Australians could adopt Indian children again, but not everyone is happy about it

Lanai Scarr, News Corp Australia Network
August 12, 2018 5:30pm

ADOPTIONS from India could start again by Christmas with Minister for Families and Children David Gillespie giving the green light for Australians to once again open their homes to Indian children.

News Corp Australia can also reveal initial discussions have begun to allow Australians to adopt children from Kenya.

Minister Gillespie will this week write to his state and territory counterparts to advise them he has “decided to reactivate the India program on a small scale” and asking which jurisdictions would be in support of accepting larger numbers of Indian children.

He said South Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi had also engaged discussions with the Kenyan President to begin solidifying that pipeline.

Minister David Gillespie will write to state counterparts this week to say he wants to reactive the India program. Picture: Michael Masters/Getty Images
The move on India comes after an Australian delegation last year visited the nation and was satisfied the government had reformed their untoward adoption practices that led to a shut down of intercountry adoption with Australia in 2010.

“We’ve had very senior Commonwealth bureaucrats there and they are satisfied with the new measures India has put in place,” Dr Gillespie said.

“They’ve got great processes in place and it would be a wonderful Christmas present for a lot of Indian children to have this pipeline up and running again by then.”

There has been much controversy over the Indian system with allegations of children being sold into adoption or kidnapped and forced into orphanages.

Anti child trafficking advocates say the move to reopen the pipeline is wrong as children are still being victimised, and the Australian delegation didn’t even bother to meet with them during their visits.

Pune-based, Arun Dohle from Against Child Trafficking said there was still mass corruption within the Indian adoption system.

“People who work in the adoption agencies are also working in the child welfare agencies so there is a clear conflict of interest and corruption,” Mr Dohle said.

Michael Van-Wilgenburg was plucked from an Indian orphanage when he was seven by his adoptive parents Catherine and Hans. He arrived in Australia and didn’t know any English but has grown into a young man with huge promise. Picture: Ian Currie
“There is a mass demand for children but not enough children in the orphanages. If Australia reopens this pipeline it would be a very bad thing.”

Mr Dohe said Australian authorities didn’t meet with him or other anti-trafficking groups during their trip.

“They only really met with government officials and the reality is no government official is going to say to them that the system is not working well.”

The moves on intercountry adoption come as pressure mounts for more to be done to facilitate increased local adoptions and help the 48,000 Australian children living in out-of-home care achieve permanency.

There has been a 60 per cent decline in all forms of adoption in Australia in the past 25 years, with just 315 adoptions finalised in 2016-17.

Inter-country adoptions in 2016-17 on average took around three-years to process.

There were a total of 143 adoptions of children by their foster carers. Of those 131 were from NSW with many of the other states failing to make local adoption a priority.

Adoption advocacy group Adopt Change, and its founder — Actor Deb-Lee Furness, will today visit Canberra for the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Adoption group.

Deborra-lee Furness is the founder of advocacy group Adopt Change. Picture: Christian Gilles
Ms Furness said it was vital as a nation that we prioritised these vulnerable children.

“While we recognise there are no straightforward solutions to this complex issue, these children are all of our responsibility and we need to prioritise their safety and care,” she said.

Minister Gillespie said he would meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this parliamentary sitting to discuss what more can be done to encourage all states and territories to improve local adoption rates and if carrot and stick measures were needed.

“There is very much still a stigma attached to the word adoption which arises from the history of the stolen generation and the forgotten generation,” Dr Gillespie said.

Coalition frontbencher and former Minister responsible for adoption Zed Seselja said the time was now to consider stronger measures.

“Ultimately it’s a matter for the minister but I certainly think we should start looking at some carrots,” Senator Seselja said.

“It is time for the states and territories who are lagging behind on this issue to start matching their words with actions and maybe they need more of an incentive to do that.”