Adoptee Rights & Adoption Discharges in Australia — Can We Finally Be Allowed Actual Equal Rights?

This piece was authored by Sharyn — Vice President of Adoptee Rights Australia, and is published here with her consent.

When my 18 year old mother was illegally coerced by representatives of the State of South Australia into relinquishing her newborn child, that relinquishment placed me under the Guardianship of the Minister until I myself was to turn 18.

Subsequent to the removal of my mother, the State adopted me out to an infertile couple who had been offered my mother’s child before I was born.

My identity was changed, my parentage and my ancestry was replaced, and a second birth certificate was issued with these new ‘facts’ on it. My true birth certificate was cancelled, and I have had no alternative but to base my legal identity on the false claims in this second “birth” certificate for my entire life.
There has been no option for me to consent to this, or have a choice in this as an adult.

Like most people, I identify as the person I was when I was born, with the ancestry I had when I was born. Like most people, I believe that being related to my ancestry is my right.

Yet, as an adopted adult, if I speak about these rights I am vilified, and deemed ‘ungrateful’ because the deal that I was not a party to (I was merely the object of the transaction) was that after the removal of my mother, and through her, the removal of my extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, what was also required from me was my birth certificate, and with it my ancestry — as a trade for any future care from strangers that I may receive.

Unlike any other type of care of a non-biologically related child, the quality of that care was never monitored or checked, as the State’s legal obligation supposedly ceased when the adoption order was made. But strangely — somehow — the State considers it has an interest in my ‘welfare’ now.

I am 51 years old, yet the State seems to still consider me to be under its Guardianship. It has separate laws for me that don’t apply to others, and it interferes in the way I and others like me live our lives in ways that would cause an outcry if a different group of people were subjected to this treatment.

After our legislation in SA was passed, this means I can apply for a discharge of the adoption,but only if I submit to an intrusive investigation and case management, for which it gives no legislated formal criteria, and no transparent process. This has nothing to do with my rights.

• The requirement to have case management and an investigation is an invasion of privacy which equates to pathologising something which is not abnormal. Most people identify as the people they were when they were born, and with the ancestry they had when they were born.

• Availability of a discharge from the adoption order to which they were bound for life and beyond death as minors without their consent should be available to adopted adults via a straightforward application process, and should be subject to the same formalised — and transparent — criteria for each applicant.

• Case management, and an investigation by a social worker are quite appropriate in the case of someone under 18 who might wish to apply for a discharge of adoption. For an adult, they are not only an insult, but another act of discrimination towards the adopted adult minority group.

So what possible legal reasons should prevent an adopted adult from discharging an adoption? If adopted people actually do have the same rights as everyone else in this society, then the answer is this: None.

Without a transparent process and criteria for discharge written into the legislation, the continuing discriminatory treatment of adopted adults that could never be justified under a court’s scrutiny are able to be continued without check.

This has nothing to do with having regard for the welfare of the adoptee. The issue that is being hidden behind the lack of transparency in process and criteria for discharge is that of the adopted person’s natural family’s (and possibly the adopter’s, or the case worker’s, or any interested party who may contact’s) attitude to the discharge.

But as our society has learned from the LGBT movement, an attitude or a comfort zone — no matter how strongly held — should never be allowed to trump a right.

In the ‘normal’ non-adopted world, parents lose the right to have any legal say in how their children live their lives when their children reach legal adulthood at 18 years of age. Besides in unusual cases where an order of guardianship is made, extended family and siblings never had any legal say at all.

Yet in the case of an adopted person it appears that the attitudes of extended families and/or the opinions of case workers or others are being actively assisted by the legislation to allow them to influence legal decisions about the adoptee well beyond 18, throughout their life, and through the adopted person’s old age — and even beyond death.

The only person/people who have a legal care and control in the life of a child are the parents, and only until 18. If a relinquishment was signed, this gave the rights from the parents to the State until 18, and if the child was adopted, this gave the rights from the State to the adopters who then had legal care and control until the child turned 18.

All of these legal controls ended at 18. Importantly, for the relinquished child in State care but not adopted, the State legal control also ended at 18 and the birth certificate was never changed.

Where are the laws devoted to regulating this person’s relationships with the family they did not grow up with? Where are the departments and public servants overseeing laws of who may contact who, or who may know of the existence and name of who in these cases?

Every single person who signed the relinquishment form could have been the parent of the children then adults who did not end up being adopted out by the State. There is no legal difference in what they signed.

The adoption occurred afterwards, and was a separate legal act. The relinquishment in all cases went until the relinquished child was 18 years old.

So any notion that the parents, the State, or the adopters retain any of the legal influence or control that they had prior to the adoptee ceasing to be a minor would not hold weight in a court if discharges were subject to a transparent process and specific, named, criteria.

The attitudes of others to the discharge would not (and should not) influence the legal decision about the right of an adopted person who identifies as the person they were when they were born, with the ancestry they had when they were born, to legally live and die as that person — and to reclaim the use of the birth certificate that was taken from them without their consent.

•Is it still presumed that adopted people are inherently dangerous, and need to be contained by special laws which do not apply to other members of the community — and that the laws the rest of this society lives under are not appropriate for this particular minority group?

•Is segregation and discrimination still something to be seen as normal in adoption?

•Are adopted adults still to be overseen by public servants in a department whose job it is to decide how a certain group of people should be able to live their lives?

Or can we finally be allowed actual equal rights?
– not just equal rights “adoption style”?

The choice of a No Fault, Fuss free. No fee, Discharge For All adult Adopted people in Australia!

Link to further reading:

Discharging an Adoption (Explained)

No Fault Discharge for Adult Adoptees by William Hammersley

I'm an adoptee & member of Adoptee Rights Australia. I'm passionate about adoptee equality, social justice & human rights:https://adopteerightsaustralia.org.au