The government's recent decision to introduce a national system for intercountry adoption is great news for families who have all but given up on plans to adopt.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government (COAG) met last week and agreed to streamline the process by creating a new federal system to handle intercountry applications. COAG also announced a new intercounty adoption programme between Australia and South Africa.

Mark Parker, Partner in Lander & Rogers' Family and Relationship Law group said: "It has become near impossible to adopt a child from overseas until now. The government's decision to establish a centralised system is welcome news for many families hoping to adopt."

Currently in Australia, families can expect to wait between five and ten years for their intercountry adoption application to be processed.

The lengthy wait times are compounded by inconsistencies in eligibility at state level. Intercountry adoption applications are managed by state and territory governments, however, eligibility requirements differ widely in relation to partner relationship status, age, citizenship and health. Having one overarching system will reduce confusion, time and cost.

The government hopes to have the new federal system operating by early 2015.