Note on Adoption of Aboriginal children and young people

It is acknowledged that adoption of Aboriginal children and young people through the statutory system remains a contested area of policy.

AbSec does not support the adoption of Aboriginal children through the existing processes of the statutory child protection system in NSW, and is of the firm belief that the safety, welfare and wellbeing of Aboriginal children can be achieved without severing their connection to family, community and culture.

This reflects the overwhelming view of Aboriginal individuals and community controlled organisations consulted, and the evidence regarding the impact of past practices on Aboriginal peoples, and Indigenous peoples internationally.

AbSec advocates for the provision of meaningful safeguards to ensure that all Aboriginal children and young people placed through the statutory system are safe and are supported to enjoy their rights in full, including their cultural and identity rights, with mechanisms for the periodic review of their placement and treatment.

Critically, Aboriginal communities themselves must be empowered to administer these systems, consistent with the findings and recommendations of Bringing Them Home Report. This is not consistent with the current provision of adoption orders.

In AbSec’s view, and the consensus view of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations consulted, orders that sever Aboriginal children from their family/kin, community and culture are not considered to be in the best interests of Aboriginal children and young people. Imposing adoption on Aboriginal communities through non-Aboriginal mechanisms is not consistent with the principle and statutory obligation regarding self-determination, and is in breach of the rights of Aboriginal peoples.

The NSW Government position is that open adoption is a permanency option for Aboriginal children within the legislated parameters provided. Legislated permanent placement principles (section 10A) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Care Act) provide for adoption as the last preference for Aboriginal children, when other preferences are assessed as ‘not practicable or in the best interests of the Aboriginal child’.

Where adoption is considered, the NSW Adoption Act 2000 makes specific provisions that address the needs of Aboriginal children, families and communities.  The Adoption Act (Division 2, section 36) states ‘An Aboriginal child is not to be placed for adoption unless the Secretary is satisfied that the making of the adoption order is clearly preferable in the best interests of the child to any other action that could be taken by law in relation to the care of the child’.

Prior to proceeding with the adoption of an Aboriginal Child, the child’s extended family must be consulted and their views and wishes considered. Placement for adoption must also be made in consultation with a local, community-based and relevant Aboriginal organisation, and adhere to the placement hierarchy of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.

DCJ acknowledges that such discussions must be sensitively conducted acknowledging the trauma that many Aboriginal families have suffered as a result of systemic injustices.

Last updated:

13 Feb 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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