Legislative Council Tuesday 29 November 2016
second reading speech
Adoption (Review) Amendment Bill 2016
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:55): I also rise, on behalf of the Greens, to commend this piece of legislation. I note that it is quite revolutionary and extensive in its overhaul of the Adoption Act; indeed, many measures under the act that were well-meaning nearly 30 years ago, are now unworkable or unwanted.
The updates to the act reflect well upon its new objects and guiding principles, and these underline the paramount importance of the best interests, welfare and rights of the child and the preservation of cultural heritage, and encourage openness and access to information. Having these principles set in writing will greatly assist the courts and the wider community to consider these often difficult roles into the future.
A number of the new provisions are decidedly common sense, and I will take some time now to thank Professor Lorna Hallahan on what would have been a long and emotionally-charged task in compiling the review, which has led to the following provisions:
- allowing the adoption of adults;
- allowing the court to discharge adoption orders, such as in cases of abuse;
- the phasing out of information vetoes; and
- the retention of the child's first name.
All these provisions reflect the changing attitudes to adoption, that it is no longer a shameful secret and that it should prioritise supportive relationships over state intervention.
It is incredibly disappointing, indeed shameful, to see the provisions bringing single-parent adoption fully into the 21st century being amended, in the lower house, from the original version of this bill. I believe we will see how these changes play out in our courts, because they are discriminatory; a single-parent family is no less than any other family, and I think it is shameful that the other place made those particular amendments.
The Greens stand up for families in all their shapes and forms, in particular single parents. They are not somehow lesser because there are not two parents; indeed, as we have allowed single parents to adopt in, as the legislation provides, 'special circumstances' for many years now, and the special circumstances have largely been cases where children have severe special needs, it has clearly shown that the commitment and care of these single parents is paramount in providing a supportive environment for children. It is not based on the number of bodies in a room but what is in their heart and what they can provide for these young people.
The seemingly and so-called contentious part of this bill, the conscience part of this bill, is something the Greens have supported for many years. We have inclusive policies, and we will support those same-sex couples to adopt in this state. It is a great pleasure to see South Australia come into line with many overseas jurisdictions—and some interstate jurisdictions—in recognising a person who can prove themselves to fit the criteria that is placed upon adoptive parents, which is in no way the criteria that the member for Waite seems to think it is.
Apparently the member for Waite believes people run off and simply pick up a child on their way back from the grocery store. He seems to think the adoptive process is somehow easy or something that people do just on a whim. He has a long way to go if he is to understand the processes that those who adopt children, not just in this state but around the world, have to go through. It is an extraordinarily arduous process, and rightly so. It is not a process one comes to easily or without a great deal of effort.
Indeed, as I have pointed out to the member for Waite on the wireless (as the Hon. Ian Hunter would have it called), it is actually those same straight people who can go out, on a whim, and get themselves pregnant. We have done nothing to stop those occurrences, yet we have denounced and derided, and not supported, loving, same-sex couples who simply want to create loving family situations for those children and those families. I know who I would back in terms of the commitment and the loving environment that can be brought, and it is those families who put that effort in.
Of course, we cannot not reflect on the story of one particular couple and family who have made their home in South Australia, and that is the family headed by Shaun and Blue Douglas-Galley. They are two fathers who have travelled from the UK to make Adelaide their home, and they will now have long overdue legal recognition of their parenthood to their two young sons Joshi and Dylan. I wish them well here in South Australia, and I am glad that we have finally stepped up to the mark and will provide them with equality should these bills pass.
They, along with countless other couples, have forged their own way while we, as lawmakers, have dithered. It will be a happy day to see peace of mind for these families across our state as they are accepted. In summing up, I would like to thank all those who have been involved in what has been a fight for equality, and I commend the government for bringing these pieces of legislation here in government time. In closing, I note the words of American author Jane Howard:
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
I am proud that today we will be providing one to many South Australians.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M.A. Lensink.