FULL adoptions from Taiwan, South Korea and Ethiopia will be recognised automatically in Australia, under changes that Tony Abbott will announce today.
Amendments to the Family Law (Bilateral Arrangements — Intercountry Adoption) Regulations will lift restrictions and make it easier for Australians to adopt from these countries.
In 2012-13, 40 per cent of intercountry adoptions were from Taiwan and South Korea.
The Ethiopia program, through which Australian couples have adopted more than 600 children, was closed in June 2012. The change will benefit those who have not finalised their Ethiopian adoption.
It comes after Mr Abbott teamed with adoption activist Deborra-Lee Furness and her husband Hugh Jackman to make it easier to adopt children locally and abroad within a year.
Mr Abbott will say today that while work is still under way to finalise the report of the interdepartmental committee on intercountry adoption, initial changes will be made to ensure no unnecessary delays for families who have adopted from countries where Australia has bilateral adoption agreements.
Currently, after a couple has completed the adoption process in the child’s home country, there can sometimes be lengthy court processes at the Australian end. A 12-month wait is typical.
With countries that have signed up to The Hague convention on intercountry adoption, the process to get an adoption order at the Australian end is automatic.
In countries where Australia has a bilateral adoption agreement but which are not formal signatories to The Hague convention, the process is much more complicated, and risks court delays to have these adoptions recognised in Australia.
Australia only facilitates intercountry adoptions if the principles and standards of the convention can be met, regardless of whether the other country has signed the convention.
The legal changes will bring the process for countries where there is an agreement into line with those that are signatories.
Last financial year 339 children were adopted in Australia, 129 from overseas and 210 locally, according to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.
There has been a 77 per cent decline in the number of adoptions over the past 25 years.
Domestic adoption rates have fallen 66 per cent since 1990-91 and in 2010-11 there were fewer than 200 finalised in Australia. At the same time more than 37,000 children were in out-of-home care.