Adoption Law Reform Underway Thu 21 March 2013 Michelle O'Byrne Minister for Children Changes introduced into Parliament today by the Minister for Children, Michelle O’Byrne, will ensure more Tasmanian couples can consider adopting a child. Ms O’Byrne said the changes were designed to remove current discrimination in the Adoption Act 1988. “These changes will also increase the number of potential carers that can help our vulnerable children in need of a new home. “The Adoption Amendment Bill 2013 will ensure couples who have a significant relationship registered under the Relationships Act 2003 will be eligible to be assessed for their suitability to adopt a child who is not known to them,” Ms O’Byrne said. Under the Relationships Act 2003, it is possible for couples – either heterosexual or same sex – who are in a registered significant relationship to adopt a ‘known’ child – that is a child who is a relative or step-child. But it has not been possible for these couples to adopt a child not known to them - for example where children have been relinquished by their birth parents but are not known to their potential adoptive parents. Ms O’Byrne said that in its current form the Act discriminates against both heterosexual and same-sex couples in a registered significant relationship. “No person has an automatic right or entitlement to adopt a child. “If an individual or couple is seeking to adopt a child, they must meet stringent suitability criteria and have their capacity to care for a child thoroughly assessed. “The adoptive child’s best interests will be the paramount concern.” Ms O’Byrne said the capacity of the prospective parents to meet the child’s best interests and the relinquishing parents’ preferences are also important considerations. “Ultimately, the Court must be satisfied that the proposed arrangements serve the best interest of the child.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits discrimination in public administration. In Tasmania, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 provides that it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of, among other things, sexual orientation, marital status and/or relationship status. In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services consulted a range of organisations and individuals about the proposed changes to adoption laws. Ms O’Byrne said she wanted to thank all the individuals and organisations that participated in the consultations. At 27 February 2013, there were 329 registered significant relationships in Tasmania. 163 were couples of opposite sex, and 166 were same-sex couples.