Page 3105 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 16 September 2015

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In regard to the issues raised in Ms Lawder’s motion, I sought information from the Attorney-General’s office about the time it takes for adoptions to proceed through the Supreme Court—we heard him speak to that in his speech earlier today—and he assured me that there is no blitz on criminal cases at the moment and he provided information about the time it has taken between lodging an application for adoption through to an adoption being finalised over the past four years. The attorney cited those figures earlier so I will not repeat them, but those figures actually point to the fact that in the last three years they do appear to have shortened a little rather than lengthened, from a period of perhaps 15 weeks down to 11 weeks.

As I said earlier, this is a very difficult issue to address on the floor of the chamber in that the statistics and the research show that the process is relatively speedy. I think most people would consider 11 weeks through the court system to be fairly reasonable. Yet I am quite cognisant of the fact that Ms Lawder has come in today and cited examples of individual cases where people have said that they have had a different experience from that.

In summary, the Community Services Directorate website on the adoptions page says:

Providing children with permanent families; Supporting the lifetime journey of adoption.

I would hope that this is true and I repeat that I believe that the adoption process is a collaborative one that involves birth families, children and adoptive parents and that all of those people are an important part of the process. The child’s best interests sit at the heart of that and, with good communication and collaboration, adoptive families, birth families where they can, and the government and community agencies, must work together to deliver that. I would hope that all government officials who work on adoption work to support all the parties involved in finding permanent loving families for children in need of care.

I will be supporting Mr Gentleman’s amendment today to Ms Lawder’s motion but I am left with a feeling that there needs to be a better way to resolve this. We obviously cannot bring individual cases to the floor of the chamber. Certainly in recent years I have been approached; I had one example where a family had been through an interminable delay in the Family Court, an absolutely unacceptable delay, in a custody matter. My approach in that instance was to approach the court directly on behalf of the family to see if the matter could be resolved more quickly.

I do not think trying to bring individual family matters to the floor of the Assembly is the best way to deal with it. So I would encourage Ms Lawder to work further on this matter, particularly if there are specific cases that appear to be problematic. We heard Mrs Dunne speak of one this afternoon and I am sure that collectively, as an Assembly and as an ACT government, we can work to resolve these specific cases that perhaps appear to be defying what all the other information provided to the Assembly today seems to be suggesting. So I will be supporting Mr Gentleman’s amendment to the motion but trust that we can seek to resolve these matters in a way that suits all of the parties involved.

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