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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8189

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (19:20): Yesterday, I had the great privilege of attending, with Deborra-lee Furness and the team at Adopt Change, led by Jane Hunt, the launch of National Adoption Awareness Week 2015. National Adoption Awareness Week was founded by Deborra-Lee Furness in 2008 and is designed to raise awareness of adoption and provide education on the support needs of children and families. This offers real encouragement to the thousands of Australian families who are ready, willing and able to embrace those children in need and give them a stable home.

I would like to acknowledge the great work that Adopt Change do in this space. In August, Adopt Change released the Modern families: attitudes and perceptions of adoption in Australia research report, which provided information that showed there is an overwhelming sense from the community that Australia can be doing more for adoption. People want to see the red tape removed that currently makes it so hard to adopt. More than that, what they want to see is some of the entrenched attitudes against adoption, in parts of the system, removed and overcome, for the sake of vulnerable kids. There are statistics that make it very clear that this is an issue, like the 15,000 children in Australia that have been in out-of-home care for more than two years and are not with a relative, or the fact that, on average, a child in out-of-home care will be moved between six different families. It is not stable long-term, and Adopt Change is working to bring more awareness to this issue and to really help these children.

Earlier in the year, Senator Jo Lindgren and I called on the federal government to work with the states to make adoption reform a high priority. There are many other senators and members in this place who will want to join us in this push. I note the public comments of Andrew Hastie as one of a number in recent times who is joining in this significant and important push. I know there is great support in this place as well, and, in coming days in this place, I look forward to bringing forward a motion to this effect.

This is in many ways a national tragedy. Unfortunately, we see far too many children in a situation where they do not get the kind of stability they deserve. I want to reflect on the statistics for a moment: 15,000 children have been in out-of-home care for more than two years and are not with a relative. Those are children who the courts have deemed are unable to return to their birth families, for various reasons. Usually it is because of serious dysfunction. There is an inability, for whatever reason, of the parents to look after these children. There is sometimes the most serious neglect and the most serious abuse.

The fundamental problem at the moment is that, whilst in some cases the courts and others are acting to take kids out of these abusive and neglectful situations, I believe that, through our system, through having such a strong bias against adoption in this country, we are re-traumatising these kids. We do not give them the stability they deserve, when there are families who wish to adopt and who are capable of adopting. We see these children move again and again. Think about the trauma that causes. Think about what that does to a young child's brain development. Then we see some children ending up in residential care. They are seen as the hardest cases. I believe no case is hopeless, but they are the kids who we end up spending the most money on, and sometimes, unfortunately, without success in giving them the kinds of life opportunities that we would hope for—that I want for my children, that we would all want for children everywhere.

The work that has been done this week and more broadly by Adopt Change is critical in shaping policies. The community is with us on this. The statistics show that the community wants change. But, unfortunately, there are aspects of the bureaucracy, aspects of the political class, who are anti-adoption and therefore are denying these children their God-given right to stability and to a safe, nurturing and loving family home. I commend the work of Adopt Change. I think there should be much more awareness and much more said about this issue.