Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 15 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 December 2009) . . Page.. 5617 ..
This has, of course, brought great distress to many families across Australia, including here in the ACT. The program has been running for many years. Many children have been adopted into Australian families and raised in loving and nurturing environments.
Having looked at adoption over the years, and knowing something about adoption, I know that even those adoptive parents do agree that the best interests of the child come first and foremost. If there is a possibility that a child can be raised by another family member, that, of course, is the first step that should be taken. If that is not possible, it is a good step for the child to stay within the community to be raised. When neither of these options is possible, intercountry adoption is also a good option for many children.
What we have here at the moment is a situation where the Attorney-General has made this announcement and it appears as though there is a real possibility that the program will be closed in early January 2010. As I have said before, this is devastating for a number of families. We have six families here in the ACT at the moment who are currently part of this program. For three of those families, their files are still here in Australia, but, as many of you would know if you have come in contact with adoption over the years, it is a very lengthy process. There are three files here in Australia; there are three files in Ethiopia. We are talking about several years in which those families have been going through a process, and some of those files have been over there in Ethiopia for a couple of years now.
This is an absolutely devastating blow. I will be calling on the ACT government. I really do want to understand why it is that the ACT adoptions unit did not appear to put a submission in to the review that was held by the Attorney-General into this program and into the situation. I really want to understand why the ACT adoptions unit chose not to do that when in every other jurisdiction a submission was made. This is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly; it needs to be addressed promptly.
Of course, we very much need to look at how we can play our part in ensuring that children are raised in nurturing and loving environments. This program is one way. It has been highly successful. We know that there are about 20 families here in the ACT that have adopted children through this program over the years. They have very strong ties to the cultural background of these children. Many of them learn their native language; they do gather together; they do share that culture and so forth. It is a very strong group.
I know that this decision has had an enormous impact on many people. This afternoon I want to put on the record that I am quite outraged by the way that this has been approached and I will be calling on the ACT government to explain what their stand is on this matter and what they might be doing as far as making representations to the federal Attorney-General is concerned. I myself will be making a representation to the Attorney-General, because I believe that in the way this has been gone about it has been handled very clumsily and with a total lack of sensitivity. I felt that it was important to put the issue on the record. I will be pursuing the matter vigorously over the next couple of weeks.