The role of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in relation to adoption
The role of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) in relation to adoption is set out in the Adoption Act 1984. The Adoption Act is available at legislation.vic.gov.au
In accordance with the Adoption Act, BDM can:
- register adoptions;
- create birth certificates for adopted people; and
- provide information about adoptions to Approved Adoption Information Services and eligible people affected by adoption.
For more information please see Services provided to people affected by adoption.
Adopting a child
BDM has no authority to arrange adoptions. Adoption arrangements in Victoria can only be made by the Department of Health and Human Services or an approved adoption agency. If you are interested in finding out about how to adopt a child, go to dhs.vic.gov.au/adoption .
Access to original birth certificates of adopted people
To obtain the original birth certificate of a person who was adopted, you must apply through one of the Approved Adoption Information Services.
Exceptions: you may apply directly to BDM if you are:
- a natural parent of the adopted person, or
- an adopted person who can demonstrate knowledge of the contents of the birth certificate (For example, a person is adopted by a man who marries the adopted person’s natural mother after the person’s birth. The person grows up with the person’s natural mother and adoptive father. There is no father listed on the person’s original birth registration).
Access to legal birth certificates of adopted people
Adopted people have the same access to their legal birth certificates as non-adopted people.
Before 1987 the legal birth certificate of an adopted person was called a “Sixth Schedule”. There is less information on a Sixth Schedule birth certificate than there is on current birth certificates. People who have an original Sixth Schedule birth certificate may return it to BDM and apply in person or by mail for it to be replaced with a full birth certificate. There is no fee for this service.
From 1987-1993 the legal birth certificate of an adopted person was known as “Form 21”.
Since 1993 legal birth certificates for adopted people have looked the same as legal birth certificates for non-adopted people.
Access to adoption related records
BDM holds all of the Melbourne County Court adoption records from before 1988. BDM also holds some Petty Sessions records and Supreme Court records.
Since 1988 BDM has received and held the Memoranda of an Adoption Order. The Court Records have been kept by the Court granting the adoption.
To apply for a copy of an Adoption Order please contact an Approved Adoption Information Service:
Ph: 03 9396 7400.
Ph: 03 9689 3888.
Ph: 03 9521 5666.
Family Information Networks & Discovery (FIND)
Ph: 1800 130 225.
History of adoption in Victoria
Legal adoptions began in Victoria in 1929. Since then about 64,000 Victorians have been adopted.
The rate of adoptions peaked in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s and has since dramatically decreased. The decline is mostly due to increased social acceptance of single parent families and de facto relationships, as well as the increased access to contraception and legal abortion and the introduction of government financial support for single parent families.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s public policy was based on the idea that a ‘clean break’ from the natural mother was best for the adopted child. Adoptions during this period were ‘closed’: information about natural parents was not made available to people who had been adopted.
With the introduction of the Adoption Act 1984 Victoria led other Australian jurisdictions in giving adopted people aged 18 years or older the right to access their original birth certificates (after they had met counselling requirements). The Adoption Act has also introduced greater access to information for natural parents and the descendants and relatives of adopted people.
In recent years the impact of past adoption practices on affected people has achieved greater political recognition.
Significant events have included:
- February 2012 - the Commonwealth Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs release a report into “Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices ”
- October 2012 – then Victorian Premier Ted Ballieu offers a public apology to Victorians affected by previous adoption practices
- December 2015 - the Victorian Government commissions a review of the Adoption Act by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) to modernise it. The terms of reference for the review are at:http://lawreform.vic.gov.au/projects/adoption-act-terms-reference . The review is due to be released in February 2017
- September 2016 – amendments to the Adoption Act commence to allow same sex couples to access adoption in the same way as heterosexual couples .
Support services for Victorians affected by adoption
The free Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND), an approved adoption information service, can help people affected by adoption by:
- seeking copies of adoption records;
- helping locate and contact (where possible) family members separated by adoption; and
- providing referrals to support and counselling services.
Ph: 1800 130 225
The Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help (VANISH) has regular support groups and can refer people affected by adoption to counsellors. VANISH can also help people search once they have received their adoptions records.
Ph: 03 9396 7400.
Ph: 03 9689 3888.
Ph: 03 9521 5666