In Victoria, legal adoptions began in 1929. About 64,000 Victorians have been adopted since then.

The rate of adoptions peaked in the late 1960s to early 1970s and has since dramatically decreased. The decline is due to:

  • Increased social acceptance of single parent families and de facto relationships
  • Increased access to contraception and legal abortion
  • The introduction of government financial support for single parent families.

'Closed' adoptions

During the 1950s and 1960s public policy assumed that a 'clean break' from the natural mother was best for the adopted child. During this period, adoptions were 'closed'. This meant people who had been adopted were unable to access information about their natural parents.

'Open' adoptions

Evidence began to emerge in the 1960s of the damage caused by closed adoptions and the need of adopted people and birth parents to know about and have contact with each other. The Adoption Act 1984 introduced changes to practice and introduced open adoption. Open adoption facilitates or allows information or contact to be shared between the adoptive and birth parents of an adopted child, before and/or after the placement of the child. The 1984 Adoption Act focuses on the needs of adopted children, and enshrines a child’s right to access information about their family of origin. Learn more about accessing adoption information.

Changes to birth certificates of adopted people

Date Format of legal birth certificate of an adopted person
Before 1987

"Sixth Schedule"

Sixth Schedules show less information than current birth certificates. If you have a Sixth Schedule certificate we can replace it with a full birth certificate. There is no fee for this service.

To get a free replacement:

From 1987-1993 "Form 21"
Since 1993 Same as legal birth certificates for non-adopted people

Historical events

Significant events have included:

  • February 2012 - The Australian Government released a report into Commonwealth contributions to former forced adoption policies and practices
  • October 2012 – The Victorian Government publicly apologised to Victorians affected by past adoption practices
  • December 2015 – The then Attorney-General asked the  Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) to review of the Adoption Act  The VLRC’s final report was tabled in Parliament on 7 June 2017.
  • September 2016 – Changes to the Adoption Act allowed for the adoption of children by same-sex couples and people who do not identify as a specific gender.