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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3869


Senator REID(1.17) —I welcome the presence in the chamber of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) because I wish to discuss a matter that comes within his portfolio. It relates in particular to the Defence Service Homes Corporation. The matter arises from a loan application from Mr and Mrs Morgan of Queensland who have been approved for a defence service home loan. That approval was given in a letter dated 10 January 1983 and they expected to be able to settle this matter probably in January 1984. There has been a number of items of correspondence. The Morgans have now been told that as the house in question is in their names as tenants in common the loan cannot proceed because the Act requires that they be joint tenants of the property. I concede that the small print at the top of the application form discloses that this is a factor but in some ways it is not highlighted as it might have been. The part of the application form that the parties fill in with information does not require them to state that they are joint tenants, and it is something which I think could be overlooked. In any event, that is what has happened. I wish to speak about the consequences of the dilemma. I ask the Minister to give consideration to a change in the Act or the regulations. I appreciate that the property is more secure with two people as joint tenants than as tenants in common, but I suggest that it is not significantly more secure.

I think we have to acknowledge that in these days many more people who go through the proceedings for divorce and property settlements then enter into a further marriage and take to the marriage money which is part of the settlement from the original marriage. Many people who do that regard that money as money that should go to the children of the first marriage. For that reason, I suggest , there is an increasing tendency for people to enter into purchases as tenants in common and not as joint tenants, as has been more traditional. This may apply to only a few but I wonder whether this option could be made available to people in the situation in which Mr and Mrs Morgan find themselves. Either the husband or the wife putting money into a purchase may wish to retain the ownership as tenants in common to ensure that the money goes back to the children of the first marriage, which is precisely the case in this situation.

I am in no way being critical of the Corporation or of what has occurred. It is a misunderstanding and a mistake that was not noticed for some considerable time after the approval. It is a dilemma for Mr and Mrs Morgan that I ask the Minister to do his best to solve. In particular I ask him to consider an amendment to the Act similar to the one which was passed last year to enable a person who was permanently separated but not divorced to proceed with the settlement. I also welcomed that change in the legislation as recognising some of the changes in the way in which society functions at present. I ask the Minister to pursue this matter and to look into it with a view to finding a solution that may be welcome to a number of other people as well.

I wish also to raise a matter about which I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden). It concerns the adoption of children from Indonesia which I understand has recently been stopped as a result of a decision of the Indonesian Government. No-one can suggest that the Indonesian Government is not entitled to change its rules or change the arrangements for adoptions but I refer to the hardship for the children concerned and certainly for the families, all of whom I think are in South Australia and who are suffering what might almost be described as a sense of bereavement. The proceedings had gone so far that they had photographs of the children. They had, in a sense, got to know the children who were to become parts of their families and suddenly the rules have been changed even for those who had been approved in Indonesia for adoption. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a letter written by the approved adoption agency, ASIAC-the Australian Society for Inter-Country and Children Inc .-to the Ambassador for Indonesia, which sets out more detail than I think is appropriate to read out today. I have not shown the letter to the Minister.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

26.10.83 The Ambassador,

Mr Harirustaman,

Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia,

8 Darwin Ave,

Yarralumla,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600

Dear Sir, The ASIAC (S.A.) organization wishes to formally register with your Government, through you, our disappointment at the passing of legislation for a three year residency period for foreigners adopting Indonesian children. This legislation drastically intrudes on the humanitarian rights of eligible children .

This organization fully supports, and is sympathetic to, the aim of the Indonesian government to prevent mal-practices associated with baby-buying and illegalities in Intercountry adoption, but consider the recent legislation goes far beyond this aim.

Since 1976 the ASIAC organization has placed sixty-six Indonesian children into South Australian families.

(a) ASIAC has worked in co-operation with the Indonesian National Council for Social Welfare for these adoptions, giving details of, and follow-up progress reports on each of the children placed, to the National Council.

(b) Since 1978 ASIAC has placed children only from Indonesian institutions approved of, and affiliated with the National Council.

(c) All South Australian adoptive parents held prior written approval from the South Australian Government welfare authority (Department for Community Welfare) to undertake an adoption.

(d) ASIAC (S.A.) Adoption Agency is licenced annually by the South Australian Department for Community Welfare to assist with adoption placements, and all placements are oversighted by that Department. All monies pertaining to adoptions, outlaid by parents are submitted to ASIAC (S.A.) and the Department for Community Welfare in a sworn statement, and held in confidential records, by the Department for Community Welfare.

(e) Both parents have attended Court hearings and completed all the legal formalities in Indonesia, as per the guidelines set down by the National Council for Social Welfare in Indonesia.

(f) All adoptions through ASIAC (S.A.) have been undertaken in a legal, ethical , responsible manner in the interests of the children whom we serve.

(g) The paperwork associated with each adoption has been duly legalized by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Canberra, with whom we have liaised on numerous occasions to promote openness and understanding of our work in Indonesia.

The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, through Mr I. G. K. N. Sumantera, sought the assistance of ASIAC (S.A.) in August of 1981 in preparing a report to the Government of Indonesia concerning the adoption of Indonesian children into Australia. A representative of our organization travelled to Canberra to assist with this inquiry and to register ASIAC (S.A.) support for the Indonesian Government's attempts to ensure that Inter-country adoption from Indonesia was carried out in an appropriately controlled manner.

Letters were also sent to the South Australian Department for Community Welfare registering our condemnation of illegal adoption practices at that time.

The ASIAC (S.A.) organization adheres to the philosophy that Intercountry adoption is considered as a 'last resort' for children and is deemed necessary only after all other avenues of maintaining the child in his/her natural family, or adoption by Indonesian nationals have been investigated.

As evidence of our adherence to this philosophy ASIAC (S.A.) operates a sponsorship programme in Indonesia, and contributes to the salaries of Social Workers in institutions that promote internal Indonesian adoption, for that purpose. We have observed with satisfaction, the increase in number of Indonesian nationals adopting children through this programme, thus reducing the number of children for whom intercountry adoption is felt to be necessary. In addition, aid projects have been funded in institutions and at a village self- help level.

A number of children placed through the ASIAC organization have had medical disorders which had left their future uncertain, and in jeopardy if they had remained in instructionalized care.

Marlon, abnormal growth and development, poor eyesight. Subsequently diagnosed as epileptic.

Mulyono, mentally slow, diagnosed as epileptic.

Hadiah, perforation of the throat, blood disorder requiring special diet.

Jumadi, mentally, physically and emotionally retarded, diagnosed as profoundly deaf.

Kornelus, suspected heart abnormality.

Deddy, severe emotional retardation.

Rini, severe lactose intolerance causing digestive disorders.

Daniwestri, umbilical hernia.

Sugiarti, severe dental problems.

Budi, severe emotional retardation.

Daniel, intestinal hernia resulting in a failure to gain weight.

Siska, Eye deformality, blindness in one eye.

Daniel, severely perforated eardrum resulting in extreme hearing loss in one ear .

Alberta, suspected hydrocephalous.

Susanti, mental and physical retardation and blindness.

Through intercountry adoption all these children have received optimum medical care and the emotional security of stable family life through the commitment of caring parents. Such facilities and individual care is not possible within institutions.

Our present concern is for seven particular children currently in institutional care in Indonesia who had been allocated to South Australian families prior to the recent legislation. These children have not been adopted because of this organization's endeavours to ensure that all the ethical and legal formalities within Indonesia were strictly adhered to. Consequently, these children, some of whom were cleared for adoption up to ten months ago, cannot be placed in the family environments to which all children are entitled.

The prospective parents have undergone extreme emotional stress during this period of waiting for the adoptions to be finalized. All had made a deep commitment to each of these children over a period of time of preparing for the children to enter the families. Their concern for the future of the children has added to their extreme emotional distress of having to break the emotional commitment that each has made to the individual children.

ASIAC (S.A.) shares the concerns of these parents and children, as well as the ongoing concern for other children for whom the love and security of a family environment is now no longer possible or available.

Whilst we actively support responsible policies to eradicate mal-practice in Intercountry adoption, ASIAC (S.A.) is concerned that the fundamental right of eligible children to a permanent family life which will ensure their physical, mental, emotional and medical needs is being violated.

We urge the Indonesian authorities to create a legal and responsible avenue by which the deserving children can continue to be assisted through Intercountry adoption by responsible social welfare organizations within Indonesia and abroad .

To absolutely prevent all further adoptions, even of the most needy children, is much too drastic a step to take to remove some of the problems caused by the actions of some unscrupulous persons.

With respect,

Yours sincerely,

Pamela Duffy,

Principal Officer, ASIAC (S.A.) Adoption Agency.

Brian Harris,

President,

ASIAC (S.A.) Parent group.

for and on behalf of the ASIAC (S.A.) membership.


Senator REID —I will not go through the five letters that I have here, but they set out in detail the arrangements which have been made. In all cases the couples concerned had been approved in Australia and Indonesia as adopting parents and had been allocated photographs of the children. One letter stated that all necessary arrangements had been made for passports, injections and travel for the family and their present children to go to Indonesia to collect the baby. Suddenly the rules were changed to apply, one might say, retrospectively. The only things that had not occurred were the actual court proceedings and the final formalities. All the parents were waiting for the date of those proceedings, which were expected to occur quite soon. I have asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to look into the matter to see whether the adoptions that had been approved could go ahead or at least to obtain from the Indonesian Government some explanation for the problem which has arisen which the parents in Australia would perhaps find acceptable. I telephoned the Indonesian Embassy at the beginning of November and was told that adoptions were possible and that I would be sent the relevant literature. I have not received it and I think that adoptions from Indonesia may in fact have been stopped. To reiterate, I ask that the Indonesian Government give sympathetic consideration to allowing those adoptions that had been approved to continue and to allowing the children concerned to come to Australia.

I wish now to raise the future of the Australian Capital Territory Bush Fire Brigade. The Australian Capital Territory Bushfire Council is an extremely important part of life in the Australian Capital Territory. That certainly was the case last summer with the fires in Gudgenby. It seems that the Minister for Territory and Local Government (Mr Uren) may be considering making some changes but they have not yet been publicised and the people in the Southern Australian Capital Territory Bush Fire Brigade are particularly concerned about the changes that they believe are likely to be made. The appointments to the Council expired on 21 November 1983 and, as I understand it, members have not yet been reappointed. In its letter to the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) of 10 November 1983, the Brigade suggests that the Minister:

Reappoint the existing Council for a period of 12 months from 22nd November 1983, or if you wish to change some or all of the membership of the Council ensure that the current range of interests continue to be represented in the year commencing 22nd November 1983.

Direct that a review of the composition of the Council be undertaken by your Department during the next twelve months, on a basis which will ensure effective consultation with the Council and other interested parties.

The Brigade is concerned that the persons to be reappointed will be drawn exclusively from the government sector and that few of them will have had first hand experience in bushfire prevention and control. It is concerned also that rural interests, which depend so heavily on the effective functioning of the Bush Fire Council, may have no guarantee of future representation. It fears that valuable input from specialist reference organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology may be lost. There are other changes that the Brigade fears will weaken the effectiveness of bushfire control if the people who are not having an input into it are those with expertise and experience. I ask the Minister to give this matter his early and urgent attention because I believe it is important that in no way should there be any uncertainty about bushfire control during this coming summer. I am sure that all will have noticed the extent to which grass is around at present in Canberra. The matter is important and I ask the Minister to take notice of it.