An agreement between the Commonwealth and States and Territories to administer and improve intercountry adoption in Australia exists.
The Commonwealth-State Agreement for the Continued Operation of Australia's Intercountry Adoption Program implements a number of the key recommendations made by the House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Family and Human Services’ report Overseas Adoption in Australia. The agreement, according to Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, “sets out the new division of responsibilities between governments, helping to reduce the bureaucratic barriers to intercountry adoption. It also establishes two working groups, which will consider greater harmonisation of intercountry adoption laws, fees and assessment processes,”
The original agreement on intercountry adoption was signed in 1998 to facilitate Australia’s ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Hague Convention sets out a number of standards and procedures regulating intercountry adoption in order to safeguard the best interests of children needing adoption. The Attorney-General’s department, as the Australian Central Authority under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, is responsible for ensuring that Australia meets its obligations under the Convention. As adoption was not part of the Commonwealth Government’s jurisdiction, the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories gave the Commonwealth the authority to oversee the overseas adoption programs.
The Attorney-General’s department’s responsibilities include establishing and maintaining overseas adoption arrangements with other countries. The Commonwealth is not involved in the processing of individual adoption applications, this continues to be the responsibility of the States and Territories. The States and Territories also provide advice and assistance about the procedural aspects of the programs and provide post-placement support and supervision.
One key aspect of the new agreement involves the working on ways to improve the administration of and reducing barriers to intercountry adoption in Australia. At present, Australia only has formal adoption agreements with 10 countries and it is estimated that around 300-400 children are adopted from overseas per year. Mr McClelland has stated that “work will … be undertaken to consider what further improvements can be made to the administration of intercountry adoption in Australia”. He further states that the “Rudd Government is committed to reforming Australia’s overseas adoption system, while always ensuring the best interests of the child is put first.”
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