Adoption (Review) Amendment Bill 2016

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:52): I also rise to speak on the Adoption (Review) Amendment
Bill 2016. I will make a very small contribution. The path to the legislation before the house has been
a long, emotional and, in many cases, painful journey for the many people who underwent adoption
in the pre-1988 era of closed adoption practice. I have no doubt that when the original legislation was
debated, and subsequently enacted by parliament, it was done with the very best of intentions for
the children who would undergo adoption, for the parents who would surrender their children and for
the families who would welcome those children into their homes.

However, sometimes best intentions do not reflect best outcomes. Unfortunately, despite the
best efforts of members of parliament, the interpretation, application and effect of legislation can
have unintended consequences. It does not matter how many changes you propose to make to a
bill, or the extent of efforts to strengthen its intention, perhaps even reintroducing it in another form,
sometimes the very people legislation intends to assist and protect are actually the ones hurt most
by the decisions made in this house and those of the other place.

The extent of the hurt and suffering of those who were adopted in the closed adoption era
was first brought to my attention by a constituent of mine. Her courage to share her experiences as
an adoptee with me is to be commended, as is her passion for change in this area. What really struck
me from the first meeting was her excitement at being issued with her first ever identification in her
birth name—something most of us would take for granted. Having undergone a closed adoption, her
original birth certificate was cancelled and a second birth certificate issued with a new identity.

It is an identity that continues to be recognised legally, meaning that she has no choice but
for her passport, Medicare card and driver's licence, amongst others, to carry her legal name as
listed on her second birth certificate. But, for her, this is not her identity: it is not her name, it is not
her parentage and it is not a recognition of her ancestry. To finally receive a means of identification
that carried her birth name was an enormously significant moment for her and one she is very proud
of.

Whilst I would never propose to fully understand the personal cost of adoption, I am grateful
to have been provided with such a personal insight. To this end, I was very pleased to see the
inclusion of discharge of adoption orders in this legislation. It is a positive step for my constituent,
and the many others who feel as strongly as she does, that the right to discharge the adoption order
be available to adoptees. The ability to return to their birth identity is a momentous step in their
personal journey.

I acknowledge the concerns that exist in regard to the court-ordered investigation into the
circumstances relating to an application for a discharge, and I am sympathetic to fears of the
potentially intrusive nature of such an investigation and a fear of being pathologised, but I am mindful
that access to extensive case management may provide crucial support for some adoptees in
carrying out this decision. The lack of detail surrounding the structure and requirements of a court ordered investigation has certainly heightened the fears of those opposing this provision.

Efforts to ensure a fair and transparent process would help to ease their concerns, and this
is something that could potentially be explored going forward, I hope. The ability to discharge an
adoption order is certainly an important step towards righting the many wrongs that transpired as a
result of the original legislation. Let's hope that the unintended consequences that resulted from the
Adoption Act 1988 serve as an important reminder for us all in our consideration of other legislation
before this house.