Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015
Written on the 13 November 2015
12 November 2015
Ms Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan)
I am very pleased to be able to rise this afternoon to speak on the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015.
As I have been sitting in the chamber listening to various contributions by members, it is evident that this is a very important issue to many members in the chamber, like it is a very important issue to many people outside this chamber. As Ms Patten has just highlighted, when you speak on issues that are very important to people or when you are making legislation, it is a privilege. A variety of views are brought to the debate, as they have been in our consideration of this piece of legislation today. It evokes some emotion for a number of people.
At the outset I would like to acknowledge all those people who have contacted me with a view either supporting the government's position or not supporting the government's position. Whilst I personally support the ability of same-sex couples to adopt, I am also supporting the coalition's position for the exemption of clause 17 that is, for the ability of religious bodies to be exempt in relation to clause 17. I will come to my point in relation to that further into my contribution.I have a strong belief that when we are reviewing legislation like this we are dealing with vulnerable people, in many instances children, and I look at this piece of legislation through that prism. It has been highlighted that families come in various shapes and sizes nowadays.
There is no format that means that a man and woman must be parents to a child. I think same-sex couples can provide a nurturing, caring, loving home, and that is what is so important. When you look at the statistics, when you hear of the thousands and thousands of children who are in out-of-home care or are homeless, I cannot see any reason why that should occur when there are people who want to provide a loving, caring, nurturing home for children.I have very strong views about that. I have seen in my former professional life, having worked at the women's hospital, many same-sex couples undergoing pregnancy. They, like heterosexual couples, experienced the same joy in having a baby and showed extreme emotion, just like any other couple, at bringing a new baby into the world. In many instances, as has been said, you cannot judge what a family environment will be like, and many heterosexual family environments are not the best places for children, as we know.
I heard last night that in 2014 there were 15 000 children in out-of-home care in Australia and only 203 adoptions took place. This is quite an imbalance and, as I said, those thousands of children could be better placed within loving relationships. I note that Australian Bureau of Statistics figures of 2011, which have been previously quoted, indicate that here in Victoria there was a reported total of 8722 same-sex couples living in Victoria and 2699 children and young people under the age of 25 living in same-sex couple households in Victoria. These children include natural children, stepchildren and foster children.As I said, a family can be a traditional heterosexual family, if I can call it that, same-sex couples and single parents. I think there is a variety of means, but if you can provide a loving, nurturing, safe environment for children, surely that is the best place for children to be placed and to be brought up.
To get to the point of a number of the organisations that actually spoke to members they certainly spoke to me, and I know they spoke to other coalition members as it stands, there are a number of adoption agencies in Victoria that are registered. They include Anglicare, Connections UnitingCare, child and family services and CatholicCare, and a number of those deal with stranger adoptions that is, those adoptions that are unknown to a natural parent. We understand there are a number of children in same-sex couple households, and they have legal recognition for one parent but do not have legal recognition for the other, who is known as a parent to them. This is an anomaly that I think this bill addresses.Coming to the issues around the stranger adoptions, from 1 July 2014 to 30 April 2015, based on figures from the adoption agencies, there were five stranger adoptions from Anglicare, five from Connections UnitingCare, one from child and family services and four from CatholicCare.
It has been spoken about the element of religious organisations having freedom of religion, if you like, or having their view known. CatholicCare certainly expressed their views to me personally. I met with Fr Joe Caddy, and I appreciate his point of view and CatholicCare's point of view in relation to this element around clause 17.It is my understanding that CatholicCare has been providing adoption services in Victoria since 1935 and has quite literally provided support to thousands of women and children throughout that time. As it is a relatively small number that CatholicCare deals with in terms of stranger adoptions, I still think the representatives of that organisation have a right to have their religious beliefs held to be paramount. I do believe we have a number of other agencies. I understand when members are saying that this is about equality, but when you have things like cultural plans within our Indigenous community that need to be adhered to and respected - and of course we do - and we look at other faiths that have various views, I think we need to understand that these various religious or faith-based organisations do have strong views, and in this particular instance if they do not agree with same-sex adoptions, then that is their right.
With the number of stranger adoptions that are undertaken throughout Victoria, which is not as many as in other places, same-sex couples have got various agencies that they might be able to access services from. I do not want to demean that in any way. I want to just try to express or put forward the point of view of religious organisations, which have a strong faith and believe that to be a part of how they operate. Whether you disagree with that or not, it is important to those particular religious-based organisation, and I think that needs to be respected.So all of those people, should this legislation be passed through the Parliament this evening, will have the ability to have that recognition in relation to those children that they have brought up either in their same-sex couple or foster relationship, have their legal rights understood and have that ability to be recognised legally in this state. This is a very positive move for all of those individuals who may be impacted by this legislation.
As I said at the outset, I strongly support the ability of same-sex couples to be able to adopt. I think it is the right thing for them to be able to do that. There are same-sex couples who have brought up children very effectively in the most loving environment and one in which any couple would want to bring up their children.
With those few words, I would like to conclude my remarks and again indicate the coalition's support of a free vote on the intent of this bill. I am pleased that we have been able to have a free vote on this. I know our party has a broad range of views. It is a very healthy aspect of our party that members are able to put their points of view through this debate. Colleagues of mine will not necessarily agree with what I have to say, and I think that is why we are in this place to be able to express those views. Again I say I support the intent of this bill. I support the ability for same-sex couples to adopt, and I equally support the coalition's position on clause 17.