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Lived experiences of forced adoption

Content warning

This page contains information and images relating to historical forced adoption practices that may be confronting or distressing. 

Forced adoption has had – and continues to have – a wide range of effects on mothers, fathers, adopted persons, and others within the family. 

Through this page you can explore the different experiences through the links provided.

From 2015-2020, the National Archives of Australia hosted an exhibition called “Without Consent: Australia’s past adoption practices” which examined, through the contributions of people affected by Australia’s forced adoptions policies and practices, what happens when social expectations, morality and authority collide.

The exhibition featured a range of loaned material from mothers, adoptees and relatives of those involved, including photographs, documents, items and personal experiences to tell the story of the profound impact these practices had on those affected.

The exhibition also featured interviews with those affected, adoption support groups and community leaders to bring their stories to light and to educate the broader community about this important episode in Australia’s history.

The exhibition was opened by prime minister Julia Gillard on 30 April 2015.

Archival images

The images below are published with the permission of the National Archives of Australia.

Submissions to the Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoptions in Victoria

Forced adoption was a dark chapter in the history of Victoria as families were torn apart and children were taken from their biological parents. These traumatic experiences have left deep scars on the lives of those affected, and their stories deserve to be heard. 

This collection brings together personal accounts from individuals who have lived through the pain and trauma of forced adoption. Through their words, we can better understand the impact of these practices on the lives of real people, and the ongoing effects that continue to this day.

These stories offer a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of those who have survived forced adoption and serve as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and addressing the harm caused by these practices. 

See inquiry submissions