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, 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 Adoption Information Act, adopted children have had the right to gain access to their original birth certificate. The Adoption Act 2000 further improved access.
09 July 2020
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE00959
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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