Page 4309 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

care needs that are likely to place a significant financial burden upon the prospective adoptive family.

Finally, clauses 13 and 18 of the bill require prospective adoption parents to be ordinarily resident in the ACT. It is an obligation under the Hague convention governing intercountry adoption that adoptive parents need to be assessed by a government authority and that they must be habitually resident in the country of that authority. The current act is silent on this residency requirement. The government recognises the new provision could be an issue for a significant number of highly mobile families who are part of the Canberra community. Approved applicants whose primary place of residence is Canberra will be able to remain on the ACT adoption register until they return to the territory. This just goes to highlight some of the examples of practical help for families, both adoptive and birth, contained within this legislation.

The government’s approach to this portfolio has been around practical help for all families and for all kids. That is why we have extended the decision-making period for adoption from seven to 28 days after birth. This does give more time to birth parents and their families to receive counselling, if they wish, to consider possible alternatives to adoption, to develop an adoption plan and to establish future contact arrangements. As potentially vulnerable people, parents under the age of 18 years will be able to receive legal advice and counselling.

The legislation addresses several matters relating to the exchange of information between parties to adoption. I think everyone in this place knows that family relationships can be difficult from time to time, but evidence tells us that open and honest relationships are in the best interests of the child or young person. This is why we are removing contact veto provisions. Instead of contact vetoes, counsellors from the Family Information Service, currently the Adoption Information Service, will sit down with adopted children and young people and talk about how they would like to build relationships with their birth parents.

Specifically, clauses 70 to 73 remove the option to register a contact veto for adoptions made after the legislation is enacted. This amendment does not affect contact vetos currently registered under the 1993 act. It will not be retrospective. It reflects contemporary adoption best practice and principles of open adoption.

Mr Speaker, in conclusion, the government are listening. We are listening to children and young people and their adoptive and birth families. We are listening when they tell us they want commonsense solutions and practical help, which takes into account the wide variety of modern families—families who sit down together after 20 years to swap photos and laugh about family stories, families who go to language classes every week and travel overseas every year so that their son or daughter knows his or her culture, families who buy a new school uniform, but then wonder what their son or daughter’s shoe size is. So this government will provide practical help. These amendments will provide practical help to all families. For these reasons I commend the Adoption Amendment Bill 2009 to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .