of the family will continue to change and evolve in the future. It is not our job to try to pick one type of family and say it is better than all others and give that type of family special privileges over all others. It is the job of governments and parliaments to ensure that all types of families are recognised, respected and supported. Whatever type of family children are being raised in, those children should have the same rights under the law and their parents should have the same responsibilities. This is what this bill does today.

It is a shame that the public debate around this bill has focused almost exclusively on adoption, when the bill deals with so many more issues. But I would like to point out that allowing same-sex couples to apply to adopt children is not groundbreaking. We are not going it alone in this regard. Similar legislation allowing the adoption by same sex-couples was passed in the West Australian parliament some three years ago. The sky has not fallen in. There has not been a rush by same-sex couples to adopt children. I understand there has only been a handful of applications, and I must say the moral fibre of Western Australian society has not crumbled. God has not struck down on Perth and Fremantle.

The fact is that, regardless of whether these changes are about adoption, it will be a very rare occurrence that any same-sex couple will adopt a child through general placement adoption. Given that there are only one or two such adoptions in Canberra every year, it is very unlikely that any couple, whatever their sexuality, will be lucky enough to adopt a child through this method.

It should be noted that the best interests of the child are the highest priority in general placement adoption. This is a principle that will not change. Nobody has a right to adopt a child. It will always be a special privilege, and that is something that the people who are continually protesting should be aware of. We are not changing the fundamental principles. What we are doing is removing the automatic veto against same-sex couples that exists today. The adoption process is meticulous, strict and thorough. It keeps the best interests of the child foremost at all times, and none of this will be changing.

The real benefit of the changes to adoption laws, and where they are going to have the greatest impact on Canberrans in same-sex relationships, is in known-child adoptions. This is where a person may adopt their partner's child from a former relationship or where the child has only one recognised parent. If there is another parent from a previous relationship, consent would be needed from that person to allow the new parent to adopt.

This will have real benefits for children living right now here in Canberra: their relationship with their parent will be legally recognised, and it will allow parents to undertake the protection of and responsibility for their children. That is such a

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