• Concept

Adoption in New South Wales


Adoption means to replace a child’s birth parents with a new family. Before 1923 there was no system of legal adoption in New South Wales. Unofficial adoptions took place and were arranged by advertisements in the press, private arrangements, through churches and the State Children’s Relief Department.

Until 1923, adoptions in New South Wales were not regulated or properly recorded. However, a number of organisations arranged adoptions, including the government’s State Children’s Relief Board, who used the term ‘adoption’ to describe placing a state ward in a foster home, without paying fees for its care.

George Edward Ardill of the Sydney Rescue Work Society also arranged adoptions of children from his Homes. The Sisters of St Joseph arranged informal adoptions from their orphanages. According to Sister Kathleen Burford, couples adopting were obliged to sign a contract, agreeing to observe certain conditions. The orphanage staff visited the children in their new homes to ensure they were properly cared for, and if they found a breach of contract, would reclaim the child.

Unfortunately, the unofficial nature of adoption before 1923 means there are few records about it, or ways to trace name changes. Clues can be found in records of state wardship, registers of institutions, court records and Police Gazettes. Some non-government organisations, such as maternity and infant homes and churches, may hold information – for instance, a note on a register that a child was ‘adopted’.

The Child Welfare Act 1923 formalised adoption in New South Wales, although the adopted child did not gain the right to inherit from their adoptive family. The Adoption of Children Act 1965 gave the adopted child the same inheritance and other rights as a natural child, and allowed the creation of a new birth certificate.

Since 1990, under the NSW Adoption Information Act, adopted children have had the right to gain access to their original birth certificate. The Adoption Act 2000 further improved access.

From 1998 to 2000, there was a Legislative Council inquiry into Adoption Practices in NSW. The Committee considered adoption practices from 1950 to 1998. However, the primary emphasis of the Inquiry was on the practices occurring before the introduction of the Adoption Information Act 1990.

On Thursday 20 September 2012, in response to the Senate report of the inquiry into Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Practices, both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament apologised for forced adoption practices.

  • From

    c. 1923

  • To


Contact Find & Connect

Save page