Child trafficking opponents criticise Federal Government’s decision to lift series of overseas adoption bans

By South East Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley, ABCJanuary 28, 2015, 12:30 pm

Opponents of child trafficking have criticised the Federal Government’s decision to lift a series of bans on foreign adoptions, saying Australians should stay out of overseas arrangements.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced new adoption arrangements with at least three countries and is reportedly in discussions to free up adoptions in other countries, including Thailand and Cambodia.

He said there were millions of children there who needed parents.

But child advocates disagreed with the sentiment.

Arun Dohle, head of the organisation Against Child Trafficking, argued inter-country adoption should always be the last resort.

“This is a result of huge pressure from the adoption lobby and it is clearly against the UN convention on the right of the child,” Mr Dohle said.

“There is no need for it, Australia should assist these countries in such a manner that they can take care of their own children.”

Mr Dohle said there were many documented cases of vulnerable children being sold to orphanages or kidnapped and then adopted.

It is a concern shared by James Sutherland of Friends International.

He pointed to research which found that 80 per cent of children in orphanages in Cambodia still had parents.

“I see it as being some way off really before there’ll be anywhere near a situation where inter-country adoption would be cut and dried,” Mr Sutherland said.

“It’s a very complex issue and it can’t really be addressed in countries like Cambodia with just [a] one-stop solution, it doesn’t work like that.”

However, not all child welfare advocates are opposed to inter-country adoptions.

Michael Brosowski, the head of the Vietnamese children’s foundation Blue Dragon, said with the right safeguards in place, it was a welcome move.

“The most important thing is making sure that children who are put up for adoption genuinely need to be adopted,” he said.

“That their families are unable to care for them, or they have no family to care for them and nobody’s profiting from their adoption.”

It is not clear when the inter-country adoption plan with Cambodia might go ahead.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said Australia continued to monitor Cambodia’s progress.