Find information on a past adoption

Past adoption practices

Adoption practice has changed in the past forty years.

During the 1950s and 1960s, public policy assumed that a 'clean break' from the natural mother was best for the adopted child. During this period, adoptions were 'closed'. People who had been adopted could not access information about their natural parents.

Additionally, many past adoptions did not meet the standards of that time. Babies were taken from their mothers without informed consent.

Forced adoption refers to past practices that forcibly separated mothers and their babies. Not all of these practices resulted in adoption.

These practices usually occurred in an institution, such as a hostel or hospital. Practices included:

  • sending mothers to maternity homes with harsh conditions
  • forcibly restraining mothers when they gave birth
  • immediately separating them from their newborn babies against their will
  • pressuring or coercing mothers into signing consent forms.

Past adoption practices were also experienced by the Stolen Generations. According to the Bringing Them Home report, approximately 17 percent of Aboriginal children known to have been forcibly removed from their families across Australia were adopted into new families. In the vast majority of cases, the adoptive family was non-Aboriginal.

On 25 October 2012, the Victorian Parliament apologised for past adoption practices.

On 10 March 2022, the Victorian Government tabled its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria

Adoption Services Victoria works with other organisations to support people affected by past adoption practices.

Support services


VANISH provides professional, confidential search and support services to people affected by adoption. Their staff often have a personal experience of separation and adoption. They can offer understanding and support with empathy and respect, to adopted people, mothers, fathers, and other relatives.

Relationships Australia

The Forced Adoption Support Service provides a range of services that support mothers, fathers, adopted persons and other family members affected by forced adoption practices. It also provides funding for projects that support people affected by forced adoption.

Link-Up Victoria and Koorie Heritage Trust support members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants to reconnect with family, culture and community.

Birth certificates

When an Adoption Order is made, a new birth certificate is issued. This is the post adoption birth certificate. It shows the adoptive parents as the parents of the child. It becomes the child’s legal birth certificate.

Adopted people have the same access to their legal birth certificates as non-adopted people. If you were adopted in Victoria, you can apply for your legal, post-adoption birth certificate through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria

Adopted people and natural parents can also apply for the child’s original birth certificate. Learn more about about applying for an original birth certificate.

Adoption information

Many people affected by adoption find it beneficial to seek the records that were created at the time of the adoption. Adoption information may be sought from Adoption Services. Learn more about applying for adoption information.

Searching for natural family

Sometimes people affected by adoption seek the original birth certificate and adoption records. These documents may help them locate family from whom they have been separated by the adoption.

Learn more about searching for family.

Discharge of adoption

A person may apply to the County Court of Victoria to undo the legal effect of an adoption order. This is known as ‘discharge of adoption'.

If the Court makes an order to discharge an adoption:

  • the adoption ceases to exist
  • the person is no longer an adopted person or legally connected to the family that adopted them.

They become legally reconnected to their birth family. Learn more about discharge of adoption.

Parliamentary Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria

On 10 March 2022, the Victorian Government tabled its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria.

The response can be viewed on the Parliament of Victoria website.

You can also view the Inquiry’s report, tabled in Parliament on 8 September 2021.