Past and present adoptions in Australia


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Content type
Media release

February 2012

The Institute’s Deputy Director (Research), Dr Daryl Higgins said, Past and present adoptions in Australia looked at changes to adoption rates over the last 40 years, which coincided with shifts in legislative, social and economic factors.

“Adoption rates peaked in the early 1970s, when traditional societal expectations and lack of financial supports put pressure on unwed mothers to place their child for adoption,” he said.

“In 1971-72, almost 10,000 children were adopted in Australia compared to 384 children in 2010-11 - more than half of whom were intercountry adoptions.”

Dr Higgins said the facts sheet explained current adoption practices in Australia, including the higher levels of accountability for obtaining consent from (birth) parents and assessments of prospective adopters.

“The facts sheet also provides background to the impacts of the closed adoption practices, which were in place until the 1990s,” he said.

“Closed adoption effectively hid the identities of the mother and child with the intention of helping the child to settle into the adoptive family.”

Dr Higgins said a national study was being conducted by AIFS to identify the current service and support needs of people affected by closed adoption practices.

“There are extremely distressing cases of mothers being forced to give up their baby, others who chose or felt compelled to offer their baby for adoption and cases of children who were not aware they were adopted,” he said.

“Clearly some experiences of adoption have been very negative and distressing and these feelings may have remained with a person all their life. However, there are some positive adoption experiences and we also want to hear from these people too.

“People currently involved in supporting those affected by past adoption practices also have an important contribution to make, and we are keen to hear from professionals who are currently providing such support.

To participate, or obtain further information, go to or call (03) 9214 7888 or 1800 352 275.

Anyone suffering anxiety or depression should call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]