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Adoption Reform

Report on Consultation Outcomes

Report on Consultation Outcomes [HTML] [PDF 609KB]

The Community Services Directorate received over 40 submissions from individuals and organisations in response to the discussion paper. These highlighted several overarching themes, including a view that the dispensing with consent provisions should prioritise children’s best interests. Feedback from the submissions is outlined in the Report on Consultation Outcomes.

Adoption reform: dispensing with consent consultation

Discussion Paper [HTML] [PDF 675KB] [Word 434KB]


In 2017, the ACT Government committed to exploring provisions for dispensing with consent of the Adoption Act 1993 to better respond to out of home care circumstances (recommendation 3 of the Adoptions Taskforce Final Report).

The discussion paper aims to assist interested community members to contribute to the ACT Government’s exploration of provisions to dispense with consent in the domestic adoption process. It includes information about adoption, out of home care, the dispensing with consent process and issues that may be considered.

What does the ACT Government want to know?

The ACT Government would like to hear from children, young people and families, as well as professionals in two key areas:

  1. Experiences of dispensing with consent as part of the adoption process, including where the child is involved in child protection.
  2. Identifying changes to existing grounds for dispensing with consent to better reflect contemporary practice and respond to out of home care circumstances.

The discussion paper is focused on exploring legislative, policy and practice changes so that dispensing with consent decisions may better respond to children and young people in out of home care.

Matters that will not be actively considered are issues and processes relating to intercountry adoption, surrogacy, step-parent adoption and informal familial arrangements with no statutory or Court intervention.

Community submissions

The discussion paper was open for consultation from 19 December 2018 to 31 March 2019. An outcomes report from this stage of the consultation will be published in late 2019.

What is dispensing with consent?

Dispensing with consent is a legal mechanism to determine that the consent of a parent or guardian is not required to proceed with an adoption.

Dispensing with consent is a difficult, complex and sensitive process that is impacted by the circumstances of each child or young person, the circumstances of each parent or guardian, parental consent to the adoption, and the directions of the ACT Supreme Court (the Court).

How is dispensing with consent decided?

The mechanism to dispense with consent is found in subsection 35(1) of the Adoption Act 1993 (ACT). Subsection 35(1) provides five grounds, at least one of which must be satisfied to proceed with an adoption without the consent of a parent or guardian:

1: On application, the Court may, by order, dispense with the requirement for consent of a person to the adoption of a child or young person if the Court is satisfied that:-

(a) the person cannot, after reasonable inquiry, be identified or located; or
(b) the physical or mental condition of the person is such that he or she is not capable of considering properly the question whether consent should be given; or
(c) the person has abandoned or deserted, or has neglected or ill-treated, the child or young person; or
(d) the person has, for a period of not less than 1 year, failed, without reasonable excuse, to discharge the obligations of a parent or guardian, as the case may be, of the child or young person; or
(e) there are any other circumstances that justify the requirement for the consent being dispensed with.

What issues are being considered?

Several issues for consideration have already been identified, these include:

Further Information

Further information on previous consultation for domestic adoption.

Further information on adoption, including eligibility, processes and timeframes.