In this section of the timeline, you will find information about groups that fought for the recognition of forced adoption practices and advocated for changes to legislation that would improve adoption process and redress wrongs of the past. The following milestones have been written by members of these groups.
Since the late 1980s, there have been several inquiries into adoption in Australia.
These inquiries have been conducted in response to lobbying and advocacy by people directly affected by adoption, who have sought access to their information and to reform secrecy based adoption legislation and practices. Where formal parliamentary inquiries have not been undertaken, the states have conducted significant reviews of their legislation. Legislative reform requires considerable public consultation but does not constitute an inquiry. A final inquiry was undertaken by the Australian Senate between 2010 and 2012, followed by a federal apology on 21 March 2013.
In part prompted by the inquiries, numerous apologies have been issued by government and non-government organisations. Western Australia (WA) issued the first apology by a state government on 19 October 2010.
Please contact the project team if you are aware of other apologies for forced adoptions that do not appear on this timeline.
Commencing in 1896 in Western Australia, three 'phases' of legislation to control adoption practices have been enacted. The first phase of legislation, roughly between 1896 and the 1930s, sought to provide an alternative to life in institutions.
In the post-World War ll era, concerns emerged about how such legislation operated, especially in relation to cross border issues. Model legislation was proposed to introduce consistency between the states and territories. The second phase of legislation took place following state reviews that compared existing legislation with the model legislation, and led to new acts passed in the 1960s.
The third phase of legislation occurred from the late 1980s. It was primarily driven by advocacy from mothers who had lost children to adoption in the post-war era.
The story of forced adoptions is intertwined with many other social and political issues and events in Australia’s history. Some of these events created public debate, some became drivers for a rise in the number of adoptions in the post-war era, while others slowly worked to change attitudes. This timeline comprises a selection of such events and explains how and why they shaped the history of forced adoptions in Australia.