Adoption and Forgotten Australians

Family history for adopted people, Forgotten Australians and child migrants

Adoption in Victoria

Legal adoption commenced in Victoria with the Adoption of Children Act 1928, which came into effect in 1929. Adoption before this time was unofficial and not many records were kept. One of the few records available is the De facto adoption register starting in 1906. Records from 1906-1920 have been digitised and can be viewed on the Public Record Office Victoria's website. 

You may also find custody information in other types of records, for example the Children's registers of State wards or the Infant Life Protection Act indexes can include information on early adoptions.

The 1984 amendment to the Adoption Act (effective 1985) gave adopted persons the right to access information about their adoption. If you were legally adopted (or the child of a legally adopted person), please follow the following steps to access information about your adoption.

1. Accessing adoption records

Contact the Adoption Information Service at the Department of Justice and Community Safety to apply for legal adoption records. Before receiving your records, you may be required to meet with a Duty Worker. For further information, please contact:

  • email: 
  • call (03) 8608 5700 (local call cost) and request a call back

The Adoption Information Service may provide records created by past adoption agencies and the courts, as well as copies of original birth certificates of adopted people and other documents. If the adoption was organised by a non-government agency, you may wish to also contact them for information. 

2. Searching and support services

After you have received the adoption information, you may wish to search for the location of your birth parents. For adoption support services (including searching assistance) please contact VANISH - Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self-Help

Other non Government agencies also offer services for adopted persons. Please see 'Non-Government agencies' box on this page for more information.

Donor conception in Victoria

The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) manages the Victorian donor registers. Information about access, including application forms can be found on the Donor Conception Register Services section of their website.

Useful publications

Adoption : myth and reality : the Adoption Information Service in Victoria
Produced by the Adoption Information Service, Dept. of Human Services (1999).

Private lives, public records: family history resources at Public Record Office Victoria
Please consult Chapter 2 - 'Establishing your family tree', page 25 Adoption Records (2004).

Searching in adoption and wardship : a guide
A do-it-yourself guide designed to assist people searching for family members from whom they have been separated by adoption (1999).

Non-Government agencies

Association of Relinquishing Mothers (ARMS):
Provides support to women who have lost a child or children to adoption.

Independent Regional Mothers
An advocacy group looking for justice in relation to the forcible removal of newborn babies from mothers in the 1950s-1970s.

International Social Service Australia
Provides social work services to families, children and single adults across international borders. Their intercountry services include family tracing and reunification, international family mediation, kinship care and other child welfare matters, and support for families experiencing international parental child abduction.

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.

UnitingCare Connections: Provides information to eligible people about adoptions made under the Victorian Adoption Act 1984. People can also request information about adoptions that were facilitated by the following organisations: Methodist Babies Home, Methodist Department of Child Care, Presbyterian Sisterhood, Presbyterian Babies Home (inc. Kildonan), Presbyterian Social Services, Methodist Social Services, Child Care Services of the Uniting Church and Copelen Street Family Services.

Oz Reunion: Provides a pay-per-listing forum for people searching for birth family.