Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Australian Institute of Family Studies

6:51 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I want to note some of the work that has been done by the Australian Institute of Family Studies over the last couple of years, particularly around the first half of 2013, around the issues of adoption in Australia. The issues of adoption in Australia have been particularly sensitive and for a long time were not in the public eye. I see that Senator Siewert is not present; I was turning as normal to catch her eye when we talk on these things. We had the immense privilege in our Community Affairs Committee to work with the issues around forced adoption in Australia.

That leads onto another series of committee inquiries some of which you took part in, Mr Acting Deputy President Furner, around the issues of people who had been in institutions and had been subject to the foster care system in our country. I know the Australian Institute of Family Studies have done particularly good research work in that area, but I wanted to mention the experiences we had with the inquiry into particularly mothers in the period from around 1930 into the 1970s but most particularly in the 1960s and 1970s in our country. They shared their experiences with us with great strength and openness about having their children stolen. They used the term 'stolen' because that is what happened. They came to their parliament and told us their stories and had a need and a desire that the Australian public would know what happened to them, with the key aim that it would never happen again.

Through the work of that committee we made a number of recommendations about how we could do more work on understanding the whole very complex issues of adoption, which in our country is essentially a state based issue. One of the core issues that came out was the way issues of adoption, the rights and responsibilities, access to records, all those important things are now being conducted at the state level and—surprise, surprise—there is very little consistency. So again we had this lack of a national agreement about how things should be done. But through that the department, then FaHCSIA, now DSS, was looking at doing a wider study about the issues of adoption in our country, how people were impacted by it, their own experiences, future needs and really putting on record what is the face of adoption in Australia in the 21st century.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies did an extraordinary job in working through the various people who have ownership in this area and also ensuring that they felt they had the right and the ability to put forward their views, their concerns and often their conflicts, because what happens is that people react to their experiences in widely different ways. But the core issue was that we could have on record what is the current state of adoption in Australia looking at the history, looking at the present and looking into the future at what could happen. I particularly want to commend the work of Dr Dale Higgins, who continues to work in this field with the group that works in the area. The Australian Institute of Family Studies is a jewel in our nation. They provide research and support that give us the opportunity to learn more about our society, and to develop policy which is effective and responsive.

There are so many issues in this annual report and I will come back to them in the future, but I felt I needed this evening to put that on record for other people to learn about what kind of resources they have to access and also to thank them on behalf of all of us, and in particular those mothers and those people who were adopted who until this stage had felt that the governments of their nation had not responded effectively to their need. We have seen a range of apologies and we are coming to the anniversary of the apology in this place. But the ongoing research and professionalism and also the fact that we will have this resource into the future are a credit to our parliament for making it happen and a credit to the AIFS for ensuring that we had the resource on tap. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.