Australian Greens' Dissenting Report
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014
The Australian Greens are very concerned about fast tracking
intercountry adoption processes. We have seen the trauma that can be caused by
flawed adoption practices, to the child, the relinquishing family and the
adoptive family. Australia must be vigilant to ensure the necessary safeguards
are in place to protect parents from being coerced into relinquishing their
child, ensure that intercountry adoption is a last resort and that there is
appropriate post-adoption care, support and services for children and families.
The Greens are concerned about a number of aspects of the
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014:
- The allowing of intercountry adoptions through bilateral agreements
outside of the safeguards, transparency and procedures of the Hague convention;
- That the bill does not focus on the best interest of the child;
- That the bill could facilitate an environment for forced or coerced
adoption practices to take place;
- That there is a lack of requirement for post adoption support services.
These concerns were clearly shared and articulated by many
submissions and witnesses during the inquiry process.
Risks with bi-lateral agreements
There are many risks associated with adopting through
bilateral agreements with non-Hague convention countries. The Hague Convention
(1993) has set guidelines which consider the child's interests to be of
paramount importance. Bilateral agreements don't necessarily meet the same
standards. The stated reason for this bill is to cut waiting periods and allow
for easier and more convenient adoptions. 'Benefits to adopting parents are
grossly outweighed by the risks associated with adopting children in non-Hague
We know countries that have a very limited child protection
system do not have the capacity to monitor individual cases. In these types of
countries, individuals or criminal organisations can exploit the loopholes in
intercountry adoption. Whilst Australia has signed the convention, it is
difficult for Australia to monitor the systems in countries that are adopting
children that have not signed the convention. For this reason, I think
promoting bilateral agreements with non-Hague countries and finalising
adoptions in overseas countries have lots of risks associated. So I do not
support the bill.
The Australian Greens agree that the risks outweigh the
convenience of speeding up adoption with countries who have not signed the Hague
The interests of the child are better protected by the
safeguards and standards of the Hague Convention. We would prefer that
Australia encourage non-Hague nations to become signatories.
Best interest of the child
The Australian Greens believe that all legislation that
affects children must be in the best interest of the child. Evidence from Dr
Gillespie and UNICEF emphasised the need to keep the interests of the child at
the centre of intercountry adoption processes:
We emphasise the best interests of the child test. We note
that the CRC, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, talks about 'primary'
interests of children whereas the Hague convention talks about consideration of
children being 'paramount' in inter-country adoption. UNICEF would not support
any dilution of those standards.
In order to properly protect children and families the first
thing we need to do is work with countries to enhance and improve their child
protection systems, the interest of the child must stay at the centre of our
decision making processes.
In the very first instance, the Convention on the Rights of
the Child says that a child should be with its own family. In all circumstances
that is what we are striving for. If that is not possible—and that is also about
why we do development, to try to bolster systems to ensure that children and
families can be supported—then that child should stay in its own culture and
with family members or extended family members in that country. Again, our job
is to help build systems with those foreign governments to make sure those
child protection systems are strengthened before we get into this...If all of
that is exhausted—in a way, the convention says that intercountry adoption
should be a last resort after those have been exhausted—then we look at how
best we can minimise and protect.
Forced and coerced adoption
The past forced adoption practices in Australia have caused
ongoing trauma. As Professor Nahum Mushin, Chair of the Forced Adoptions
Implementation Working Group noted, the consultation for the submission for
this bill has a 're-traumatising effect on affected people'.
We have a responsibility to ensure that we do not create situations for such
practices to re-occur. The Australians Greens are very concerned that this bill
could assist in making coerced and forced adoption practices more likely.
It is important to remember that intercountry adoption can
take an extended time because of the complex nature of the process.
It takes time and due diligence to ensure that children are
genuinely available to be adopted. We do not want to see any more cases where
parents adopt into the Australian context only to discover that the child
should never have been considered genuinely available for adoption. That is a
really complex thing for parents to have to live with. What does that mean then
for your parenting, what is meant for your family, what does it mean for the
child, what does it mean for the biological family?
Unfortunately, illegal and unethical adoptions are much more
likely in non-Hague countries. Without due process and systems around child
protection, children and families are at risk of exploitation. 'The more
bilateral agreements we have with non-Hague countries, the more unethical and
unlawful adoptions we are going to have'.
...it has been noted in other country contexts that sometimes
there is not due process around free, prior and informed consent from parents
and situations where parents are actually being pressured to surrender their
children to adoption programs.
We are concerned that a faster adoption process provided by
the bill may mean that important supports and services don't occur. One issue
that is not included in the bill is post-adoption support. As several of the
witnesses stated, appropriate post-adoption support is very important. There is
no provision in the bill to ensure that bilateral agreements will be required
to have the same standards in post-adoption support and follow up as the Hague
Convention. The Hague Convention currently requires post-adoption assessments
that usually occur in the first 12 months post-adoption, there is also follow
up with the relinquishing family from the country of origin.
It is essential that there is contact and support for the
relinquishing family, the child and the adoptive family. There are several
issues with post-adoption support, including the need for 'long-term
post-adoption support for both families and adoptees and also the support and
assessment that is important to go back to the country of origin in that first
Post-adoption support is very, very critical. It is not just
the formal reports that Dr Fronek was talking about; it is the informal support
that the family needs and may require throughout that child's upbringing. Also,
we are funded by the New South Wales government support service for adult
adoptees to search for their birth parents overseas. It is important to
understand how much of a profound impact that can have on adoptees in later
life when they become an adult to find out that their adoption was unethical
The Australian Greens have serious concerns regarding the
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014. While the
Greens are not in complete opposition to intercountry adoption it must be done
with extreme caution. Intercountry adoption should be through Hague signatory
countries, and only when in the best interest of the child. All safeguards
against coerced or forced adoption must be in place and there must be
appropriate post adoption support services to the relinquishing family, the child
and the adoptive family.
In its current form the Australian Greens cannot support the
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014.
The Australian Greens recommend that the bill not be passed in its current
Senator for Western Australia
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