Social change and post-war unmarried mothers

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    Australian Curriculum links

    Year 10 Popular culture (1945 – present)

    • The nature of popular culture in Australia at the end of World War II, including music, film and sport (ACDSEH027)
    • Developments in popular culture in post-war Australia and their impact on society, including the introduction of television and rock ’n’ roll (ACDSEH121)
    • Continuity and change in beliefs and values that have influenced the Australian way of life (ACDSEH149)


    Australian society in the 20th century placed a high value on the traditional family. Unmarried women who became pregnant were stigmatised because they did not conform to accepted social boundaries.

    Between 1950 and 1975, approximately 250,000 adoptions were recorded in Australia, many of which were forced. In 1971, at the peak of the practice, 10,000 adoptions were recorded. In 2010 only 412 adoptions occurred in Australia. This significant decline in adoptions can be attributed to changes in social attitudes, reflected in policy changes such as financial support for single parents and paid maternity leave.

    In 2013, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered an apology on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to the people who had been affected by forced adoptions.


    Topic 1: Family values

    Topic 2: Unmarried mothers and forced adoptions

    Topic 3: Advocacy for change