About the Forced Adoptions History Project

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On this page you will find information about the National Archives of Australia’s (the National Archives) Forced Adoptions History Project. This includes the Senate Inquiry recommendations, the project process to date, outcomes from consultation with stakeholders, future of the project, and an explanation of the language used.

Senate Inquiry recommendations

On 21 March 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered a national apology to those affected by former forced adoption policies and practices in Australia. The apology followed a national inquiry referred by the Senate to the Community Affairs References Committee in late 2010. The Committee’s report included 20 recommendations on how to respond to the findings. The delivery of the national apology was one recommendation; another was to promote understanding of the issues in the broader community. On the day of the apology, the government announced the National Archives would develop a website and an exhibition to:

  • increase awareness and understanding of the experiences of individuals affected by forced adoption practices
  • identify and share experiences of forced adoptions
  • provide information about how to access records.

Click here to read the Government's response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations.

Project process

In April 2013, the National Archives established a Forced Adoptions History Project team. The team organised paper and online forms for those affected by forced adoption practices to register their interest in following or contributing to the project. A Forced Adoptions History Project Facebook page was also established to raise awareness of the project.

The team worked steadily during 2013 to understand the issues surrounding forced adoptions. During this time, members of the team met with Professor Nahum Mushin, the Implementation Working Group and advocacy and support groups, and hosted stakeholder engagement workshops in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney. The workshops provided an opportunity for individuals to express their hopes and expectations for the website and to encourage shared ownership of the project. These contributions have guided the website development.

Workshop outcomes

The workshops allowed a dialogue between participants and the project team to inform the website design. Expectations for the website arising from the workshops included:

  • providing a clear outline of the history of adoption in Australia, including legislation, socio-economic climate, advocacy, and significant events that have affected adoptions
  • clearly explaining the impact of forced adoption practices on mothers, fathers, adopted people and their families
  • facilitating/empowering those affected by forced adoptions to contribute their personal experiences
  • creating an education resource for schools
  • providing a list of relevant resources and research
  • giving an overview of forced adoptions
  • providing contact details for support services in the event that site users become distressed.

The future of the project

The website will be expanded over time. Those who have been affected by forced adoptions may contribute their experiences and knowledge to the website by clicking on Experiences or alternatively, by contacting the project team.

An education program that aligns with the Australian Curriculum is in development. Updates will be published in the Education section located in Resources.

A national exhibition tour will be launched on 21 March 2015 at the National Archives in Canberra to mark the second anniversary of the apology. Regular updates on dates and venues will be available under Without Consent exhibition information and videos.


Adoption provokes strong feelings. Through the work of the Senate Inquiry and the apology, acceptable protocols for the use of key terms have been established:

  • ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are used to describe the parents. ‘Natural’ mother or father will only be used where absolutely necessary to avoid confusion.
  • ‘adoptive mother/father’ are used for people who adopted children
  • ‘adopted persons’ is the term used to describe adults who were placed for adoption as babies or children.

When quoting primary source material, the original language in a document is referenced within single quotation marks. This is standard practice in historical research, and is not intended to offend.


The Forced Adoptions History Project team would like to thank the following for providing support in the development of this website:

  • The individuals who have given their time and shared their experiences with us. Without you this website would not have eventuated
  • The many organisations who have participated in and provided feedback on this project. Your support has been invaluable
  • The Department of Social Services for their advice and support
  • Professor Nahum Mushin for his support and guidance
  • Members of the Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group for their contributions and feedback
  • Find and Connect
  • The Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Link Digital