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 Australian Government released a report into Commonwealth Contribution to Former Adoption and Practices.
  • October 2012 –  The Victorian Government publicly apologised to Victorians affected by past adoption practices.
  • December 2015 - The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) began a review of the Adoption Act.
  • September 2016 – Changes to the Adoption Act gave same-sex couples the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples.