Statutes Amendment (Rights of Foster Parents and Guardians) Bill - 10 September 2015

Friday 05 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 16:35 :43 ): I today rise to support the member for Hammond in his endeavour to put forward the Statutes Amendments (Rights of Foster Parents and Guardians) Bill.

This is a cause that, for some time, has been close to the heart of the member for Hammond, and I commend him for bringing it forward. I understand that the mother of the child initially involved is a constituent of the member for Hammond.

I think that if we see an issue in our electorates respectively that can be amended and cured by legislation put forward it is incumbent upon us to put that legislation forward, and that is what the member for Hammond has done here in making amendments to not only the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 but also the Family and Community Services Act 1972 to amend the laws to recognise the rights of foster parents in the event of a child dying.

As the member for Hammond has mentioned in the past, under the acts that I have previously mentioned, I understand that the legal rights of a child who may be under the guardianship of a foster carer revert to the biological parents in the event that the child dies. So, in that circumstance, the carer under the current legislation has little or no rights to assist in funeral arrangements, rights to view or identify the deceased's body or to have their guardianship recognised on the child's actual death certificate.

As I made mention, this issue was raised by a constituent of the member for Hammond, a South Australian Mother of the Year 2014 award winner, Mrs Monica Perrett, whose nephew and foster son (whose name was Finn) died whilst under her care. Mrs Perrett, who is a fighter, decided to do something about this for other children who might also be in the same sort of scenario, and to her credit she established an online petition.

This petition called on the Premier and also the state government to change laws that stop legal rights to carers—if a foster child dies—after going through what must be an emotional and tragic loss of a child. I understand that the petition in question has raised over 40,000 signatures, so this is a large issue. Let us not kid ourselves, it is a significant issue—40,000 signatures is a lot.

The matter has certainly attracted a lot of media attention, and there have been a number of articles, not only in The Advertiser but other channels, and it has certainly been a regular topic of commentary and discussion on many talkback radio shows. I understand that the member for Hammond has met with Mrs Perrett several times, and I believe that she has actually met with one of the government ministers—

Mr Pederick: Several.

Mr TARZIA: —several government ministers to bring this to a head. What I will say is that there are many ways to bring this kind of change forward, and it is very rare that we see this government act in a statesman-like manner to support good legislation on its merit put through by the opposition.

I say to the government: remember these sorts of things, because there will be a time when we are in government and they are in opposition and they might raise some good ideas. I would ask that this government affords the opposition the respect that if there is a good suggestion put forward they judge it on merits, because we are in a meritocracy here. Therefore, good ideas should always be judged on their merits for the good people of South Australia, because that is what we are here to do. We are here to put good laws forward for the benefit of South Australians. It should not be a political thing.

This is not of a political nature. We are talking about a child who is deceased, we are talking about a mother who is grieving, we are talking about many other children who could be affected by the same thing. It is incumbent upon all of us to put forward good ideas, and if legislation can be enacted, it should be; so I would lobby the government of the day to support this legislation.

The member for Hammond has gone to some trouble in having this bill drafted, going through consultation, meeting with stakeholders. I understand that the government has not quite announced its plans to support this legislation yet, but it should. If it has a productive suggestion to amend it, as it sees fit, so be it, but all in all I hope that the government will support this legislation because it is a good idea. I commend the member for Hammond for putting it up. Do it for Mrs Perrett and her family, and also for the 40,000 people who have signed the petition and the families that it could affect in the future.

Debate adjourned on motion of Ms Digance.