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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14184

Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (11:22): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that National Adoption Awareness Week was recently celebrated, a week dedicated to raising awareness around the challenges faced by families and children navigating complex inter country and domestic adoption processes in Australia;

(2) is made aware of the fact that the rate of adoption in Australia is the lowest in the developed world, with only 317 children adopted in 2013-14;

(3) recognises that 15,000 children in Australia have been in out of home care for over two years and over 12 million children are officially registered overseas awaiting adoption;

(4) acknowledges the need for continued adoption reform, especially in the area of local adoption;

(5) notes that:

(a) children who experience abuse and neglect in the home, followed by instability in out of home care, are much more likely to experience poor life outcomes;

(b) in adolescence, out of home carers are unable to maintain the necessary level of care for children with complex needs and they are often placed in residential care; and

(c) on an average day in 2013-14 there were 1,157 children in residential care and on 30 June 2014 there were 2,258 children in residential care; and

(6) calls on the Government to present this issue to the COAG in order to create a national strategy that will dramatically increase the rate of local adoption in Australia.

National Adoption Week has just passed us. With the time allocated to me today, I want to raise awareness of the importance of adoptions here in Australia, and I will do that by highlighting some of the organisations that invest some time in this space. I will speak about some of the statistics nationally and then about how we compare to other countries and, more importantly, how we are tracking with reference to lifting our fair share of weight in this space. In conclusion I will speak about how the federal government can play a role through our state partners and colleagues through the vehicles of CHOGM to enhance adoption, to speed up the process and to make it a more user-friendly environment for those wishing to adopt whilst always maintaining the integrity of the child through love and care, nourishment and making sure that the interest of the child is always kept at the highest. At the conclusion of this speech, I will invite couples who have had difficulty adopting children domestically and internationally and want to share their stories to reach out to my offices either here in Canberra or in Beaudesert, Queensland, so that I am able to maintain a register or just be an ear of someone in the parliament and an advocate for this group.

For National Adoption Week I thank and acknowledge Adopt Change for the work that they have done, in particular Jane Hunt, the CEO. Deborra-lee Furness is the founder of the organisation and has done an amazing job of putting this very important issue on the national stage. It would be remiss not to mention Adoption Jigsaw, an organisation and advocacy group; Australians Caring for Children Inc.; Anglicare; Barnardos Australia adoptions; World Families Australia; the Salvation Army; Relationships Australia; and many dozens of country- specific organisations for families going through intercountry adoption for the work that they do in this space.

I want to also acknowledge the work that has been done in the Senate in this space. There was a motion that was put on the Notice Paper over there and it was moved by none other than Senator Seselja. I want to acknowledge Senator Seselja's work in this space. I have a copy of the motion, and I was suitably impressed by the amount of senators from the other place who supported his motion—nearly all but the crossbenchers supported the motion as well. It is an issue which has support, but it is an issue that we need to move cautiously on to make sure that we ensure the protection of the children at all times.

National Adoption Awareness Week is in response to the challenges faced by families and children navigating complex intercountry and domestic adoption processes in Australia. National Adoption Awareness Week aims to increase insight and understanding through a series of specialist and community-based events exploring the experiences for children and families through local and intercountry adoption. During the week, there has been a concerted effort to promote the reforms of the Australian adoption laws and practices to facilitate a pro-adoption community. I, along with Adopt Change, our Prime Minister, many of my Senate colleagues and, I hope, those on the other side of the House, believe the needs of vulnerable children in Australia and across the globe require the urgent attention of our policymakers to ensure that there is swift yet ethical placement in permanent and loving Australian families.

Adoption in Australia is a social issue fraught with a difficult history and vacillating public attitudes. During the 1920s open adoptions were fostered in legislation through to about the 1960s, when there was a shift—with the emphasise on having a clean break from birth parents and enshrining the principle of secrecy around the adoptive status of children. I just acknowledge the good Senator Zed Seselja, whom I spoke of earlier in my speech, for his contribution to the debate and I welcome you and thank you, Senator, for your heartfelt contribution to this debate. Statistically, this period also saw a distinct drop in adoption numbers for a range of reasons. This is carried through to today, where adoption numbers are at historical lows. In the years 1971 to 1972 there were just under 10,000 adoptions. In 1991 to 1992, these were down to just over 1,000. I commend this motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is there a seconder for the motion?