Summary written by SueYen Bylund
Today Leanne Tololeski (Korean Adoptee) and myself met with Greens Senator Rachel Siewert. Organised by Lynelle Long off the back of the Prime Minister’s Senior Advisers meeting in Sydney last month, it proved to be a welcome next step in moving forward with agenda in ICAV.
The meeting with Rachel was a pleasant breathe of fresh air. Her work in investigating former forced adoption practices in Australia has placed her in good stead to understand the importance for having ALL voices heard in the arena of adoptions in order to move forward in creating a better and safer adoption environment for all involved. The marginalised voices of adult intercountry adoptees against the hard core parent lobby groups was acknowledged and noted as problematic in the public forum. It was agreed that it was time to rebalance the scales by continuing to strengthen the effective avenues for adult IC adoptees to consult with government and non-government on policy, reforms and services. To insist on a “forever baby” view of ICAs was deemed irresponsible.
There was joint concern as to why the government had not allowed the Jenny Deglings report or the Interdepartmental Committee report findings to be released openly to the public. The question was raised to how decisions were being made about future directions in IC adoptions with regards to policies, funding and services without these key documents being available.
The launch of the 1800 Adoption Helpline recently was useful in our discussions as it served to highlight a few key issues. One of which is the continued lack of understanding in addressing Post Adoption Services, as outlined in the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. The website disappointingly addresses only the very narrow band of Post Placement childhood related concerns. The larger issues of effective and legitimate services for “complicated” search and reunion across international geographical and legal borders are ignored. I have offered to forward relevant documents and information on this topic that has been previously presented to the State and Territory Central Authorities.
It was agreed that a privatised adoption model was not appropriate, and that consistent support and funding of effective services for adult adoptees be an essential part of engaging in ICA as a nation. Rachel was Chair of the committee on the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices (2012) – (Page 281, Section 13.12 – 13.16 – Intercountry Adoption in Australia) where issues surrounding intercountry adoption were noted. Her understanding for the need for safe practices surrounding ICA was a welcome change. Further efforts are required to regarding supporting those adoptees found to be stolen and trafficked.
It was reiterated that we are a group of adult adoptees did not represent a “pro or anti” adoption position, and this was a false and irresponsible representation of a diverse and large group (10,000+). It only serves sensationalise and marginalise which we would expect our government to be able to rise above.
It was acknowledged that adult ICAs have been working collaboratively and effectively with government and non-government services for 25years. We have worked alongside prospective, adoptive parents, biological parents, child and adult adoptees. Some adoptees work within the field of adoption through academic studies or professional service provision. All bring a rich mix of experience and knowledge to the table. Our main concern is with the individuals who seem to have the private ear of the current government to the exclusion of other fundamental perspectives.
The suggestion was made that the ICAs strengthen our links with the individuals with origins through surrogacy and donor programs. This would assist with issues such as preservation of information across international borders, identification papers – specifically the re-issuing of “Birth Certificates”.
OUTCOMES & ACTIONS
Regarding – The Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Intercountry Adoption (April 2014) – Enquire as the when and why Pages 41+ relating to “Possible Immediate Measures” etc as tabled in the documents contents have not been released to the public, given it has been now over 1 year since it was commissioned.
Regarding “Intercountry Adoption in Australia: Analysis of Programs and Models of Service Delivery” [by] Jennifer Degeling, Adviser, Hague Children’s Conventions, 21 March 2013– Enquire if the document can be made public as a resource in the intercountry adoption discussions.
The report was submitted to the First Assistant Secretary, Access to Justice Division, Attorney General’s Department and copied to the Assistant Secretary (Branch head) of the Marriage Celebrants and Intercountry Adoption Branch. While writing the report Jennifer was located in this Branch after returning from 7 years working in The Hague at the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law where Jennifer was Secretary responsible for the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention.
Rachel will assist with educating the government on the need strengthen the effective avenues for adult IC adoptees to consult with government and non-government on policy, reforms and services.
Regarding – National Study on Post Adoption Support
The research was discussed as an integral piece of evidence for the current direction of ICA and that the papers will be forwarded in due course.
In 2012, Griffiths University was engaged to conduct the research and was successful in gaining an Australian Research Council grant which would see the Stage 1 and 2 of the research funded. So began the first national study of post adoption support for intercountry adoptees in Australia. The study is unique in that it examines post adoption support (formal and informal) from the perspectives of adults adopted into Australia as children. Post adoption support includes interventions and services that facilitate effective bonding and attachment in adoptive families, address the cultural and identity issues faced by adoptees across the lifespan, psychological and social health, peer support, and searching and reunification in their countries of birth. The mixed methods research program will test the relationships between need, different types of support across the lifespan and with the well-being of adoptees in Australia. There is a potential pool of approximately 10,000 adoptees. The findings of the research will be published in peer review journals, presented at conferences and made available to stakeholders including the Attorney Generals Department.
(Dr Patricia Fronek Professor Elizabeth Kendall, Associate Professor Lynne Briggs and Ms Sue-Yen Bylund)
Regarding – Jurisdictional Post Adoption Support Services Table – (as at 16 March 2012) – COMPLETED
Regarding – Personal submission to the Interdepartmental Committee on Overseas Adoption (2014) forwarded to Rachel – COMPLETED
Regarding – Strengthen our links with the individuals with origins through surrogacy and donor programs.
Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices
29 February 2012
© Commonwealth of Australia 2012
Where to from here?
Intercountry adoption in Australia
13.12 Although it was beyond the terms of reference for this inquiry, the committee received some evidence on intercountry adoptions, and the scope for the issues raised during this inquiry to recur. VANISH stressed their concerns:
We see the same mistakes being made with intercountry adoptions that were made back in the sixties and seventies with local adoptions. That is an issue for us, and the Commonwealth has a real role to play there because it obviously has the primary responsibility for conventions and dealing with other countries in relation to adoptions, even if the adoptions are under a state’s legislation. There are things like Australian aid and the way that is used to help countries deal with issues around separation from family and reconnection with family—or indeed helping intercountry adoptees reconnect with their families in the future, which is a role that the Commonwealth can look at.
13.13 Professor Cuthbert from Monash University commented ‘that we are just setting up precisely the same circumstances for the future.’ Professor Cuthbert also discussed the central role for the Commonwealth government:
The Commonwealth is not in the situation that it is with respect to domestic adoption and being able to stand back and say, ‘Well, this is a state and territory matter’, because from day one the Commonwealth was involved in brokering arrangements because intercountry adoption is a mode of family formation but it is also a mode of migration.
13.14 In 2009–2010, there were 222 intercountry adoptions in Australia, representing 54 per cent of all Australian adoptions. In Australia, intercountry adoption is conducted in accordance with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co–operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention). Australia ratified the Convention on 25 August 1998 and it came into force on 1 December 1998. The Convention is implemented by the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Law (Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1988.
13.15 As explained in Chapter 8, the Attorney-General’s Department chairs two working groups of the Community and Disability Services Advisory Council with respect to intercountry adoption in Australia, the Harmonisation Working Group and theAlternative Models Working Group. While it is outside of the scope of this inquiry, the committee recommends that the relevant Ministers bring the findings of this report to the attention of the Advisory Council, and ensure that such findings are taken into consideration during deliberations of the working groups.
13.16 In addition, the committee considers that the findings of this report should also contribute to discussions about local adoptions.