Adoption Queensland Style
The Sinister Side Of The Sunshine State.
Where It All Began
The Infant Life Protection Act 1905 to 1935. Part IV 17. (1) States that the occupier of any house
or place where an illegitimate child was born should report the birth of such child in writing to the district register or
assistant district registrar within three days of the birth.
The Infant Life Protection Act Part IV 17. (4) states if the occupier is the mother of the new born
infant, such notice may be given at any time within three weeks after the birth.
The principles of The Infant Life Protection Act were later incorporated into the 1965 Children's
Services Act which also required the reporting of the births or deaths of illegitimate children.
See Forms on Forms page
Notification of an illegitimate birth.
These notifications were used to ensure that no illegitimate birth or death went unnoticed by the
Registrar General and the Department of Children's Services.
The compulsory Reports of Investigation provided by the hospitals to the department were also used
to provide a description of the mother and father to match the characteristics of the prospective adopters.
These reports were made out by the hospital staff and sent to the department even before any consent
was taken from the mother. Although the name of the father was on the report it was not placed on the original birth certificate.
The Reports of Investigation were utilised to report all illegitimate births and deaths to The Department
of Children's Services up until the 1980s. According to Mr Nick Prins of the Department of Families, although the legislation
requiring the reports is still in place it is not functioning.
These reports of investigation were later used in the peak adoption years as a means of keeping tabs
on illegitimate births. They were also used to instigate the removal of newborns from their mothers under under the Infant
Life Protection Act through the guise of protecting the child. This act was later incorporated into the Children's Services
A typical report of investigation.
The intention of the Infant Life Protection Act was to ensure that children were not in danger or
mistreated. It was not intended to serve as a weapon against mothers to remove their children in more enlightened times. Nowhere
in the act does it stipulate that children were to be taken from their mothers and adopted.
In the peak years of adoption, mothers of these children were hunted down and treated as criminals
to the extent that police were obliged to search any house or premises at any hour of the day to ascertain whether their had
been an infringement of the act.
Adoptions in Qld fluctuated to high levels during the period following World War One, slowing down
at the onset of World War Two and then into the peak adoption years of the years of the 1950's through to the 1970's.
The demand for adoption of newborns was a viable option for the Department which could not or would
not recover maintenance from the fathers of illegitimate children.
It also saw adoption as a means to rid itself of it's financial obligations to pay state aid to unsupported
mothers and quell the demands for a child by infertile married couples.
The Infant Life Protection Act. Part IV 16 (1) called for all remedies against the fathers of an illegitimate
child leading to the recovery of:
(a) Any sum not exceeding the sum of twenty pounds for confinement expenses whether the child was
born alive or dead, reasonable medical and nursing expenses attendant on confinement of the mother and the cost of the mothers
board and lodging also the clothing necessary for the child for two months after it's birth.
16 (3) States: Proceedings may be taken against the father of an illegitimate child for the maintenance
or for confinement expenses either before or after the birth of a child.
16 (6) All complaints under part of this act may be made by or on behalf of the mother or child, or
by the Director or whom he may appoint for that purpose or by any person appointed under the regulations
Under the 1965 Children's Services Act the fathers were still required to pay maintenance for their
The Director of Children's Service Reports to Parliament.
The following extracts from the Directors reports to the Qld Parliament gives an insight into adoption
practices from 1960-1973. It can be safe to say that these extracts give an overall view of the departments attitude to adoption
over the peak adoption years from the 50s to the 70s.
1960 Directors Report to Parliament states that the Department of Children's Services was confronted
by instances of anxious people who felt that their applications to adopt should be satisfied immediately when they made up
their minds to adopt a child.
The report goes on to state that, "It has always been the aim of the Department to assist all applicants.
Most infants adopted were newly born babies and the department makes every endeavour to match a baby with the adoptive parents
in terms of colouring, features and degrees of intelligence."
The report also goes on to say that once the adoption order is issued the department does not take
up any follow-up action.
The report also goes on to thank the medical and legal professions in assisting in the smooth running
of this section of our activities.
1961 Directors Report to Parliament refers to the heavy demand for children for adoption so much so
that the average waiting period for a female is three years and two years for a male. The department also encourages the adoptive
parents to apply for another infant immediately on the receipt of the first child, thus ensuring the getting of another child
after the usual waiting period.
1962 Directors report to Parliament states as with the previous year that the demand to adopt children
continues up to the standard of previous years. It also notes that the department has a liaison with various hospitals particularly
the Women's and the Mater Mother's Hospital for testing the children to ensure their fitness for adoption
1963 Directors Report to Parliament, also states the demand for children to adopt has not diminished.
The report also states that it has liaisons with the Women and the Mater Mothers Hospitals.
1964 Directors Report to Parliament, notes the discussion with other states for uniform adoption legislation
since 1961. Agreement had also been obtained on principles to control adoption of children so that financial trading in babies
would not develop in Australia as in the case of overseas adoptions and the adoptive parents and the child would be protected.
The report also goes on to state that the Child Welfare Officers of the department regularly visit
the Maternity Hospitals in the Metropolitan and country centres. The report also goes on to express that although there were
more babies for adoption the waiting list still exists.
The Infant Life Protection section 1964 report also states that prospective adoptive parents expressed
wishes to take a child for a trial period. The department obliged them by registering their home as a nursing home to permit
them to do so.
1965 Report to Parliament refers to the uniform adoption legislation agreed upon by the States and
Territories. It also refers to a serious loophole for unsatisfactory adoptions procedures which will disappear.
It said waiting time for a new-born had been considerably reduced and the age of prospective adoptive
parents had been reduced from 25 to 21 years of age, and in view of the increased number of children for adoption a placement
of a third child of the male sex was possible.
1966 Directors Report to Parliament noted that the greatest number of adoptions occurred that year
and the department was in need of adoptive parents. The increased numbers of new-borns considerably deplete the waiting time
for approved applicants and in some categories of children a placement was made in a matter of days.
The report goes on to say that the number of persons is not keeping pace with the children for placement,
and it was difficult to stimulate applications because of the "deep human considerations". But persons wishing to adopt can
be assured that their application would be considered sympathetically and as quickly as possible.
Under the Infant Life Protection section the report mentions that a good number of illegitimate children
would be born into de-facto relationships. In addition to the problems of adoption, this higher instance also increased the
number of cases where help is sought from the department, should the mother decide to keep her child.
1969 Directors Report to Parliament notes an increase in the amount of family assistance payable to
a parent who is not in receipt of a Commonwealth Social Service benefit to make such an amount consistent with the increase
granted at that time by the Commonwealth to a class "A" widows pension. This increase applied from 13th October 1968.
1970 Directors report to Parliament notes the greatest number of adoption orders issued in any one
year, it also goes on to state that the waiting period in different categories has tended to increase dependent on the availability
The department also recognises the trauma of adoption on overseas children.
A survey into deferred adoptions was carried out by the Department of Social Medicine Qld. The main
conclusion was that there were approximately 14% of adoptions that year deferred, the reasons given were physical, mental
disability and racial backgrounds.
1971 Directors report to Parliament, comments on the large number of adoptions, this being the greatest
number in any one year. Waiting times fluctuated during the year. It states that the majority of babies being adopted were
to unmarried mothers.
1972 Directors Report to Parliament notes an increase in adoptions, so far the greatest number in
any one year, the majority of babies being born to unwed mothers. The Department also recognises the trauma and disruption
of adoption on overseas children.
1973 Directors Report to Parliament notes the diminishing number of children for adoption as in the
latter part of the year there had been a gradual build up of approved applicants. It also notes that the reason for the diminishing
numbers of infants was due to mothers exercising their rights to keep their babies. It goes on to say that the Department
is most careful in dealing with this aspect as the decision rests entirely with the mother.
There was also a survey conducted by two medical students into deferred adoptions to determine the
reasons for the deferments, the main reasons being congenital abnormalities, racial origins, physical abnormalities, medical
and psychiatric history of parents, social reasons, etc.
Adoption Statistics 1960 to 1973
The following statistics were obtained from the Directors Reports to Parliament and does not give
a true representation of actual adoption figures. It was well known to the Department that there were unofficial "illegal"
adoptions going on in various institutions. It is interesting to note that the number of refused applications rose when the
demand for newborns increased. The department could afford to be fussy regarding their requirements of successful applicants.
The difference in the numbers of illegitimate children adopted and adoption orders issued, were filled
by spouse adoptions and adoption of children by relatives.
It is apparent by the following example that the department was doing nothing more than filling adoptive
parents applications for children. A clear case of demand and then supply.
Year Applications Adoption orders Applications
received issued refused children
1960 965 865 9 710
1961 831 814 16 692
1962 966 872 6 754
1963 1,040 927 10 812
1964 1,194 1,084 8 952
1965 1,295 1,266 12 1,084
1966 1,401 1,398 3 1,233
1967 1,646 1,386 3 1,231
1969 1,687 1,448 2 1,283
1970 1,992 1,500 66 1,370
1971 1,938 1,562 57 1,418
1972 2,294 1,774 35 1,359
1973 2,068 1,678 48 1,128
Grading of Children into Categories
The Department in their quest to engineer families resorted to grading and categorising our children
on the basis of our family background and educational attainment (see example of categories). These categories were based
on the presumption that we had reached the pinnacle of our life's achievements. On reunion with our children many mothers
were shocked to learn that their children were adopted out to persons who were poorly educated, disabled, and not as financially
secure as we were lead to believe,
The tales the department worker told that the babies would go to doctors, teachers and lawyers were
a ploy to portray to the mother that social and financial status were more important to the child than it's own blood family.
Many mothers on reunion found that a large number of these so called stable families did in fact disintegrate and that the
child was eventually brought up in a single parent home.
The department failed to follow up on the success of the placement after the adoption order was approved
leaving unprotected babies at the mercy of many inappropriate and very disturbed adoptive parents. It was not unusual for
adopters to return the child to the department because it failed to meet their expectations by way of physical and mental
Occupations of Adopters
Skilled Unskilled Pensioners Farmers/Graziers
1960 230 348 164 23 100
1961 262 312 127 12 101
1962 234 323 220 13 82
1963 251 307 228 18 123
1964 308 348 292 21 115
1965 405 394 311 34 122
1966 440 450 341 18 149
1967 301 503 418 16 148
1969 260 520 499 22 147
1970 351 567 429 17 136
1971 603 468 344 12 135
1972 815 465 349 15 130