Information for people wanting to find out about past adoptions, including reuniting with family members.
In the past, adoptions were shrouded in secrecy and information about the identities of those involved was not shared. Today, adoption practices are open and information is accessible from the day the adoption order is made and can be accessed by certain people at certain times.
Child and Youth Protection Services includes the Family Information Service that can help you access information about past adoptions and potentially connect with those you were separated from. The type of information you can access will depend on the current age of the adopted person and the contact wishes of those involved.
When can information be accessed?
Information about past adoptions can be accessed at any time, but information that identifies a person can only be accessed once the adopted person is 18 or older.
Who can access information?
The following people can apply to access information about a past adoption:
- the adopted person who is 18 or older
- the adopted person who is under the age of 18 with parental permission
- an adoptive parent
- a birth parent or relative of the adopted person
- a child or other descendant of the adopted person.
What information will be shared?
There are two types of information that can be shared:
- Identifying information: name, age, physical characteristics, general information, education, occupation and relevant medical history. This information can only be shared once the adopted person is 18 or older.
- Non-identifying information: can be similar to identifying information, such as general background and relevant medical history, but where the person is not identified. This information can be shared when the adopted person is under 18.
Original and amended birth certificates can be requested from the ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages after authorisation and identifying information has been provided from the Family Information Service. Requests must include the authorisation from the Family Information Service.
The view of adoption has changed over time. While adoptions today are open, there are generations of people who always believed their adoption would remain secret.
The Adoption Act 1993 provides for people involved in an adoption process prior to 2010 to have their privacy protected if they do not wish to be contacted by another party to their adoption. This is done through lodging an ‘objection to contact’ called a contact veto.
If a person requests information about a past adoption that includes a contact veto, the person can still be provided with information but first has to attend a counselling session and sign a declaration stating they will not attempt contact. If they do attempt contact, legal action can be taken.
In some cases, people may have left messages or expressed wishes for contact, regardless of when the adoption occurred, and registered these with the Family Information Service. For more information about this see Reunion Contact and Information Register.
Can I restrict access to my information?
Yes and no. Your information can be accessed by anyone associated with your particular adoption. However, if your adoption occurred prior to 2010 you can restrict people from making contact with you after they receive your information. If you do not want to be contacted by someone connected to your adoption, and the adoption occurred prior to 2010, you can register a contact veto.
Only if the ACT Supreme Court decides providing access to your information will put you at risk, will access to your information be restricted.
How do I request information?
To request access to information about past adoptions contact us on:
We will talk with you about your request and conduct checks on whether the information can be provided to you. There is no charge for requesting information; this service is free.
Reunion Contact and Information Register
The Reunion Contact and Information Register helps people who have been separated by an adoption to make contact with one another. Adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, and birth and adoptive relatives can place their name on the register and even leave a message. This can be done without applying for access to information. Adopted people under 18 can register if their adoptive parents agree.
Once you have registered, the Family Information Service will conduct a search to see if a match exists. If a match is found they will contact you and offer help to connect you with the other person. If the other person has left a message for you on the register, this will be given to you.
To be added to the register, contact us on:
There is no charge for adding your name to the register.
While legislation permits identifying information about an adoption to be accessed by certain people, it also ensures the privacy of certain people who do not want to be contacted once their information has been shared. This is called a contact veto and applies to adoptions prior to 2010.
A contact veto outlines your wishes not to be contacted. It can be applied to all people connected to your adoption or a selection. It can also be indefinite or for a specified time.
In making a contact veto you can leave a message outlining your reasons for not wanting to be contacted. This message will be provided when identifying information about you is requested.
Anyone who requests your information will be required to first attend a counselling session and sign a declaration in accordance with the Adoption Act 1993 stating they will not attempt contact with you. Only after these things have happened will identifying information about you be provided to them. If any person breaches your contact veto, court action can be taken.
For more information on contact vetoes, contact us on:
There is no charge for registering a contact veto.
Further support and information
If you would like to know more about the Family Information Service, accessing past adoption information or searching for people connected to a past adoption visit the Searching for adoption information and birth relatives.
Apology to people affected by past forced adoptions
On 21 March 2013, then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, delivered a national apology on behalf of the Australian Government to all people affected by past forced adoption or removal policies and practices. The ACT Government reiterated this apology in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
The apologies acknowledge the pain and injustice of these past practices and hope to contribute to reconciliation and healing.
For more information visit: