Concealment by the State of Past Adoption Fraud Alive and well in Queensland
Internal Working Document of the Queensland Department of Families given to Lily
Arthur by a Departmental Worker witnessed by 2 other people. 22nd February 2002.
This document, circa 2001, was in response to the Final Report “Releasing the Past” handed down by the
NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues - Adoption Inquiry 1950-1998 in December 2000. It shows that the State was well aware
of past adoption fraud and continues to conceal the fraud and the known damage of it’s past unlawful practices
1. Overview of significant issues identified in Releasing the Past
Releasing the Past (the report) documents past adoption service delivery systems, individuals'
experiences of past adoption service delivery systems, the legal and ethical standards that applied during the period under
consideration and the short and long-term effects of adoption and the support needs of people affected by adoption.
The report acknowledges that evidence provided by witnesses, the majority of whom were critical of past practice, may
not reflect the views of relinquishing parents who did not seek to give testimony. It also recognises that there are many
people who relinquished a child who feel that they made the right decision and did seek to participate in the Inquiry.
The Committee received submissions and heard evidence from a small number of women affected by past adoption seeking
financial compensation. The Committee reports that reparations for past practices should include material and non material
measures including access to appropriate counselling, free access to records, acknowledgment and apology and the public disclosure
of past practices. It also reports that it would be more appropriate to provide funding to increase access to counselling
and research that provides ongoing support to people affected by adoption than to provide it to individuals.
1.1 Context for considering adoption practice in past decades
The report provides a context for understanding adoption practice in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by examining the social
values and attitudes toward women, the mothering of children and the family unit that generally existed in those decades.
It also identifies how attitudes toward unmarried mothers changed in the 1970s and the resulting changes, which occurred in
adoption legislation, policy and practice from the mid-1970s to the present.
The report provides detailed descriptions of the adoption experiences of all parties to adoption and quotes from witness
statements, which identify events and incidents characteristic of the adoption experience in past decades.
1.2 Effects of past adoption
The paucity of post adoption services and the general lack of knowledge about the short and long-term effect of adoption
on birth parents' future well-being in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s are identified in the report.
The report concludes that many parents, mostly mothers, who relinquished a child for adoption, particularly in the
1950s, 1960s and 1970s, have been disadvantaged and suffered in the long-term.
The report acknowledges that many mothers who relinquished their children
for adoption were denied their rights and did not uncaringly give away their children. These rights included their right to
see their child after the child's birth, to name their child, to receive information about options which may have enabled
them to parent their child or to be informed that they could revoke their consent within a specified period of time.
The Committee found that there was a critical need to identify measures and provide increased funding to assist people
affected by past adoption practice and to document, research and publish information about the experiences of birth parents
and the experiences of people separated by adoption, being reunited.
1.3 Public acknowledgment of misguided past practices
The Committee recommends that the New South Wales Government issue a
statement publicly acknowledging that past adoption practices were misguided and on occasions unethical or unlawful and resulted
in lasting suffering for people affected by adoption. It also recommends that Departments, private agencies, churches, hospitals,
professional organisations and individuals involved in adoption practices be encouraged to apologise to people who have suffered
as a result of past adoption practices.
1.4 Current administration of contact vetoes
The Committee identified that current contact veto arrangements in New South Wales may be overly
restrictive as they do not take into account the possibility that the desire for a veto may change over time.
In New South Wales the Adoption Information Act 1990 established a system of contact
vetoes for adoptions. The New South Wales Adoption Act 2000 retains provisions for contact vetoes to be
lodged with no period of renewal; hence all vetoes remain in place indefinitely. However, the new Act allows for the
Director General to approach a person who has refused contact under a contact veto to ask whether they wish to confirm, cancel
or vary the contact veto.
The Committee recommends that, because a contact veto can be highly distressing for some people, and research shows
that a proportion of people when asked do not wish to renew their contact veto, a system should be established in which vetoes
are regularly reviewed or automatically cancelled after a period of time unless an optional renewal is exercised.
The Committee identified that the administration of contact vetoes in New South Wales should be reviewed with a view
to establishing procedures for periodic review, renewal and/or cancellation of contact vetoes
The Committee found that there is a need for States and Territories to collaborate to achieve national consistency
in legislative provisions concerning contact vetoes and information that may be accessed by people affected by adoption.
The twenty recommendations made in the report relate to:
Implementation of the Inquiry's recommendations in New South Wales would require:
the Department of Community Services to significantly increase funding to the Post Adoption Resource Centre, which
operates in that State, to develop resources and provide greater access to services for people living in rural and remote
areas of the State
the Department of Community Services to fund support groups and to provide funding
for projects related to counselling, training, research and writing on the impact of adoption and funding for a major independent
research project on the reunion process and effects of adoption
the Minister for Community Services and the New South Wales Attorney-General to collaborate with other States and Territories
to achieve greater consistency in adoption information legislation, including the administration of vetoes, and procedures
3. Relevance of the Inquiry's findings within the Queensland
The provisions of adoption legislation and the delivery of adoption services in Queensland from 1950 to 1998
were very similar to those operating in New South Wales at the same time.
The Department has received a number of written statements from birth mothers expressing issues similar to those reported
by witnesses to the New South Wales Inquiry.
Birth mothers have stated that at the time of signing an adoption consent in Queensland they
were not advised of options which would have enabled them to make the decision to keep their newborn baby, being instead encouraged
to sign an adoption consent.
They have also reported negative experiences while resident in church affiliated maternity homes and when interacting
with hospital staff and while receiving medical services. Grievances of this nature are commonly reported by birth parents
who signed consents from the 1960s to the middle of the 1970s
To date the Department has assisted birth mothers seeking to come to terms with their adoption experience by providing
limited support, where possible access to identifying information about their adopted children, now adults, and by providing
copies of documents, such as the adoption consent and written records of interviews.
In many instances birth parents and adult adopted persons being able to make contact with each other has helped to
resolve matters for both parties.
Issues surrounding the taking of adoption consents and the treatment of unmarried mothers in Queensland by both hospital
staff and departmental officers continue to be raised by some women.
It is apparent that a number of women who consented to the adoption of a child in Queensland in the 1960s and
1970s have suffered significant trauma as a result of their adoption experience.
4. Implementation of key recommendations from the New South Wales Inquiry within the Queensland context
4.1 Resources and funding for training, support and counselling services
Few resources exist in Queensland to assist people affected by past adoption practice to understand their experiences,
locate and make contact with birth relatives or prepare for reunions.
The Department recurrently funds two services for people affected by adoption (Jigsaw Queensland Inc and Association
for Adoptees Queensland Inc) for $5,917 and $6,203 respectively. These organisations do not receive recurrent funding from
any other source and have the capacity to provide support to only a small number of individuals affected by adoption.
A number of small community groups, operated on a voluntary 'self help' basis also provide some support for individuals
affected by adoption. The quality and appropriateness of the information and support provided by these groups varies.
Although the information, support and research needs identified in Releasing the Past exist in Queensland, there
are no additional funds available for the development of resources, the provision of support and counselling services or to
research past and current adoption experiences of people affected by adoption in Queensland.
4.2 Provision of post adoption support services in Queensland
Under the provisions of the Adoption of Children Act 1964 the Department
is responsible for providing, upon application, identifying information to eligible adults affected by adoption and associated
information held on departmental records.
Many people seeking information also require counselling and support to assist them to come to terms with issues associated
with their adoption experience. Most commonly, people request assistance with making contact with a birth relative and to
prepare for a possible reunion or with coming to terms with being denied access to information because they are subject to
an objection to the release of identifying information.
Short-term assistance is provided to clients who require support in relation to their application for information,
however this is resource intensive and the Department does not have the capacity to meet the demand for such support.
The Department does not have the capacity to provide on going counselling services to adults affected by adoption
orders made in Queensland. Many people seeking assistance are left unsupported because they are unable to afford services
from a psychologist, psychiatrist or private counsellor.
In the 1999-00 the Department received 957 applications for identifying information from adults affected by adoption
orders made in Queensland. Over the same period, the Department received more than 9,000 telephone calls from people seeking
information and/or support and counselling in relation to post-adoption issues.
In comparison with other states such as New South Wales, people who have been affected by adoption in Queensland have
limited opportunities for accessing community based post- adoption support and counselling services.
Information obtained from the Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC) in New South Wales, a community-based service auspiced
by the Benevolent Society of New South Wales indicates that its primary source of funding is the Department of Community Services
(DOCS). DOCS provide approximately $320,000 in recurrent funds for five full-time equivalent positions.
The Committee found that PARC required a substantial increase in funding to enable an adequate response to be provided
to meet the information and support needs of people affected by past and current adoptions in New South Wales. Specific recommendations
identify the need for additional funding to be made available to PARC and/or other community based services in New South Wales
to provide or co-ordinate services to people affected by adoption .
The services currently provided by the Department in Queensland, which are limited to providing identifying adoption
information to eligible adults and some short-term support to a small number of people experiencing significant distress associated
with their adoption experience, are insufficient to provide responses in keeping with those identified by the Committee as
The recurrent funding (totalling $12,120) provided to community agencies providing services to people affected by adoption
in Queensland, is also insufficient to provide responses in keeping with those identified by the Committee as being critical.
4.3 Information release and objection (veto) provisions
Queensland's legislative provisions relating to the release of identifying information
to adults affected by adoption differ significantly from the provisions of legislation in other States and Territories.
In other States and Territories ( except South Australia) birth parents and adopted person are entitled to receive
identifying information about each other when the adopted person attains 18 years of age, regardless of when the adoption
order was made. Birth parents and adopted person (except those in Victoria) are able to lodge (or to veto) the release of
identifying information. The duration of a veto varies between States and Territories
In South Australia birth parents and adopted persons may lodge time-limited vetoes to the release of identifying information.
For example, an eligible person may lodge a veto which remains in effect for five years, unless revoked. The person may use
the time to consider the implications of making contact, to seek counselling and to discuss the adoption with other family
members who may not be aware of the past adoption. The person may choose to revoke the contact veto prior to the expiry of
five years, to allow the veto to expiry after five years or to renew the contact veto for another five-year period.
Queensland's Adoption of Children Act 1964 (the Act) was amended in 1991 to make it possible to release identifying
adoption information, in certain circumstances, to eligible people affected by adoption orders made in Queensland. It was
also amended to make provision for objections, which are similar to vetoes contained in legislation in other States and Territories,
to be lodged in certain circumstances.
The Act makes different provisions for the release of information depending on whether an adoption order was made before
or after June 1991, the date of the amendment.
Birth parents who sign an adoption consent after June 1991, and persons who are adopted after June 1991, have an unqualified
entitlement to receive identifying information about each other, once the adopted person reaches 18 years of age.
The Act makes no provision for birth parents who sign an adoption consent after June 1991, and persons who are adopted
after June 1991 to object to the release of identifying information or to object to contact with the other party.
Birth parents who signed an adoption consent prior to June 1991, and persons who were adopted prior to June 1991, can
receive identifying information if the other party to the adoption has not lodged an objection to the disclosure of identifying
Birth parents who consented to the adoption of a child before June 1991 I and adults who were adopted
before June 1991 I who do not want eligible birth relatives to receive information about them, or to make contact with them,
are provided under the Act with the option to:
Under the provisions of the Act, objections may be revoked. However, they remain in place indefinitely unless
they are revoked. This means that a birth parent or an adopted person, who is subject to an objection, cannot receive identifying
information even upon the death of the person who lodged the objection.
The Committee recommended that the administration of contact vetoes in New
South Wales be reviewed because they are overly restrictive and cause significant distress to some people subject to a contact
veto. The administration of objections, as prescribed in Queensland's legislation, is much more restrictive than the
administration of contact vetoes in any other State or Territory.
In Queensland the distress caused by objections is compounded because people subject to an objection to contact
and the release of identifying information are prohibited from accessing identifying information as well as being unable to
make contact with their birth relatives.
4.4 National consistency in legislation provisions for information
The Committee's recommendation that States and Territories collaborate to achieve greater consistency in legislative
provisions relating to information release and vetoes would be problematic within the current Queensland context.
The provisions of the Adoption of Children Act 1964 which do not entitle all adopted persons to receive identifying
information and enable birth parents and adopted persons to lodge a permanent objection to both contact and the release of
identifying information is unique to Queensland. These provisions, as they are currently prescribed, would need to be addressed
before consideration could be given to achieving national consistency with provisions relating to the duration of contact
4.5 Application for identifying information
The Committee recommends that adopted persons and birth parents should have an entitlement to receive identifying information
and that fees associated with accessing identifying adoption information should be removed.
The Adoption of Children Regulation 1999 prescribes that people applying for identifying information must pay
a $50 application fee. The fee is
waived if the applicant is in receipt of a Commonwealth Government income subsidy or experiencing financial hardship
Many people applying for identifying information in Queensland have indicated that the requirement to pay a fee to
obtain information about the circumstances of their own birth or their child's adoption is insensitive and offensive. Although
the fee waive provision is generously applied, people affected by adoption view the fee as inappropriate and as reported by
the Committee in New South Wales, are sometimes deterred from making application because of the cost involved.
An amendment to Queensland's Adoption of Children Regulation 1999 would be required to remove the requirement
for adults who have been adopted and birth parents who consented to a child's adoption to pay a fee to receive identifying
The Inquiry was inclusive and undertook a comprehensive investigation of the social and legal context in which adoption
services were delivered in New South Wales between 1950 and 1998. The findings relating to service provision and the treatment
of unmarried mothers in the 1960s and 1970s are broadly applicable within the Queensland context as model adoption legislation
existed throughout Australia, including new South Wales and Queensland, and service delivery systems operating in both States
The Committee identifies the interrelated roles the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health (and
their predecessors), major church organisations, the institution of the family and changing social values have played in the
development of adoption legislation and services. Although the Committee found evidence of misguided and flawed adoption practice,
responsibility for such practice was not attributed to any individual source or cause.
Financial compensation for individuals affected by past adoption practice was not recommended. Appropriate reparations
for past practices identified by the Committee included funding to increase access to counselling, funding for research, free
access to records and public acknowledgment, apology and disclosure of past practices.
Witness statements and issues raised in submissions received by the Committee in New South Wales reflect reports consistently
made to the Department of Families in Queensland by a small number of birth parents who consented to the adoption of a child
in the 1960s and 1970s.
From information available to the Department it appears that the Committee's discussion of misguided adoption
practice in past decades and of the expressed needs of people affected by past adoption practice accurately describes the
The need to enhance the availability and quality of services provided to people affected by past adoption practice
and to research adoption outcomes for children and families identified by the Committee has also been identified by the Department
of Families in Queensland.
The number of people affected by past adoption practice in Queensland is less than the number of people affected by
past adoption practice in New South Wales. People affected by past adoption practice in New South Wales have had access to
a government funded community agency, which employs professional staff and provides high quality services, for over ten years.
People experiencing distress due to past adoption practices in Queensland have not had access to a level of service
comparable with that provided in New South Wales in the last decade.
In order to achieve outcomes similar to those recommended in New South Wales, legislative provisions
concerning objections and information release would need to be reviewed, appropriate community infrastructure would need to
be developed and increased recurrent funding would need to be provided. Attention to these three elements would enable the
provision of an adequate response to meet the needs of people affected by past adoption practice in Queensland.