In Australia, children under the age of 18 wishing to access stage two cross-hormonal treatment must first apply to the Family Court for formal approval. Although the Court has streamlined the process for these types of applications, they still involve considerable expense, anxiety and delay for families.
Significant lobbying has been undertaken in recent weeks by interested families who are seeking amendments to the Family Law Act to ensure that parents and the children themselves, in conjunction with medical professionals, can make these decisions without the need for judicial intervention.
Australia is the only country in the world that presently requires court authorisation for stage two cross-hormonal treatment as part of the court's "special medical procedures" applications. However, following the recent lobbying, coalition and labour Governments have indicated that they may consider removing this additional step for children.
Court authorisation has historically been necessary in cases where treatment proposed to be given to a child is for a non-therapeutic purpose, ie treatment that is not lifesaving, and where the effects of the treatment are irreversible. Proponents for reform have argued that treatment for gender dysphoria is most certainly lifesaving, pointing to the very high rates of self-harm, suicide and mental illness for transgender children. They have also argued that the judiciary is not best placed to make decisions for children that they have never met, and that the hospitals and medical professionals already have sufficient systems of checks and balances in place to determine whether or not to provide treatment.
If both sides of Parliament can agree on the amendments then the process of reform ought be relatively straightforward. There is no doubt that this issue will continue to be widely debated in the coming weeks.