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Australia’s intercountry adoption system

The international principles that govern intercountry adoption are set out in the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption, an international treaty to safeguard children in intercountry adoptions.

The convention aims to ensure that intercountry adoption only occurs when it is in the best interests of the child. It aims to protect children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, or ill-prepared adoptions abroad. The convention also focuses on the need for countries to work to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children. The convention entered into force in Australia in December 1998.

It is implemented in Australia by the Family Law Act 1975 and regulations. Links to these laws are available on the Intercountry adoption legislation page.

Australia has intercountry adoption with convention and non-convention countries. Australia only facilitates intercountry adoptions if the principles and standards of the convention can be met, regardless of whether the partner country has signed the convention.

Roles of the Australian, state and territory governments

Each country that signs the convention is required to have a central authority to implement its standards. This department is the Australian central authority for intercountry adoption under the convention. There are also central authorities in each state and territory.

The roles and responsibilities of the Australian Government and the states and territories are set out in the Commonwealth-State Agreement for the Continued Operation of Australia's Intercountry Adoption Programme.

Commonwealth responsibilities:

  • enable the performance of Australia's responsibilities under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and function as the Australian Central Authority
  • provide national policy leadership and coordination
  • manage and review existing overseas adoption programmes
  • establish any new overseas adoption programmes where appropriate.

State and territory responsibilities:

  • prepare and support prospective adoptive parents for intercountry adoptions
  • assess adoption applications
  • provide advice and assistance about procedural aspects of programmes
  • provide post-placement support and supervision
  • function as state and territory central authorities under the Hague Convention.

These responsibilities are also set out in the following diagram: