Forced Adoption Practices

National apology to people affected by forced adoption practicesNational Apology for Forced Adoptions logo

On 21 March 2013, the Prime Minister apologised on behalf of the Australian Government to people affected by forced adoption or removal policies and practices. The national apology was delivered in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra. The full transcript of the speech is available online.

On 20 March 2014 the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged the first anniversary of the National Apology in the House of Representatives. The anniversary was also acknowledged in the Senate.

The centrepiece of the first anniversary was the launch of the Forced Adoptions History Project website developed by the National Archives of Australia. Minister Andrews and the Director-General of National Archives, Mr David Fricker, acknowledged the significance of the National Apology for Forced Adoption and the important role the website will play in raising awareness of forced adoption issues.

On the website people can:

  • Share forced adoption experiences
  • Learn about the effects of forced adoptions
  • Delve into the history of forced adoptions
  • Find contact details for support services

As part of the launch, Minister Andrews unveiled the framed National Forced Adoptions Apology parchment. The parchment will go on display in the Members Hall of Parliament House.

Commemorative materials

The following memorabilia is available upon request:

  • National Apology lapel pins
  • Prints of the National Apology parchment
  • National Apology DVD
  • Forced Adoptions History Project bookmarks

Please email your request to forcedadoptions@dss.gov.au.

Senate Inquiry into former forced adoption policies and practices

On 29 February 2012, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee released its report into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. The report includes twenty recommendations, several of which relate to a national apology that identifies and acknowledges the experiences of those affected by forced adoption practices.

The report found that the policies and practices that resulted in forced adoptions and the removal of children were widespread throughout Australia, particularly during the mid-twentieth century. The senate committee inquiry received submissions from hundreds of individuals who had suffered from the effects of forced adoptions and found that there were many different ways in which forced adoptions occurred. The accounts provided in the report range from experiences of mothers being drugged and physically shackled to beds, to social workers failing to advise mothers of government payments that may have been available to support them to keep their child.

Forced adoption practices impacted a large number of Australians and caused significant ongoing effects for many people, particularly mothers, fathers and adoptees. The report estimated that there were 140 000 to150 000 total adoptions in the period between 1951 and 1975, and potentially as many as 250 000 total adoptions in the period from 1940 to the present day. However, the report concluded that it is impossible to know the exact number of people affected by forced adoption practices.

Australian Government Response to the Senate Inquiry Recommendations

The Government’s response to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry Report into Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices was announced on 21 March 2013 following the National Apology.

The Australian Government has invested $11.5 million over the next four years to assist those affected by forced adoption practices.

  • $5 million to improve access to specialist support services, peer and professional counselling and supported records tracing for those affected by forced adoptions
  • $5 million to:
    • develop guidelines and training materials for mental health professionals to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and care of those affected by forced adoption practices
    • increase capacity under the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPs) program, for general practitioners to refer those affected by forced adoption practices with a mild to moderate mental disorder to mental health professionals who deliver focussed psychological strategies services
  • $1.5 million for a website and exhibition by the National Archives of Australia to record the experiences of those affected by forced adoption and increase awareness and understanding of these experiences in the community.

If a person wishes to access the ATAPS services, they should approach their GP.

For more information on the Forced Adoptions History Project, contact the National Archives of Australia.

The Government, through DSS, is determining what service types will best meet the ongoing needs of people affected by past forced adoption policies and practices. DSS is working with key stakeholders and state and territory governments to identify what will work to best link people to the services they need. While it will take time to improve access to specialist services and records tracing support, the end result will better achieve service integration and complement what is already available.

More Information

Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group

Support services

Fact sheet - Supporting people affected by forced adoption

Scoping study and research

For more information about the Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group, the Australian Government response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations or to register for our email distribution list, contact forcedadoptions@dss.gov.au.

Last updated: