On 28 September, the Adoption Legislation Amendment (Integrated Birth Certificates) Act 2020 (NSW) (‘the Act’) received assent as Act 22 of 2020. The purpose of the Act is to better align the current legislative framework for issuing birth certificates in NSW with modern open adoption practices, by introducing and providing access to, integrated birth certificates. The Act will commence on a day or days to be appointed by proclamation.
Prior to the Act, adopted persons were issued post-adoptive birth certificates (‘PBCs’). PBCs only provide information regarding the adopted person’s adoptive parents. Furthermore, a PBC cannot include any information that indicates a person has been adopted. Once a PBC has been issued, it supersedes the original birth certificate and becomes the current record of birth. The Act amends the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW) to allow the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to issue both PBCs and integrated birth certificates (‘IBCs’).
An IBC will include the following information:
On commencement of the Act, where an adoption order is issued by the Supreme Court of New South Wales and registered by the Registrar of Births, both certificates are to be issued to the adopted person. Both certificates are valid identity documents, providing the adopted person with the discretion in choosing which certificate they prefer to use for legal identification purposes. The Attorney-General emphasised in his Second Reading Speech that “Both the post-adoptive birth certificate and the IBC will clearly identify the adoptive parents as the legal parents of the adopted person and the person's adopted name as their legal name.”
The Act also amends the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW). One of the key amendments provides that if a person was adopted and the adoption was registered prior to the commencement of the Act, the person may apply to the Registrar for an IBC. The application process for an IBC will vary according to the legislative framework in place at the time of adoption. A person adopted after the 2010 open adoption reforms will be entitled to an IBC provided that a record of adoption has been registered and in cases where the person is under 18, the consent of the adoptive parents has been acquired. A person adopted prior to the 2010 reforms will receive an IBC provided an adoption information certificate (‘AIC’) can be obtained. An AIC is obtained by applying to the Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice and provides authority for an information source like the Births, Deaths and Marriages Register, to supply prescribed information, including adoption information about the adopted person, birth parents, birth siblings, adoptive parents and adoptive siblings.
Adoptive parents are entitled to be provided with IBCs in certain circumstances. The Act mirrors currently existing and equivalent statutory provisions for comparable birth records. Similar to an adopted person applying for an IBC, the application process for an adoptive parent to obtain an IBC is dependent on when the adoption was registered with respect to the statutory changes made in 2010. Notably, the Attorney-General firmly asserted in his Second Reading Speech that the access rights of siblings of an adopted person are not affected by the Act.
Furthermore, the Act establishes other closed categories of people entitled to an adopted person’s IBC where the adopted person or their birth parents have died. This is integrated to existing statutory mechanisms that provide access to adoption information by relatives and spouses after the death of an adopted person or birth parents. Access if granted conditional to whether the applicant had “a close personal relationship” with the deceased person.
The Act incorporates the IBC application process into the current statutory framework for providing advance notice. The Act enables adoptive parents, birth parents and adopted persons to provide advance notice to the Secretary to formally delay the release of identifying information by 3 months. Furthermore, the person will be notified if a person entitled to receive the IBC makes an application to obtain an IBC.
Furthermore, people who were adopted before the commencement of the Adoption Information Act 1990 (NSW) are able to lodge contact vetoes under the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW). A contact veto enables an adopted person who is at least 17 years and 6 months or a birth parent to prevent someone from contacting them. The veto is lifted if the applicant decides to lift it or alternatively, upon the applicant’s death. The Act amends the statutory framework by extending the scope of application for a contact veto to the supply of an IBC.
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Adoption Legislation Amendment (Integrated Birth Certificates) Act 2020 (NSW), Bill and supplementary materials available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service
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