Today I mark the five-year anniversary of the Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2010, a bill that allowed same-sex couples to adopt children in New South Wales.
Politics is always personal. Every decision made in this place—everything said in this place—affects someone in a deeply personal way. Too often, as a society, we see politics as being separate from people. Too rarely, as a society, do we reflect on how deeply laws can impact those in our community most in need of protection by the law.
In the five years since the bill was passed, many lives have been changed: for children of same-sex parents, who now have the certainty and sense of well-being that comes from having parents fully recognised by the law; for foster children with same-sex parents, who now have a stronger, more direct path to adoption; for same-sex couples wanting to expand their families and to raise children; and for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Australians who struggle with their sexual identity because they always wanted to have a family and were told the two were incompatible. This law changes lives and touches people in a profoundly personal way.
The bill was introduced following a Legislative Council inquiry conducted by the Law and Justice Committee, referred by the then Minister for Community Services, the Hon. Linda Burney. The inquiry examined important questions, including research on what family structures best support a child, legislation recognising LGBT couples and the importance of permanency in a young adoptee's life. Each of these questions was rigorously examined, and the final report handed down was not unanimous.
Similarly, debate on the bill that followed was spirited and highly contested, with each member granted a conscience vote. After weeks of negotiations and debate, the original bill passed with amendments, and the right to adopt was extended to same-sex couples, albeit with some qualifications.
Thanks must be extended to Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor and then member for Sydney, who introduced the eventual bill, and to Linda Burney, the member for Canterbury, and the Hon. Penny Sharpe, who steered the bill through the Parliament and worked tirelessly to deliver a just and decent outcome for LGBT families.
Delivering difficult reform like this requires leadership—in this case, we had bipartisan leadership. I acknowledge the roles that former Premier Kristina Keneally and former Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell played. I also note the important work of former Attorney General the Hon. John Hatzistergos.
I would contend that the bill did far more than extend the right to adopt to same-sex couples.
It has led to a greater understanding of and respect for LGBT families.
It helped us to understand that families come in different shapes and sizes, but that they are all built on the strongest of foundations, love.
It helped us to understand that children do best when they are treasured and nurtured, and that the gender identity or sexuality of a child's parents has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to parent.
We still have a long way to go—as last month's furore over the film Gayby Baby demonstrated—but this bill was a significant step in a long journey.
The next step—as is apparent to roughly 70 per cent of Australians—is to recognise same-sex marriage. With that reform in place, we can get on with addressing the other critical issues, such as protecting the rights of transgender folk and stemming the tragic tide of suicide amongst LGBT Australians.
But today we can reflect on how politics is personal.
Five years ago, a bill was passed that had a real impact on the lives of children and LGBT people in this State. But it is a law from which we all benefit.
In a real way, it recognised that all families have value: families with a mum and dad, families with same-sex parents, families with a single parent, and families without children.
It recognised that, no matter who we are or who we love, we all have a role to play in building a better society, one built on respect.
A constituent of mine mentioned to me recently that his two girls attend a local day-care centre with a boy who has two dads. The constituent said:
- They talk about him non-stop and tell stories about his two dads. That's the kind of world my girls will grow up in. That's just great!
Five years on, we are all the better for this bill.
[7.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank those who participated in this debate: the member for Coogee, the member for Port Stephens and the member for Sydney, who made a considered contribution in which he acknowledged his history as part of this debate and the broader issues.
I am pleased that in the gallery there were some young leaders who heard part of the debate because such reforms mean that they will grow up understanding that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that is perfectly normal. That is how it is. It is about how we look after our kids. It is the foundations of love and nurturing, and how we treasure our children, that matter.
Frankly, often when speaking to young leaders—indeed, the boys and girls I meet every day in Summer Hill; as a young parent I have many conversations with young parents and their kids—I realise that we are well behind the eight ball when it comes to their views on these matters. They are often surprised when I explain to them that there are still inequities in our society, and that there are still things that we need to reform to ensure that everyone is equal before the law.
Earlier I said that there are still things we need to do in this place when it comes to the rights of transgender people and ensuring the health and wellbeing of LGBTI members of our community, particularly young members.
We know that the suicide rate is still far too high; there is more we need to do. Most importantly, we will get there. It feels like a long, protracted journey at the moment but I know that soon we will have same-sex marriage and marriage equality in this country, and I look forward to that day.
I am especially honoured to mark the five-year anniversary of the Adoption Amendment (Same-sex Couples) Bill 2010. I am incredibly proud to be part of what I believe is the most progressive Parliament in this country, and I look forward to more reforms like this.