Adoption reforms on the way in Northern Territory

Adoption reforms on the way in Northern Territory
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SAME-sex and unmarried couples will soon be able to adopt kids in the Territory.

The NT News can reveal the Labor Government will have bipartisan support from the Opposition CLP when it gives notice of the legislation change in the November sittings of Parliament.

The NT is the only Australian jurisdiction in which same-sex and unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt children. South Australia was the last state to pass adoption reform in late 2016.

But the planned changes won’t allow unpartnered Territorians to adopt.

A government spokesman said that change would be made under later reform.

Families Minister Dale Wakefield said the current adoption act discriminated against unmarried and same-sex couples.

Under the current legislation, couples must be married for two years to be considered as adoptive parents.

Darwin couple Natalie McDowell and Josephine Wong have cared for their 15-year-old foster daughter since she was seven.

While they consider themselves a family equal to any other, they’re subject to onerous reporting conditions on their movements.

“Even if we want to go to Litchfield, we have to ask (Territory Families). We have to tell them what car we’ll be in and who we’re going with,”

Ms McDowell said. Getting approval for overseas or interstate trips can take up to a month.

Without full parental rights, Ms McDowell said the spectre of Territory Families was always present in the couple’s relationship with their daughter.

“If I wanted to change my daughter’s school, I would need to apply to do that — it wouldn’t be up to me, we would have to have a group consultation,” she said.

Ms McDowell said the family is essentially chained to the NT, unable to easily move away should she or her partner receive a job interstate.

“(Presently) it feels like we’re not valued as a family unit as much as we should be. We do everything at the end of the day to provide security and stability for our daughter, like any other family,” she said.

Jane Black from LGBTIQ advocacy group Rainbow Territory said dropping restrictions on unmarried couples adopting was also an important reform for gay and heterosexual couples..

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