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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9245

Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (20:52): The member for Mallee is indeed right: this is about families. This process does involve an enormous amount of commitment on behalf of those people that choose, often in very, very different circumstances, to embark on what can be a very drawn-out, complicated and tortuous process—to do something that I think all of us want to instinctively want to be able to do, and that is to be part of a family or to raise a family. Some of us have been very fortunate; others less so.

A number of speakers this evening have talked about priorities. I understand and absolutely respect that, indeed, the interests of the child should be paramount. But also the notion that a loving couple, wanting to raise a child in a family situation in a house where they can experience life and have opportunities that they simply would not have I think is something well worth supporting. Indeed, what could be better than a loving family—of course, with the right and proper checks in place; the right and proper balances to make sure that this process is a rigorous one? Indeed, it is a rigorous one.

I have two stories tonight—both friends of mine, two families that had very different experiences. One is an older couple who spent a very, very long time to adopt two sisters from the Philippines. They adopted the elder sister and then a year or so later they adopted her younger sister. It was a very, very long process for them. It involved an enormous amount of commitment on their behalf. It certainly was not a simple process. Indeed, it was a very costly process. Whilst it seems it may not be appropriate to talk about the cost in these situations, nevertheless for some families this is the reality that precludes them, and the financial burden is certainly something that restricts their ability to be able to undertake this process.

Some of the things that frustrated this particular family were the processes involved and what one could loosely described as 'red tape'. Again, it is absolutely critical that appropriate checks and balances are put in place and that the child's interests are, indeed, paramount. The process that they went through for their first child was almost replicated again for the second child. That included visits to the house and so forth. These seemed at the time, in I guess what was a heightened emotional time for all of them, perhaps a little bit of an overreach in terms of the second daughter and the process there.

Both the families that I spoke to spoke terribly highly of the caseworkers that they had been allocated to support them. Indeed, one of the families pointed out that they have since become terribly good friends with the caseworker that was involved really as much in the process as they were as the new parents.

There was, of course, as I say, what they described as excessive paperwork, particularly in respect of the second child, which was duplicating a lot of the processes that they went through for the first child, which were indeed rigorous. Again, I do not want to dwell on this, by any means, but their first adoption cost them over $40,000—as did the second adoption. In total it took him 10 years for their two daughters to eventually become Australian citizens.

One of the things I also mentioned was the discrepancies that exist from state to state. Whilst it was a long, drawn-out process for this particular family in Tasmania, I understand that in other states that is even more onerous. That is something that COAG, and we as legislators, should certainly look at.

The second family that I spoke to had a very different experience. They already had three children of their own and they chose to adopt a young lady from China. For them it really was quite a painless process. Those were the words that they used. As they described to me, perhaps they got the system at the right time. Perhaps it was because they had three children of their own. Certainly Georgia, their daughter, who is very much loved, has come into a wonderful home and she will have opportunities that she simply would not have had in the circumstances that she was left as a very young child in China, her birthplace.

It involved six months of hard work in terms of the paperwork. I think the hardest thing for the parents was the six months after that process, having gone through the paperwork, it then took six months until the time that they were able to be advised that they could travel to pick up their daughter. Indeed, that was a very difficult and a very long wait. In their circumstance, their daughter, like so many of the children in the orphanage from which they adopted their daughter, had been left at the post office with only a piece of paper describing her birthdate. That was her. They had no name, no other information. Like so many other children in the orphanage, this was the circumstances with which she came into the world.

They chose China because at the time adoptions from Ethiopia was not available. There have been a number of speakers talk about the situation, and rightly so, and the decision made to cease adoptions at that time from Ethiopia. They chose China as an alternative because Ethiopia at the time was not available. Again, they talked very, very fondly about the local caseworker, the work that they had done and how closely she had worked with them to secure this adoption.

Again, a number of speakers have commented on these situations, but having gone through all the process, having made all the payments that they were required to make, on adoption at the time they were due to pick up their daughter, they were asked to pay an additional US$1,000 right at one minute to midnight. They did not flinch, of course.

The SPEAKER: It being nine o'clock, with great sadness I interrupt the member's excellent contribution, because, I have to admit, I share the passion on this issue.