SYDNEY, Australia, December 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and actress wife Deborra-Lee Furness have led a successful campaign to reduce the time and expense Australians must go through when they adopt children from overseas.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signed on, pledging to cap the time and cost charged by agencies involved in adoptions from abroad.
Furness is the founder of the National Adoption Awareness Week campaign, driving a worldwide push to reform adoption.
Overseas adoptions for Australia couples can currently take from five to 10 years at a cost of $30,000 (Australian).
Last year, there were only 333 finalized adoptions in Australia with just under half involving children from overseas. There were nearly 10,000 adoption in 1971.
According to Furness, the essential difference in today's announcement was a change of government, and having a “champion” or leader in government that wanted to pursue it. “I'm thrilled that we have it in Tony Abbott,” she said.
Prime Minister Abbott said, “For too long adoption has been in the 'too hard' basket, and for too long this has been a policy 'no go' zone, and that must change.”
A task force set up by Abbott will report in March 2014 on how to streamline the process, and the support of all states will be required.
Hugh Jackman and his wife have firsthand knowledge of the difficulties in adopting a child within Australia. “It was basically not possible for us to adopt here which was disappointing,” Jackman said.
His wife, Deborra-Lee, realized in her first Australian adoption meeting that “it just was not going to happen.” She found the process to be not cumbersome and combative.
Instead, they adopted a foreign child through the USA.
“We were lucky to have another option,” Jackman said. “But many others don't have that option.”
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After speaking to others who wished to adopt but found the process prohibitively difficult, Furness learned of the bureaucratic barriers currently in place in Australia. Each state has different legislation, policies, and criteria.
Furness also discovered that Australia's tainted adoption past with the “stolen generations” and forced adoptions (for babies of single mothers in the 1950s to 1970s) had led to an anti-adoption culture that was rife within the system.
What makes the couple most excited now is the opportunity for children’s lives to be “changed forever” through adoption in Australia.
Australian 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans is also in support of reducing the hurdles to adoption, having waited only two years in Switzerland to adopt an Ethiopian boy and feeling “lucky enough to be his father.” According to Evans, an easier process for Australians can only be a good thing.
Pro-life groups are also excited about the potential for change. According to Teresa Martin from Cherish Life, “Anything that streamlines the adoption process, in this instance overseas, and hopefully there will be a flow-on effect to adoptions of Aussie kids within Australia, is most welcome.” Martin added that it may also make adoption a realistic alternative option for couples considering IVF, which is also expensive.