Forced Adoption Practices

Forced Adoption Support Services

To contact a Forced Adoption Support Service in your state or territory, call 1800 21 03 13

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 Prime Minister in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra. The full transcript of the speech is available online.

The apology acknowledges the experiences of those affected by forced adoptions, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering. The Department of Social Services (DSS) is funding seven support service organisations across Australia for those affected by forced adoptions. 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 centrepiece of the first anniversary of the National Apology was the launch of the Forced Adoptions History Project website developed by the National Archives of Australia.

The website has been created to support those affected and to increase awareness and understanding of forced adoptions. People can:

  • learn the history of forced adoptions
  • share forced adoption experiences
  • learn about the effects of forced adoptions
  • find support services.

The National Forced Adoptions Apology parchment was unveiled at the launch, where it remains on display in the Members Hall of Parliament House.

The National Archives of Australia exhibition - Without Consent: Australia’s past adoption practices - opened in March 2015. The exhibition shares moving experiences of heartbreak and resilience by people impacted by Australia’s past adoption practices. More information about the exhibition, including tour dates and videos can be found on the Without Consent webpage.

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 was 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 the present day. The report concluded 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 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. For more information go to the Australian Psychological Society website.
    • increase capacity, under the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program to deliver psychological services to this target group in the immediate post Apology period. Please contact your Primary Health Network (PHN) for more information about accessing ATAPS and other mental health services.
  • $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.

Resources for support services

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has developed resource papers to support services for people affected by forced adoptions and to provide guidance to the new Forced Adoption Support Services.

Forced Adoption National Practice Principles: Guidelines and principles for specialist services for Australians affected by forced adoption and forced family separation practices of the past

Good practice principles in providing services to those affected by forced adoption and family separation

Establishing and building networks

Forced adoption support services scoping study and research

The Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted a scoping study to map how the support services for people affected by forced adoptions meet 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.

Forced Adoption Support Services Scoping Study report

Impacts of past adoption practices

The Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted research to improve the understanding of the impacts of forced 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

More Information

Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group

Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group Documents

Support services for people affected by forced adoption practices

Supporting people affected by forced adoption – fact sheet

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