On 5 July 2016, Associate Professor Dr Fiona Kelly, was interviewed on ABC Radio National’s PM. She spoke about her research on transgender people under the age of 18 having to seek court permission to start taking cross-sex hormones. In an interview with ABC’s Lateline, the Chief Justice of Australia’s Family Court Diana Bryant has now acknowledged that the system is failing transgender kids and she wants to change it urgently.
Medical treatment for children experiencing gender dysphoria, which is regulated by international consensus guidelines, occurs in two stages. Stage one comprises the administration of puberty-suppressant hormones or “blockers” which prevent the child from entering puberty. Stage one treatment commences when the child is around 11 or 12 years of age and parents are able to consent to its administration. Stage two treatment, which occurs when the child is approximately 16 years of age, involves the administration of cross-sex hormones, which cause the child to develop the pubertal characteristics of the sex with which they identify. Before stage two treatment can be recommended, a multidisciplinary team consisting of a paediatrician, two mental health professionals (one must be a psychiatrist), and a fertility expert, must agree that treatment is in the child’s best interests.
In 2013, the Full Court of the Family Court held in Re Jamie that parents cannot consent to stage two treatment for their child. Rather, they must apply to the Family Court for authorisation for the treatment to proceed. This costly and lengthy court process often causes a big financial burden on any parents involved, and can result in a delay in a child’s treatment, often jeopardising their mental health and even compromising the efficacy of their medical care.