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Adoption search guide if you're 18 or over

Things to consider before starting your search

For many years, adoption practices throughout Australia were dominated by the belief that secrecy was essential to protect all parties involved. It was felt that birth parents and adopted persons did not need information about each other.

This thinking was based on two myths: that parents would forget their birth child and that an adopted person would not seek information or make contact with their birth parents if they really loved their adoptive parents.

On 20 September 2012, the NSW Government apologised for past forced adoption practises in NSW. The Apology acknowledged the legacy of separation and the ongoing grief and loss in the lives of individual and families who were involved.

It is now widely recognised that adult adopted persons and birth parents have a right to information about each other. Research indicates that disclosure of information does not disrupt otherwise happy adoptive families – rather, it may promote greater understanding between the parties involved.

All parties to an adoption will have their own expectations of, and feelings towards, the information gathering and search process. Read about some common experiences.

How to search for more information

An Adoption Search Guide is available for people who want to apply for information about a past adoption or are considering searching for a family member.

With your Adoption Information Certificate, adopted persons are able to apply for the Original Birth Certificate (issued before the adoption). If you have a birth sibling who has also been adopted and is not an adult, you can obtain identifying information about them and their adoptive family. You are also able to access additional information from the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages about your sibling.

If you are a birth parent you are able to apply for the Original Birth Certificate (issued before the adoption) and the Amended Birth Certificate (issued after the adoption).

Adopted persons and birth parents are also able to conduct searches for marriage and death records. To do this, you need to apply directly to the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages and include certified copies of your Adoption Information Certificate and identification documents.

The Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages will only search records of the State or Territory that you lodge an application with. Therefore it is suggested that you search in the State or Territory in which the person was born, for birth certificates, or where they were last known to reside, for marriage and death searches.

The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
Adoption Enquiries
13 77 88

Sydney Office
35 Regent Street,
Chippendale NSW 2008

GPO Box 30 
Sydney NSW 2001

Parramatta Office 
Justice Precinct Offices, 
160 Marsden Street,
Parramatta NSW 2150

Newcastle Office 
95 Tudor Street
Hamilton NSW 2303

Step-by-step search

You have received your Adoption Information Certificate. What next?

Step 1

  • Adopted people can apply for their Original Birth Certificate (OBC) from the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages. The OBC may provide extra details that is not on the Adoption Information Certificate.
  • Apply for a Marriage Certificate for birth mother or female adopted person.
  • Use archives at the State Library, Internet searches and White Pages: under birth mother's surname, and adopted person's name at the time of their adoption.

Step 2

  • If a record of marriage is located, use archives at the State Library, Internet searches and White Pages using this surname.
  • If no record of marriage is located or you can't find that person under their maiden name - go to Step 4.

Step 3

  • If an address is located consider how to make contact, for example using an intermediary or writing a letter.
  • If no address is located - go to Step 4.

Step 4

  • Apply for other certificates, such as a Death Certificate. Information from this certificate may enable you to search for other family members.
  • Check other resources: clues in social and medical information, historical electoral rolls, telephone books, marriages in other states, internet search under known names.

Consultation and advice

If you do not obtain a result at any stage, or you are uncertain how to proceed, consult the DCJ Adoption Information Unit or the Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC) for further advice.

Adoption Information Unit (AIU)
1300 799 023
+61 2 9716 3005 (from overseas)

Postal Address
Locked Bag 5000,
Parramatta NSW 2124

Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC)
Level 5, 7–11 The Avenue, Hurstville NSW 2220
1300 659 814

Sources of information an support

There are many adoption and support agencies that can provide further information – click to view a list of agencies and contact details.

Next steps

Now that you have completed your search and have possible address/es for the person you are searching for, we strongly advise that you carefully consider your approach. Read about making contact, what might happen after initial contact has been made, the first meeting and developing an ongoing relationship after the first meeting.

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Last updated: 04 May 2022