Over­haul of adop­tion laws

Sunday Territorian - - FRONT PAGE - HAY­LEY SORENSEN

SAME-SEX and un­mar­ried cou­ples will soon be able to adopt kids in the Ter­ri­tory.

It can be re­vealed the La­bor Gov­ern­ment in­tends to give no­tice of the leg­is­la­tion change in the Novem­ber sit­tings of Par­lia­ment.

The NT is the only Aus­tra- lian ju­ris­dic­tion in which same-sex and un­mar­ried cou­ples are not al­lowed to adopt.

Un­der the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, cou­ples must be mar­ried for two years before be­ing con­sid­ered as adop­tive par­ents.

SAME-SEX and un­mar­ried cou­ples will soon be able to adopt kids in the Ter­ri­tory.

The NT News can re­veal the La­bor Gov­ern­ment will have bi­par­ti­san sup­port from the Op­po­si­tion CLP when it gives no­tice of the leg­is­la­tion change in the Novem­ber sit­tings of Par­lia­ment.

The NT is the only Aus­tralian ju­ris­dic­tion in which same-sex and un­mar­ried cou­ples are not al­lowed to adopt chil­dren. South Aus­tralia was the last state to pass adop­tion re­form in late 2016.

But the planned changes won’t al­low un­part­nered Ter­ri­to­ri­ans to adopt. A gov­ern­ment spokesman said that change would be made un­der later re­form.

Fam­i­lies Min­is­ter Dale Wake­field said the cur­rent adop­tion act dis­crim­i­nated against un­mar­ried and same­sex cou­ples. Un­der the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, cou­ples must be mar­ried for two years to be con­sid­ered as adop­tive par­ents.

Dar­win cou­ple Natalie McDow­ell and Josephine Wong have cared for their 15year-old foster daugh­ter since she was seven. While they con­sider them­selves a fam­ily equal to any other, they’re sub­ject to oner­ous re­port­ing con­di­tions on their move­ments.

“Even if we want to go to Litch­field, we have to ask (Ter­ri­tory Fam­i­lies). We have to tell them what car we’ll be in and who we’re go­ing with,” Ms McDow­ell said. Get­ting ap­proval for over­seas or in­ter­state trips can take up to a month. With­out full parental rights, Ms McDow­ell said the spec­tre of Ter­ri­tory Fam­i­lies was al­ways present in the cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship with their daugh­ter.

“If I wanted to change my daugh­ter’s school, I would need to ap­ply to do that — it wouldn’t be up to me, we would have to have a group con­sul­ta­tion,” she said.

Ms McDow­ell said the fam­ily is es­sen­tially chained to the NT, un­able to eas­ily move away should she or her part­ner re­ceive a job in­ter­state.

“(Presently) it feels like we’re not val­ued as a fam­ily unit as much as we should be. We do ev­ery­thing at the end of the day to pro­vide se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity for our daugh­ter, like any other fam­ily,” she said.

Jane Black from LGBTIQ ad­vo­cacy group Rain­bow Ter­ri­tory said drop­ping re­stric­tions on un­mar­ried cou­ples adopt­ing was also an im­por­tant re­form for gay and het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples..

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