Ellie’s Search for Korean Family

Ellie Freeman, a Korean intercountry adoptee raised in Australia tells her own story of birth family reunion in Korea along with the voices of other Korean Australian adoptees, academics and activi…

Source: Ellie’s Search for Korean Family


“Trumpisms” in Australian political conversation

You only have to turn on the television to notice the merging of opinion, fact and news into ‘debates’ of equal value. I can’t claim this as an original thought. I first heard the comment on a podcast I was listening to. I can’t remember which one or the person who said it but I do remember he was well qualified to make the statement and how well the observation resonated with me.

panel 2i

The unwillingness to distinguish between opinion, fact and fantasy allows for “Trumpisms”, those I-can-say-anything statements that are rarely critically interrogated (on air at least) in Australian political conversation. Granted they may not always be as obviously outrageous as those made by Trump himself but nonetheless nonsense when unpacked. Today it seems anyone can say anything and it is treated as informed. Politicians make outrageous unsubstantiated and false claims and talk in false binaries. In my opinion, interviewers have a lot to answer for when they let these slide. How often are experts included on topics that they may have spent many years researching? When they are it is often just enough to make sure the “balance box” is ticked. Even worse is when the most outrageous commentary is given equal footing in the name of ‘balance’ (a concept now constructed to mean something entirely different) while other voices are condemned. Politicians don’t tend to pay attention to research unless it is the kind that supports their ideological position. These days we are lucky if cabinet members actually read the reports on the committees they lead. Sound and well executed research often throws up findings that counter ideological positions. Sure it can be uncomfortable but it should be encouraged not ignored.

Concern about the country’s future and the well-being of all people in our society calls for the interrogation of public commentary and the separation of fact and fantasy. When it comes to policy, a critical position should cause us to ask if claims can actually be substantiated, who are these people presented as ‘experts’, who funds them, does their organisation have an ideological position and value base, do we know what that value base is and how much credibility (in this particular policy area) should we attribute to them. Historical examples and simple observations of how things work elsewhere easily eliminate many claims before we even turn to research. We need to demand that opinion be called opinion and insist that research independently conducted be presented to support claims made. I for one would like to see a ‘talk show’ with a panel of researchers discussing a topic they know about and only then seek responses from politicians.  Would you watch it? I know I would. Perhaps then the quality of our ‘debates’ and policies would improve and the differences between opinion and knowledge would be much clearer.

A time for outrage

A guest post by Dr Patricia Fronek, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human Services and Social Work, Gold Coast Campus, Griffith University. Tricia is the creator and producer of Podsocs

It is indeed a time for outrage. The far right is exerting considerable political influence in most Western countries to the point where rhetoric and ideological approaches to welfare and society appear indistinguishable. Critical thinking seems to be absent in many school curricula: see for example creationism still taught in faith schools.

The average person has decreasing access to independent information in popular, monopolised media. “Balance” has been reinterpreted to ensure the right has a say no matter how bizarre allowing for homophobia, xenophobia and, let’s face it, just plain hate. Some of these doozies are that abortion causes breast cancer and educating children about difference and bullying will turn them gay: as reported, a few weeks ago, in an article from the Conversation Fear and loathing reigns in Safe Schools and same-sex marriage debates. By preying on fear, ignorance and prejudices, discourses are being shaped by distorted and extreme perspectives. How else has Donald Trump and others like him come so far?

Economic and social inequalities are rising alongside social problems and diminishing services. Neoliberalism marches towards privatisation and a globalised free market in everything but the movement of refugees, where nationalism prevails.  Economic prosperity is expected to cure everything.  Meanwhile we see the return of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ in the form of “strivers’ and ‘shrivers’ and ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’ while the most undeserving of all are refugees and asylum seekers and anyone who actually needs a safety net including those with disabilities and older people. Political conversations seem overly populated by false binaries: for example, the options offered to asylum seekers are either drown at sea or be imprisoned in concentration camp type conditions. These sources of outrage were the motivation for a recent article by Polly Chester and me called Moral Outrage: Social work in the Third Space (Fronek & Chester, 2016) published last week in Ethics and Social Welfare.

Outrage and despair are felt by social workers around the world as the numbers of those who are disadvantaged and oppressed grow, while at the same time the services they need are shaved, disappear altogether or like transformers morph into something else altogether.  In our article we examine a new form of social work protest: that of social workers in the Third Space – online and in social media – where social workers are refusing to be subsumed by neoliberal policies. They are finding new identities, practising resistance and attempting to exercise influence in three ways – across, outward and upward. Working across is about forming relationships and collaborative partnerships, upward is intended to influence politicians and policy makers and outward working presents an opportunity to engage the media and the general public. Refusing the unacceptable and seeking to be engaged in the Third Space requires social workers to be knowledgeable, skilled and acutely aware of the ethical dilemmas they might face and in that process bring the three Rs – risk, responsibility and reflection – to the fore.

It is a time for outrage. It is not a time for complacency and silence. As 93 year old Stéphane Hessel wrote “the worst attitude is indifference” (Hessel, 2010, p.11).

Read the full article here. 


Fronek, P., & Chester, P. (2016). Moral outrage: Social workers in the Third Space. Ethics and Social Welfare.  DOI: 10.1080/17496535.2016.1151908

Hessel. S. (2010). A time for outrage: Indignez-vous. New York: Twelve Hatchette Book Group.


Advertising children is step too far

Is Australia breaching the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by condoning theAdvertising children advertising of children? Barnardos Australia is advertising children for adoption on their webpage. Photographs, glossy and attractive are on a public website along with names and stories (models and pseudonyms are used) however some personal information is provided. Is it really ethical to advertise children as if they were stray puppies appealing to sentiment or to justify advertising as long as an adoption is achieved?

Some representations in the media about adoption are presenting ideologically and politically biased information and ill-formed attitudes about children in care while being intent on homogenizing the diverse and individual circumstances of families in need and their children. Terms like ‘forever families’ and “freeing children for adoption” need to be used with caution. Children know very well they have another family. Words are important. People in the adoption community have contacted me distressed about advertising, media stories and terminology used.

Research has shown that many adoption agencies particularly in the US are in breach of The Convention of the Rights of the Child – Articles 2 (protection from discrimination), 8 (protecting identity) and 16 (privacy) by advertising children, using photolistings, fantasy terminology and allowing prospective parents to select a child . The difference is Australia is party to the CRC and the US is not. There are many disastrous adoption practices in the US and in the UK. Australia should be smarter than this and venture into these areas with extreme caution.

No justification can alter the fact that advertising children as needing adoption is problematic at a time in their lives when they are not fully aware of the long term consequences and cannot give informed consent to publicity – even with models and pseudonyms. There are particular responsibilities to protect children when they are in the care of the state.  Blurring the public and private on the internet are significant problems for children and can cause harm. It is documented how adults often fail to pick up on the distress of children and assume they are fine. Outward compliance can be very misleading.

Children should not be ashamed of being adopted but neither should their lives be defined by their adoptive status or their pre-adoptive circumstances. Nothing disappears on the internet and geography offers no protection to privacy.  Regardless of how positive their adoptive family experiences are, many adoptees struggle with identity, belonging and difference. They do not need their private struggles to be played out in the public arena and to suffer the indignity of being labelled. By making the circumstances of vulnerable children public, children are placed at risk of being forever labelled, stigmatised and bullied alongside the negative implications for their sense of self-worth particularly if no one puts their hands up to adopt them as is often the case. Article 39 makes it very clear that children who have been subjected to neglect or abuse should receive special help to restore their self-esteem not to heighten their vulnerability and draw the world’s attention to their circumstances. Defining them by their backgrounds and adoptive status is more than potentially damaging in the long term.

It seems some Australian governments are running out of ideas. Instead we seem intent on importing the worst of policies from overseas when it comes to children. In the UK enforcing adoption as a child protection measure has meant permanent removal happens too quickly and without consent. Children wait in care indefinitely for a ‘forever family’ to adopt them. In many cases this happens in preference to working with parents and families to improve circumstances and to find appropriate care with other family members because adoption is considered ‘gold star’ at the expense of other options that may be more suitable. Rest assured professional work with families does create change and the circumstances of many families are temporary. They are not all in need of permanent removal . Any adoption-driven agenda (not to be confused with opposition to adoption) is not what we want in Australia.

Adoption and a child’s identity, history and psychosocial needs are a private concern and advertising is ethically dubious and could be viewed as a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child even with de-identification. Some people would argue the end justifies the means but perhaps like all else in adoption we also should ask adult adoptees and the families directly affected and whom we are failing.

Legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia won’t stop people going overseas

Denise Cuthbert, RMIT University and Patricia Fronek, Griffith University

A recent Conversation article that said our current laws prohibiting commercial surrogacy are not working was correct. Some states outlaw overseas commercial surrogacy, but people are working around the laws or simply ignoring them.

There’s no evidence, however, to say legalising commercial surrogacy here would stop people from going overseas where it’s probably cheaper and there may be less regulation.

Love isn’t all you need

Proponents of commercial surrogacy argue it doesn’t matter how a child is conceived as long as it is loved.

However, this view contradicts trends in public policy internationally and a large and growing body of research into the experiences of adoptees and donor-conceived people.

Birth circumstances, conception, secrecy and separation from family have life-long implications for identity, well-being, relationships and mental health. A truly child-centred approach cannot disregard this.

Relocating the problem

It is assumed children born of commercial surrogacy in Australia will have access to complete and accurate information, but there are no laws that compel parents to tell their children about their origins in the case of adoption or donor conception.

Overseas commercial arrangements can be expensive, especially in the United States, a first world country. Conditions in many countries are not regulated, lack transparency, are exploitative and do not require standards in record keeping – the release of information (if it exists) is arbitrary. Overseas surrogacy is financially and ethically risky for everybody. But legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia won’t fix this.

Making surrogacy affordable and competitive against cheap Asian options shifts the potential for exploitation to Australian surrogates rather than addressing it. The very low rates of altruistic surrogacy indicate that unless motivated by a deep personal connection between surrogate and commissioning parents, most Australian women consider the risks, inconvenience and potential emotional and health complications of surrogacy to be too much.

Educated, skilled and employed women are unlikely to subject themselves to the demands and risks of pregnancy to fulfil the aspirations of others. This leaves the likely Australian candidates for commercial arrangements as less educated women with fewer skills and employment prospects. While Australia is not a developing country, differences in wealth and power create a dynamic ripe for exploitation.

Properly calculating the real costs for surrogates while ensuring profit for private legal and medical practitioners will not make costs cheaper than Asia or the Americas.

Carrying a child to term is a nine-month, 24-hour-a-day undertaking. It brings discomfort, inconvenience and health risks, and precludes other activities.

Then, of course, there are costs before pregnancy and after birth. Not covering all costs, or costed at less than appropriate rates, will exploit the most vulnerable and powerless in our society. Clinics might turn to importing poor women from overseas as we see egg donors coming into the country now.

The current legislative prohibitions on commercial surrogacy are not working, but there is no evidence that commercialising surrogacy in Australia will solve overseas exploitation. Many commissioning parents in countries where commercial surrogacy exists still go overseas.

Commercialisation will not prevent inappropriate people from accessing children, as in the Baby Gammy case, because there is little focus on the well-being of the children in any legislation or in national and international discussions. The voices of “consumers” dominate these debates.

Legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia will not necessarily prevent the exploitation of women nor ensure the well-being of children under proposed changes to the laws. It will simply change the site at which the exploitation takes place.

The Conversation

Denise Cuthbert, Dean, School of Graduate Research, RMIT University and Patricia Fronek, Senior Lecturer, School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

My shrinking groceries

They think we don’t notice but we do – my groceries are shrinking. There is nothing wrong with manufacturers and retailers making a fair profit but the joke is on us. Every little bit of profit is being eked out at the consumer’s expense.  What am I talking about? My little whinge-fest is about dwindling products, rising prices and how everything you buy in a supermarket is just getting sweeter and sweeter.  Baked beans shouldn’t taste like cotton candy.

Every time I find a product that works it disappears off the shelf probably because it does work and people just don’t need to buy as much – after all supermarkets insist products turnover on the shelves. Glass cleaners once used to clean glass. Now they leave a smoky smear near impossible to remove so you have to use more! “Double toilet rolls” (once a normal roll) have become “long rolls” so we are paying more for less. I’m guessing even the size of each sheet isn’t what it used to be. Bottles and jars come out in new shapes so they hold less. We are told to use a capful but the caps are getting bigger. Every time a ‘new look’ is launched it comes with a new look price. Packaging is bigger, chocolate bars are smaller, and matches are so thin they break when struck. Next time you have a night out, check out the shape of your glass – it may hold less liquid than it once did – and

I would really, really like to buy fruit and vegetables that are younger and less travelled than me.

I could go through every product on the shelves but I won’t. There are serious implications of our shrinking groceries. The less well off who barely make ends meet are getting far less for their money and paying proportionately more tax on them. Affordable products are too often super sweet, nutritionally empty, and refined and reconstituted beyond recognition. Depending on where you live you may not have access to farm-sold, fresh products. Our health (at least the health of those in poverty) is suffering – obesity and diabetes the big culprits amongst a plethora of conditions. Is it legitimate marketing or deceptive?  Next time you are in the supermarket have a good look and you decide.