Implementation of the Victorian Government’s response
In March 2022, the Victorian Government formally responded to the Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria (the Inquiry).
Summary of the response
The Victorian Government supported 33 of the 56 recommendations made by the Legal and Social Issues Committee. The other 23 recommendations were subject to further consideration.
The recommendations cover the following themes:
- acknowledging and raising awareness about the impacts of forced adoption, and the experiences of people affected
- considering, designing, and modelling options for redress and remedy
- increasing accountability and improving services through clear information, reporting, products, record keeping, and service pathways
- reviewing and providing post-adoption services that provide effective support
- reviewing and updating practices, legislation, and policies related to adoption to ensure past practices never repeat, and
- encouraging organisations involved in past forced adoption practices to offer apologies and support to those affected.
Implementation progress update
In response to the Inquiry, the Victorian Government invested more than $4 million. This included funding to implement the Inquiry’s recommendations, and to design and establish Australia’s first redress scheme for mothers who were forcibly separated from their babies under historical forced adoption policies and practices.
A $138 million redress scheme for mothers was announced on 25 October 2023. The Scheme will open in February 2024.
The Government has also committed an additional $530,000 over two years from 2024-25 for an uplift in post-adoption services.
Integrated Birth Certificates for adoptees became available from Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM) in early October 2023. Eligible persons can apply for an Integrated Birth Certificate at bdm.vic.gov.au.
Original birth certificates that are no longer valid will not be stamped ‘cancelled’. A new template is in use that more sensitively conveys where an original birth certificate is no longer a valid legal document to prove identity.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety now publishes adoptions related data. This data is updated annually.
On 3 October 2023, all CEOs of public and private hospitals directly involved in historical forced adoptions received a guidance document recommending waiver of all fees for mothers and adoptees requesting access to their hospital records.
Direction for public hospitals to have a specific application for mothers and adoptees to request their medical records has been included in the Policy Guide: Policy and Funding Guidelines 2023-24. The Policy Guide sets out the obligations and standards for government-funded healthcare organisations. The Policy Guide also requires public hospitals (where no document is located) to make every effort to explain to information applicants why a hospital record cannot be located, including details of when and how records were destroyed, if possible. Full implementation is progressing.
Where a person is seeking information previously redacted or withheld under the Adoption Act 1984, they apply to the County Court under section 99 of the Act. The County Court currently waives this fee.
Mandatory counselling has been removed for information applicants. This recommendation was fully acquitted with changes to s87 of the Adoption Act 1984 made by the Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2022, passed in May 2022.
The Adoption Information Service has been centralised. On 1 October 2021, the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety ceased to authorise adoption agencies under the Adoption Act 1984. Adoption Services within the Department of Justice and Community Safety is the single adoption agency in Victoria, and is the only agency that can authorise the release of adoption information.
Eligible persons, including natural mothers, fathers; adoptees; and children of adoptees can apply for identifying adoption information.
The recommendation to reform statutory limitation periods is still under consideration. The Government is also considering the recommendation to establish a redress scheme for people who were forcibly adopted.
The Government will continue to engage with stakeholders to implement remaining recommendations.
This page contains a snapshot of implementation progress and will be updated quarterly with key announcements throughout the Forced Adoption Inquiry Implementation process. Next update will be provided in April 2024.
Forced Adoption Exceptional Circumstances Fund
The Forced Adoption Exceptional Circumstances Fund closed on Friday 23 June 2023. New applications are no longer being accepted.
Historical Forced Adoptions Redress Scheme
The Victorian Government has established the Historical Forced Adoptions Redress Scheme, acknowledging the impact of forced adoption practices and to provide support to the many mothers who continue to live with the serious, complex and ongoing effects of the experience of forced separation.
The scheme is open for applications from Victorian mothers who have gave birth to a baby they were forcibly separated from.
The redress scheme delivers individual support through access to a financial redress payment, counselling and psychological support, and apologies.
Visit the Historical Forced Adoptions Redress Scheme page for more information.
Make an enquiry
If you have any questions on the implementation of the Victorian Government’s response, please email the Forced Adoptions Inquiry Implementation team at firstname.lastname@example.org