Forced Adoption Practices
National apology for forced adoptions
The Australian Government delivered a formal apology to people affected by past forced adoption or removal policies and practices on 21 March 2013. The National Apology was delivered by the former-Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra. A video and transcript of the speech is available on the Parliament of Australia website.
The apology acknowledges the experiences of those affected by forced adoptions, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering. The National Apology was recommended in the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report, Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices.
The Australian Government acknowledged the first anniversary of the National Apology in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. The National Forced Adoptions Apology parchment was unveiled on the first anniversary, and it remains on display in the Members Hall of Parliament House.
Senate Inquiry into former forced adoption policies and practices
In February 2012, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee released a report on the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices.
The report found 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 received submissions from hundreds of individuals who have suffered from the effects of forced adoptions and found there were many different ways in which forced adoptions occurred. The accounts range from personal experiences of mothers drugged and shackled to beds, to social workers failing to advise mothers of the government payments available at the time to support mothers 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 estimates there were 140,000 to 150,000 total adoptions in the period between 1951 and 1975, and as many as 250,000 total adoptions from 1940 to 2012. The report concludes it is impossible to know the exact number of people affected by forced adoptions.
Australian Government response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations
The Government’s response to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry report was announced in March 2013 following the National Apology.
The Australian Government committed $11.5 million over four years to 30 June 2017 to assist those affected by forced adoptions.
- $5 million to improve access to specialist support services including counselling and record 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. Mental health professionals can claim Continued Professional Development points by completing the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) eight hour online course ‘Working with people affected by forced adoption’. The APS also offers a free one-hour overview ‘Understanding past forced adoption policies and practices’, and a two-hour course for general practitioners (GPs) with guidance on delivering effective care. For more information go to the APS website.
- increase capacity, under the former Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program to meet a possible ‘surge’ of demand for services by clients affected by past forced adoption practices in the immediate post Apology period and to give priority to those who identify as being affected by forced adoption. Please contact your Primary Health Network (PHN) for more information about accessing mental health services including psychological therapy services previously available under the former ATAPS program. Contact details for all PHNs can be found using the PHN map locator.
- $1.5 million for the National Archives of Australia website and exhibition to document the experiences of those affected by forced adoption and increase the awareness and understanding of these experiences in the community.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) is funding seven support service organisations across Australia for those affected by forced adoptions. Additional and ongoing funding of up to $5.244 million was granted through the 2020-21 October Budget to continue the Forced Adoption Support Services to June 2024.
Resources for support services
The Australian Institute of Family Studies has developed resources to support healthcare professionals and services providing care and support to people affected by forced adoptions and to provide guidance to the Forced Adoption Support Services.
- Forced Adoption National Practice Principles: Guidelines and principles for specialist services
- Good practice principles in providing services to those affected by forced adoption and family separation
- Forced Adoption Support Services: Establishing and building networks
- Providing care and support to individuals with a forced adoption experience
Additional resources and fact sheets are available, including:
- Services matrix - Forced Adoption Support Services – this provides a summary of services offered by each Forced Adoption Support Service.
- Supporting people affected by forced adoptions – this was developed so that anyone assisting people affected by forced adoption can have an understanding of the issues and an awareness of particular sensitivities.
- History and experiences of forced adoption – this was developed to increase awareness about Australia’s past forced adoption practices and to increase understanding of what forced adoption is.
Forced adoption support services scoping study and research
The Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted a scoping study (funded by the department) to map how the support services for people affected by forced adoptions met their needs and to identify gaps in the service system. The scoping study recommended service model options to strengthen the services to provide better support.
The Department of Social Services contracted Australian Healthcare Associates to conduct a Post Implementation Review of the Forced Adoption Support Services, to identify how the program is progressing, and how effectively services have been implemented.
Impacts of past adoption practices
- Impact of past adoption practices: Summary of key issues from Australian research 2010
- Past adoption experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices 2012
The Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted research to improve the understanding of the impacts of forced adoption practices.
- Support services for people affected by forced adoption practices
- Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group
- Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group Documents