Adoption and Forgotten Australians

Family history for adopted people, Forgotten Australians and child migrants

Forgotten Australians

'Forgotten Australians' is a term the Australian Senate has used to describe children who were brought up in orphanages, children's homes, institutions or foster care in Australia. It is generally used to describe those in care between the period 1920-1970 but can refer to earlier and later periods. Forgotten Australians may also identify themselves as "care leavers, homies, state wards or ex-residents¹ "

Approximately 500,000 children were placed in institutional care, many of whom experienced neglect and abuse. On November 16th 2009, the Australian Government formally apologised to Forgotten Australians and child migrants on behalf of the nation.

Accessing records

A child's care could have been arranged by the state, by a church or welfare organisation or organised privately.

If you were a state ward or the Government was involved in your care in other ways, a government agency should hold a record of this. If you were not under state care, you will need to contact the organisation that was responsible for your placement. Please consult the state specific sections of this page for more information about accessing records.

For further information about Forgotten Australians, accessing your records and support services we recommend visiting the Find & Connect Australia and CLAN : Care Leavers Australia Network websites.

(1. Forgotten Australians: Supporting survivors of childhood institutional care in Australia / Alliance for Forgotten Australian 2008)

Victoria - current records

To find records relating to your care, follow these steps.

State care/protection

1. Accessing your file
To access your state ward or child protection file (up until 1986), contact the Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND) service at the Department of Human Services. Direct your enquires to:

Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND)
Level 20, 570 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000
Telephone: (03) 8608 5700 or 1300 769 926
Email: findduty@dhs.vic.gov.au

For files dated 1987 and onwards, you will need to lodge a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the Freedom of information unit at the Department of Human Services.

2. Accessing organisation/institution records (orphanages, children's homes...etc)
If you were a state ward placed in a non government run home, orphanage or institution, additional files may also have been kept by the organisation responsible for your care. If you know the name of the organisation, try contacting them directly. A list of known organisations that managed children's institutions in Victoria (including location of records if known) is available to view on the Find & Connect website.

3. Advice, support and searching assistance
For advice, support and family searching services, contact Open Place - a Victorian support service for Forgotten Australians.

Non state care/protection

1. Accessing your file
If you were not under state care, you will need to contact the organisation that was responsible for your placement. A list of known organisations that managed children's institutions in Victoria (including location of records if known) is available to view on the Find & Connect website.

If you are unsure of the name of the organisation, contact Open Place for assistance.

2. Advice, support and searching assistance
For advice, support and family searching services, contact Open Place - a Victorian support service for Forgotten Australians.

Victoria - historical resources

Government records

Children's registers of State wards in the colony of Victoria, 1864-1899 [microform]
Includes old series (admissions) 1864-1899, new series and receiving house 1880-1889, receiving house vols. 10-17, 1889-1895, boys books - 1868-1888, estray series registers, girls books and associated registers. Use the below index to find the volume and page number the child is listed on. These records are available in the Library's Family History and Newspaper Room
UPDATE: The Public Record Office Victoria has digitised these records. To search these records on their website, go to Search within a Series, enter the VPRS number 4527, then search for a surname.

Index to children's registers c.1850-1893 [microform] / compiled by Jenny Carter and Marion Paul ; edited by John Hollis.
Available in the Library's Family History and Newspaper Room. This index is also available to search on Ancestry Library Edition, available onsite to Library users.

Infant life protection Act [microform] indexes / compiled by Helen D. Harris.
A series covering information found in police correspondence indexes and registers regarding the Infant Life Protection Act of 1890. 1. Nurses (1901-1908) 2. Illegitimate births (1901-1908) 3. Children and nurses (1901-1908) 4. Adoptions - Child, Parent, Locations (1901-1913) 5. Deaths (1901-1908) 6. Nurses, Miscellaneous (1901-1908).
Available in the Library's Family History and Newspaper Room. Some of this information has also been reproduced on Helen Harris' website.

Victorian Parliamentary Papers
The annual reports of the ‘child welfare’ Departments have been published in the Victorian Parliamentary Papers available in the La Trobe Reading Room at LT 328.94504A and LTOM 1. You can find a report by consulting the Indexes to Victorian Parliamentary Papers available in the La Trobe Reading Room Reference Collection. While names of children are rarely mentioned, these reports can still provide a fascinating insight into children’s institutions at the time. Information listed in the early reports includes reports by the individual homes and statistical information on age, sex, religion, parental situations and causes of committal. Some nineteenth century reports also include letters from children and parents. While specific names are deliberately excluded, these letters may provide you with clues as to the general quality of life.

Bendigo Family History Group - online Indexes
You can access the following child welfare records on their website
- Bendigo Benevolent Asylum Register Children in care 1861-1862
- Index to Bendigo Benevolent Asylum Industrial School

Non Government records

Consult the Find & Connect website to determine the location of records of Victorian orphanages, children's homes and institutions. 

The following resources are housed in the State Library. Some access restrictions apply.

Melbourne Orphan Asylum
Comprises case files, ca. 1858-1959; minute books, 1845-1851, 1858-1863, 1882-1892, 1899-1935, 1938-1945, and 1948-1954; annual reports, 1854/1855, 1858-1919, 1921/1922, 1931-1952, and 1954-1956; scrapbooks, 1923-1976; admissions book, ca. 1850-1986; journal and letter book, 1858-1861; official register of inmates, 1887-1975; reports on apprentices, 1913-1917; account book, ca. 1917-1955; wills and other legal documents; war medals; and printing blocks.
This collection is housed in the Library's Manuscripts collection. Written permission from Ozchild is needed to access records relating to individuals.

Victorian Children's Aid Society
Includes by-laws, annual reports, minutes; financial records; case histories, court committals, fostering and adoption records of children under the care of the Society; correspondence relating to children under the control of the Society and the administration of the Society; some published records of the Society, press cuttings and photographs.
This collection is housed in the Library's Manuscripts collection. Written permission from Ozchild is needed to access records relating to individuals.

Children's Protection Society
Records include: files relating to children (1921-1968); copy letter books; minute books; ledgers; cash books; press cuttings; printed material relating to the Children's Services Acts and related matters; photographs; statistical sheets (1961-1970); and letters and press cuttings concerning St Martin's and St John's Homes (1936-1939) and Newhaven Boys' Home (1934).
This collection is housed in the Library's Manuscript collection. Written permission from the Children's Protection Society is needed to access records relating to individuals.

Gordon Homes for Boys and Girls
Collection comprises: correspondence 1902-1904; letterbooks 1906-1936; minute books 1904-1947; boys' registers 1887-1937; children's registers 1900-1910; cash books and records of expenditure; visitors' book; records of application for work 1889-1902; and miscellaneous papers.
This collection is housed in the Library's Manuscript collection. Written permission from the MacKillop Heritage and Information Service is needed to access records relating to individuals.

William Forster Try Boys' Society
Includes records, press clippings, photographs and video cassettes. Comprises annual reports; letter books; minute books; ledgers; receipt books; bank books; rule books; roll and attendance books; members' subscription records; list of employers and lads employed; copies of the "Try Boys' Excelsior News" and the "Australian boys' paper"; society histories; programs and tickets; and correspondence and minutes of reports of various related institutions, e.g. City Newsboys' Try Society, Hawksburn Girls' Club, Melrose Boys' home. This collection is housed in the Library's Manuscripts collection. To access records from 1940 on, permission from the Board of Try Youth and Community Services is required.

St. Augustine's Orphanage, Geelong, Victoria 1857-1878 [microform]
Admissions and discharges. Available in the Library's Family History and Newspaper Room.

New South Wales

Department of Community Services
If you live in NSW you can apply for your wardship file at a Community Services Centre. If you don't live in NSW, you will need to complete the Care leaver application to access records form.

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

Wattle Place
Provide support services to people who grew up in orphanages, children’s homes, institutions and foster homes in NSW from the 1920s to the 1990s.

Aftercare Resource Centre (NSW)
Support service for people aged between 15-25 years who have been in Out-of-Home Care in NSW.

Salvation Army Special Search Service
P.O.Box A435 SYDNEY SOUTH NSW 1235
Telephone (02) 9211 6491
1300 667 366
Email: SpecialSearch@aue.salvationarmy.org

Origins (NSW)
Supports Forgotten Australians through the Origins Harp Healing and Recovery Project

CatholicCare
Assists former residents of Catholic Children's Homes in NSW to search for their personal records

Historical records:

Index to child care and protection (State Records NSW)
Includes the following indexes
- Index to Mittagong Farmhome for Boys, 1907-21
- Index to Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children, 1852-1915
- Index to orphan schools records 1817-1886 (records relating to Female Orphan School, Male Orphan School and the Protestant Orphan School).
- Index to industrial Schools records 1867-1942 (compiled from a number of different records series, covering several NSW industrial schools).

Sydney Benevolent Asylum index to admissions and discharges 1857-1900
Index compiled from historical records of the Benevolent Asylum held at the State Library of NSW.

NSW orphan school index 1817-1833 [microform] / Janet Reakes, compiler.
Indexes Archives Office of New South Wales reels 2776 and 2777, which include: Reel 2776, Applications for admission into orphan schools, 1825-1833, Application for children out of orphan schools 1825-29 ; Reel 2777, Applications for children out of orphan schools, 1830-33, Female Orphan School admission books 1817-32, Male Orphan School Admission books 1819-33. (See below record)

Application for admission into the orphan schools [microform] : letters received <1825-1833> ; Applications : children out of orphan schools, letters received, 1825-1833 / Clergy and School lands Corporation (Archives Office NSW Reels 2776 and 2777)
Reels 2776 and 2777 are located at GM 24 in the Library's Family History and Newspaper Room. These reels are also available to search and view electronically on Ancestry Library Edition, available onsite to Library users. Select 'New South Wales, Australia, Applications and Admissions to Orphan Schools, 1817-1833' from Ancestry's database list.


A decent set of girls- : the Irish famine orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot 1849-1850 / Richard Reid, Cheryl Mongan

Wages paid to orphans index, 1849-1851 [microform] / compiled by Aileen Trinder & Pat Stemp.
This index is also available on the
Pastkeys miscellaneous indexes [CDROM]
Available on all public workstations in the Library.

Index to children in the care of the State Children's Relief Department as of 05 April, 1883 / indexed and published by Susan Lark.

Queensland

Department of Communities
To access your ward file, contact the Information Access and Amendment Unit.

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

Lotus Place
A dedicated support service and resource centre for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants.

Missing Pieces - Information to assist former residents of children's institutions to access records
Provides information about accessing records held by church and community agencies which ran children's homes.

Historical records

Index to registrar of Townsville Orphanage 1878-1911
Includes Index to orphans and persons other than orphans named in Townsville Orphanage minutes 1917-1924 --"Carramar" roll of nursing register Townsville Orphanage 1923 to 1943.

Queensland State Archives indexes:

  • Toowoomba Girls Reformatory Admissions 1881-1903
  • Toowoomba Girls Reformatory Discharges 1882-1903
  • Westbrook Reformatory Admission Registers 1871-1906

South Australia

Relationships Australia (South Australia) - Post Care Support Services
A support service providing information (including assistance to access records), advocacy and referral for adults who were in State or out-of-home care as children.

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

SA Link-Up
Provides assistance to members of the indigenous community who were separated from their families due to the past policies and practices of the Australian Government

Historical records

Ledgers of children boarded out (State Records of South Australia)
From the right side menu select "Searching", then "keyword Search". Type "Ledgers of children boarded out". Click on ID number to bring up each index.

Alphabetical index to register of infants born in the Destitute Asylum. 1888-1930 2 volumes [microform] / State Records of South Australia

Reports by inspectress of licensed foster mothers and wetnurses [microform] : 1881-1891, 1898 -1899, 1901-1902, 1908 -1909, Volumes 1-8 / compiled by Graham J Savage.

Western Australia

Department for Child Protection's 'Family Information Records Bureau'
Administers government records about your care.

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

Redress
Support service for Western Australian care leavers.

Signposts
A guide for children and young people in care from the 1920's.

C'BERS Consultancy (WA)
Provides assistance to former residents and students of Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Nazareth childcare institutions.

Historical records

Swanleigh admission and discharge records 1868-1960 [microform] / compiled by Shirley Meek with assistance from Kay Frost and Ivy Beeson.

Australian Capital Territory

To obtain your child ward file (if you were in Government care), you will need to complete a Freedom of Information Application. Contact:
Office for Children, Youth and Family Support
Freedom of Information Officer
Organisational Governance
GPO Box 158
Canberra  ACT  2601
Telephone: 6205 0244
Email: CSD.FOI@act.gov.au

For assistance and support regarding this process, contact
ACT Adoptions and Permanent Care Unit (
Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services - Office for Children, Youth and Family Support)
Family Information Service
GPO Box 158, 11 Moore Street, Canberra, ACT, 2601
Telephone: (02) 62071335
Email: adoptions@act.gov.au

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

CLAN: Care Leavers Australia Network
CLAN is a support and advocacy group for Australians who were brought up in care: as state wards, foster children, orphanages, and other institutions. Contact for assistance in accessing your file.

Northern Territory

Department of Children and Families (NT)
The DCF Adoption Unit incorporates a Family Information Service. The service provides information and counselling to adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, and former state wards.

Find & Connect Australia
This website can help you locate and get access to your own personal records which may be kept by government departments or past providers of 'care'.

CLAN: Care Leavers Australia Network
CLAN is a support and advocacy group for Australians who were brought up in care: as state wards, foster children, orphanages, and other institutions. Contact for assistance in accessing your file.

Australian agencies and support groups

Alliance for Forgotten Australians
An alliance of existing groups and individuals supporting people who were raised in institutional or other out-of-home care in Australia in the 20th century.

CLAN: Care Leavers Australia Network
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) is a support and advocacy group for Australians who were brought up in 'care': as state wards, foster children, orphanages, and other institutions.

Child Migrants Trust
The Child Migrants Trust was founded in 1987 as an independent, specialised, comprehensive, professional service for former child migrants, their parents and relatives. The Trust works on behalf of former child migrants who seek information about their family, childhood and migration history or who want to be reunited with their mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters.

Victorian organisations

The following is a list of some of the major organisations that have been responsible for the care of children in Victoria.
For a more complete list please view the Find & Connect website.

Ozchild: Contact for records of St James Orphan Asylum and Visiting Society, Melbourne Orphanage, Melbourne Family Care Organisation, Family Action, the Victorian Children’s Aid Society, The National Children’s Bureau of Australia.

MacKillop Family Services: Assists former residents and clients of the Sisters of Mercy, the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of St. Joseph to access personal information now held by MacKillop Family Services. Also provides assistance with access to records held by government departments. Phone Heritage and Information Services on 9699-9177.

Uniting Church: Orana care leavers: Contact for records of Orana, (formerly Methodist Homes for Children and the Orana Peace Memorial Homes).

Anglicare: Formerly responsible for the Mission to St. James and St. John, St John's Homes for Boys and Girls and the Mission to the Streets and Lanes. Please contact Anglicare for assistance in accessing your records.

Child and Family Services Ballarat: Contact for records of Ballarat District Orphan Asylum 1865 -1909, Ballarat Orphanage 1909 - 1968, Ballarat Children’s Homes 1968-1984 and Ballarat Children’s Homes & Family Services 1984-1998. Also Offers a Past Residents Support Service.

Useful links and publications

SLV Pictures Collection

The Library's Picture Collection, holds many images of orphanages, institutions and childrens' homes for Victoria, for example the Oz Child collection of photographs.

To find an image, search for the name of the orphanage, children's home or institution that you were placed at in the Library's online catalogue. Choose the 'Pictures' tab to limit your results to images.

[Children grouped for photograph, in front of building, Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton, Vic], H2001.20/20