Adoption of Children Legislation Amendment (Equality) Bill 2017 Introduced Into NT Parliament

Tuesday 28 November 2017 @ 11.28 a.m. | Legal Research

The Adoption of Children Legislation Amendment (Equality) Bill 2017 (the Bill) was introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 23 November 2017 by the Hon Dale Wakefield, Minister for Territory Families.

On 23 November 2017, the Bill was also referred to the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee (the Committee) for inquiry and report in accordance with cl (4)(c) of the Committee’s Terms of Reference. Submissions on this Bill are open until 24 January 2018 with a response from the Committee expected by 13 March 2018.

Role of the Committee

The Social Policy Scrutiny Committee’s role is to:

  • inquire into and report on any matter within its subject area referred to it by the Assembly, a Minister or on its own motion; and
  • examine any Bill referred to it by the Assembly and determine whether the Assembly should pass the Bill or amend the Bill and whether the Bill has sufficient regard to the rights and liberties of individuals and the institution of Parliament.

Currently, the Committee members comprise of Ms Ngaree Ah Kit MLA (Chair); Mrs Lia Finocchiaro MLA; Mrs Robyn Lambley MLA; Ms Sandra Nelson MLA and Mr Chansey Paech MLA.

Outline of the Bill

According to the Bill’s Explanatory Statement, its purpose is to amend the Adoption of Children Act (the Act) and Adoption of Children Regulations (the Regulations) to ensure these laws are consistent with Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation and to enable de facto couples, including same-sex couples, to apply to adopt children in the Northern Territory.

The Bill also removes biological sex and gender references from the Act and replaces them with gender neutral terms. The proposed historic amendments are hoping to give all Territorians the right to adopt and provide children with a loving and safe home environment.

Outcome of the Proposed Changes

It is envisaged that the amendments will remove discriminatory elements of existing law with the amendments promoting greater enjoyment of human rights and freedoms for people by allowing persons in de facto relationships, including same sex relationships to apply to adopt a child in the NT.

Currently, the Act only allows adults, who are a married man and woman, or in a traditional Aboriginal marriage, the right to legally adopt children.

Speaking to the media, Minister Wakefield said:

“All children need a loving and caring home environment  … All couples who genuinely want to open their hearts and home to adopt a child in need should be eligible to apply. We need to modernise our adoption laws, to reflect the diversity of Territory families today.”

Rainbow Territory spokesperson, Jane Black, said the current law was discriminatory and this important change needed to happen. Ms Black said:

“Only 43 per cent of Territorians who can get married are actually married, so this change is important.”

If passed, the amended Act is anticipated to come into effect in March 2018.

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Same-sex and de facto couples can now legally adopt children in NT –

Social Policy Scrutiny Committee

Adoption of Children Legislation Amendment (Equality) Bill – Committee Report

Adoption of Children Legislation Amendment (Equality) Bill 2017 (NT) - Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service

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