Law changed to make international adoption easier

International adoption - 129 children were adopted from overseas in the last financial year.
International adoption - 129 children were adopted from overseas in the last financial year. 

Parents adopting children from Taiwan, South Korea and Ethiopia will have the adoptions automatically recognised under Australian law, thanks to changes announced today.

Actress and tireless adoption campaigner Deborra-Lee Furness says she is "thrilled" about the amendments which will cut the red tape faced by families.

Furness said the announcement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott will encourage more Australian families to pursue overseas adoption.

Deborra-Lee Furness has campaigned tirelessly for changes to adoption law in Australia.
Deborra-Lee Furness has campaigned tirelessly for changes to adoption law in Australia. Photo: Janie Barrett

''This will change the trajectory of so many children's lives,'' Furness told the Nine Network.

"People were so intimidated by it that a lot of people didn’t even start. Now families that want to go through the process won’t be scared off by it and hopefully they’ll be supported."

The changes make it more straight-forward to adopt from countries with which Australia has a bilateral adoption agreement. Before this parents have had to wait as long as 12 months to have their adoptions recognised in Australia, even after they had completed the adoption process in a child's home country.

''We are going to cut that red tape out so it's going to be much, much easier for dozens of families every year to adopt from South Korea and Taiwan,'' Abbott told the Nine Network when announcing the changes. ''What could be better than giving an orphan child the love of parents?"

The move will also resolve adoption roadblocks for Australian families who signed up for the Ethiopian Program, which closed in June 2012, before families had finalised their adoptions. 

Furness, who founded National Adoption Awareness Week, is a globally recognised adoption advocate. Bureaucratic hurdles around Australia's adoption process have been a key focus of her advocacy, and she has told how red tape involved in Australia led her and superstar husband Hugh Jackman to adopt their children Oscar and Ava through the more straightforward United States system.


"Everyone realises this is a no-brainer,'' Furness said yesterday. "We have children who need families, families that desperately want to parent kids." 

According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures, 339 children were adopted in Australia in the last financial year, with 129 adopted from overseas and 210 adopted locally, while the Sydney Morning Herald reports that in 2012, 40 per cent of inter-country adoptions to Australia were from Taiwan and South Korea.  

There has been a 77 per cent decline in adoptions over the past 25 years.

Mr Abbott announced he would streamline adoption processes last December at an event with Furness and Jackman.

"There are millions of children in orphanages overseas who would love to have parents," Mr Abbott said at the time. "And thousands of those, maybe even tens of thousands of those could come to Australia. And we need to make it easier for that to happen."

Mr Abbott said that "for too long, adoption has been in the too-hard basket".

"For too long this has been a policy no-go zone," he said. "That must change ... And it will change within 12 months."

While the government has flagged further changes to come, today's announcement will be a welcome relief to parents who have started their adoption journey.