A timeline of recent significant events related to forced adoption in Victoria.
Western Australia became the first Australian government to apologise to women, their children and families affected by past forced adoption practices.
The Australian Senate acknowledged the Western Australian apology and noted that policies and practices that resulted in forced adoptions were widespread in Australia from the late 1940s to the 1980s.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee commenced an inquiry into the policies and practices resulting in forced adoption from the late 1940s to the 1980s.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report, Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices, was released. The Committee received more than 418 submissions from individuals and organisations and held 10 public hearings. The report summarises the evidence presented to the Committee and provides 20 recommendations.
On 25 October 2012, the Victorian Parliament formally apologised to ‘the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who were profoundly harmed by past adoption practices in Victoria’ and acknowledged that ‘many thousands of Victorian babies were taken from their mothers, without informed consent, and that this loss caused immense grief.’ The apology recognised that the practice of forced adoptions occurred from early last century into the early 1980s, and was particularly institutionalised between 1950 and 1975.
More information about the Victorian Apology and state-funded services in Victoria can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.
National Apology for Forced Adoptions
On the 21 March 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered a national apology on behalf of the Federal Government to all people affected by the policies and practices of forced adoption.
Watch the National Apology, with an introduction from the Without Consent exhibition. Note: the introduction shows people personally affected by forced adoption policies and practices talking about their experiences.
Changes to the Victorian Adoption Act 1984 were introduced to allow mothers and fathers, if named on the original birth certificate or in the agency adoption record, to receive identifying information about their adult adopted children without having to receive their consent. However, ‘contact statements’ were also introduced, allowing adopted persons to regulate the type of contact they had with their natural parent, ranging from no contact at all to contact through email, phone, letter or an intermediary. Breaching a contact statement was considered a criminal offence.
Victorian adoption legislation change
Changes to the Adoption Act 1984 were introduced into Parliament, removing the ‘contact statements’ provisions that restricted parents from contacting their adult adopted children, if the adopted person had lodged a statement specifying ‘no contact’.
By removing contact statements and penalties for non-compliance, adult adopted persons, parents and other parties to adoption have equal rights to express their wishes regarding contact with their family. This change does not affect a person’s right to register their wishes regarding contact with their natural family on the Adoption Information Register.
Following the National Apology in 2013, the National Archives of Australia Forced Adoptions developed a website and a travelling exhibition (called Without Consent) to increase awareness and understanding of forced adoption policies and practices and the effects of these practices and policies on mothers, fathers and adopted persons. The website contains historic information, personal experiences, photographs and documents, lists of research studies and resources.
The Attorney-General’s Department website has detailed information about the National Apology, including transcripts of parliamentary speeches and photos taken on the day of the Apology.