Adoptions before 2010: applying if you're 18 or over
How to find information about past adoptions that occurred before 2010, for people with and without direct entitlement, and are age 18 or older.
Applying for adoption information if you're 18 or over
An adopted person who is 18 years and over and their birth parents (as recorded on their original birth certificate) are the only people who have a direct entitlement to apply for identifying details and information about each other under the provisions of the NSW Adoption Act 2000 and NSW Adoption Regulation 2003. Other people can apply in certain circumstances however, this first requires the approval of the Secretary of Communities and Justice (DCJ).
If you wish to obtain identifying information about a birth parent or adopted person you'll first need to download and complete the application to obtain adoption information form. As of 1 July 2022 all fees have been removed, and DCJ will no longer be seeking fees for any adoption application. By completing the application form you can gain access to the following:
- Adoption Information Certificate
This certificate has identifying details of all the parties at the time of the adoption. This includes the adopted person, birth parents and adoptive parents.
Note: If you have an original or amended birth certificate under the Adoption Information Act 1990, or a Supply Authority under the Adoption Act 2000, to access this information, you do not need an Adoption Information Certificate.
- Reunion and Information Register
The Reunion and Information Register (RIR) was established to assist people who have been separated by an adoption to exchange messages or to make contact with one another. It's a passive form of contact and relies on 2 parties joining for a reunion to have a match on the register.
- Social and medical information
Social and medical information is information ‘prescribed’ under the Adoption Act 2000. This is information held by an information source and may include background information about birth family members, medical history, reasons for adoption and other information ‘prescribed’ under the Act. This is information recorded at the time of the adoption. It's not current information.
Note: This is a complex process that involves checking a number of records, carrying out research, ordering files from archives and compiling the appropriate information. While we attempt to process this for you as quickly as possible, it can take some time to complete.
Information for birth fathers
If you are a father whose child has been adopted in NSW, you must be an acknowledged birth father, meaning that your name has been recorded on the child’s Original Birth Certificate before you can apply for an Adoption Information Certificate.
Although in the past the names of many fathers were not recorded on the Original Birth Certificate, it may be possible for a Presumption of Paternity to be completed. Staff in the Adoption Information Unit would be pleased to discuss your options with you.
Information for relatives and others with close relationships
DCJ has the discretion to issue an authority to obtain identifying information to relatives or people without a direct entitlement under the Adoption Act 2000, where it's reasonable to do so. For more information, see access adoption information if you don’t have a direct entitlement.
If you are the relative, spouse, de-facto or another person who had a close relationship with a now deceased birth parent or deceased adopted person, you are able to apply to be considered to inherit the right to obtain access to some of the information that would have been available to them. For more information, see inheriting a deceased person's right to adoption information.
How to prevent contact
If the adoption was made before 26 October 1990, and you are an adopted person or birth parent, you can prevent contact from the other party by registering a Contact Veto. The Contact Veto only prevents contact. It does not prevent the release of identifying information about the people involved in the adoption.
How to delay contact
Birth parents, adopted people over the age of 17 years and 6 months and adoptive parents may wish to delay the release of identifying information for 2 months, giving them time to prepare for possible contact. This is possible through the Advance Notice Register.
If you're a person with disability applying for entitlements
People with a disability are not disadvantaged in their right to apply for their entitlements under the Act. If you require any assistance please contact the Adoption Information Unit. Another person with a proper interest in the matter can apply to the Guardianship Tribunal for:
- the tribunal to consider whether the person with entitlements under the Act has a disability or condition making it impossible or unreasonable for them to exercise their rights, and
- if this is so, to appoint someone to exercise the rights on behalf of the person with a disability. If the appointed person finds there is a veto attached to the release of information, they must be able to guarantee that the person with the disability will not attempt to contact the person who placed the veto, otherwise the information will not be released.
Some adoptions were arranged privately by a solicitor or an adoption agency. In these cases DCJ usually only holds very limited information. Detailed social and medical information may be gained by applying directly to the agency that arranged the adoption.
Many of these agencies also offer intermediary and support services to adopted people and birth parents. Here is a list of agencies, hospitals and other services that can offer information and support.
Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC)
Level 5, 7–11 The Avenue, Hurstville NSW 2220
1300 659 814
Adoptions finalised in other states
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.
35 Regent Street,
Chippendale NSW 2008
GPO Box 30
Sydney NSW 2001
Justice Precinct Offices,
160 Marsden Street,
Parramatta NSW 2150
95 Tudor Street
Hamilton NSW 2303
You have received your Adoption Information Certificate. What next?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Applying for information about overseas adoption if you're 18 or over
The Adoption Information Unit (AIU) offers services to adopted people and adoptive and birth families where Communities and Justice (DCJ) was involved in arranging the adoption of a child through the Intercountry Adoption Program. Adopted people and birth parents are all eligible to apply for information about the overseas adoption.
Services provided by the Adoption Information Unit
- Provision of information from Adoption Files – including copies of the documentation received from the adopted person's country of origin at the time of placement
- Passing on letters, photos, small gifts and cards between adoptive, birth or foster families – where an agreement has been made with the country of origin
- Contacting the country of origin on behalf of adoptive families – where a number of years have elapsed – to request any current information and if possible, contact with birth families. Note: Most countries do not provide information until the adopted person is over the age of 18.
- Supporting families who are planning a meeting with a birth or foster family in the country of origin
- Support and guidance about any aspect of adoption including telling their child about their adoption, including conveying new or different information provided by the Agency or birth family.
- Referrals where appropriate to other support services.
Services provided by the country of origin
All countries of origin have informed the NSW Central Authority that they prefer all enquiries about post adoption services to be directed to them through the Adoption Information Unit.
Due to limited resources it is not unreasonable to expect a long waiting time for a response from the country of origin to any requests to their service.
Most countries of origin require the adopted person to be 18 years or older before they will assist with requests to locate birth parents or members of the birth family.
As most birth family members do not read or speak English, correspondence needs to be translated into the language of the country of origin at the expense of the adoptive parents or adopted person, prior to sending it.
Families requesting contact with a birth family must be committed to possible ongoing contact. From previous experience we have found the birth families are anxious to hear from the adoptive families regularly.
Adoptive families need to consider cultural differences, sensitivities and challenges affecting the circumstances of the birth family which might make contact difficult. Post adoption services may not be available in these cases.
If the country of origin is Korea
Adopted people must be 13 or older before Easter Social Welfare Services (ESWS) will accept a request from an adoptive family to make an approach to the birth family.
When adopted people under 18 visit ESWS requesting birth family contact or to research their birth background, they must first obtain a permission letter from the adoptive parents or AIU if they are not accompanied by their parents.
Where contact may not be possible
It may not be possible to make any contact in some particular circumstances. Here are some examples where contact may not be possible:
Where mothers were young single girls who kept their pregnancies secret from their families. In most cases they have probably married and not told their husband about their past. If the secret is revealed, it could cause serious problems for the mother.
If the parents stated “No Contact” at the time of the adoption.
Where there is insufficient background information to locate family members, for example, the child was abandoned at an orphanage.
Where there is false information recorded from the parent, in order to conceal their identity.
Please read the information and use the application form for Information about intercountry adoption - over 18 years of age
The country of origin may charge a fee for post adoption services.
On 21 September 2012 the Fee payable to the Adoption Information Unit of Communities and Justices (DCJ) was abolished for:
- an adopted person to obtain information about their own adoption
- a birth parent to obtain information about their own child's adoption
Travelling to the adopted person's country of origin
Many families visit an adopted person’s country of origin in the hope of having contact with birth family members, the Agency that arranged the Adoption, Orphanage and/or foster carer.
As you can appreciate, a large number of people request assistance from AIU and the country of origin, so there may be a waiting time of several months for this service.
For this reason it is important to contact AIU with your request as early as possible - at least six months prior to your intention to travel.
In most cases this will allow time for us to contact the overseas country and allow them time to make whatever arrangements or searches they may need depending on what you have requested. Unforeseen circumstances may delay the finalisation of the arrangements.
Travelling where the adopted person is over age 18
The adopted person should apply for a Supply Authority from the Adoption Information Unit by completing a Supply Authority Application Form, advise their intended dates of travel and what they would like to achieve when they are there.
Before issuing a Supply Authority, the Adoption Information Unit (AIU) must check to see if there are any restrictions on the supply of information to the person applying.
You are strongly cautioned to not confirm any travel plans - including booking and paying for flights and accommodation - until arrangements with the country you are visiting have been confirmed in writing.
Contact the AIU
If would like to speak with a Caseworker at the initial stages of your plans to travel please contact AIU and ask to speak with the Duty Caseworker.
Locked Bag 5000
Parramatta NSW 2124
Federal government services
An alternative to DCJ' Adoption Information Unit is the The Intercountry Adoption Tracing and Reunification Service, which provides free specialised search and reunion services to intercountry adoptees and adoptive parents, including those adopted through expatriate adoption arrangements. The service is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and is delivered by International Social Service (ISS) Australia.
Applying for adoption information for people without direct entitlement
Under the Adoption Act 2000, birth parents and adopted people are entitled to obtain identifying information about each other when the adopted person is over the age of 18 years. Adopted people can also obtain identifying information about any brothers or sisters who are over the age of 18 years and are also adopted.
Section 140(3) of the Act allows the supply of ‘adoption information or other information to any person who is not entitled… to receive adoption information or other information… if, in the opinion of the secretary, it is reasonable to do so’.
People who are not entitled but who may be approved to receive adoption information under s140 (3) are:
- people who were previously under the care of the Minister of NSW, care leavers or other people who were separated from a sibling who was adopted and no longer has a relationship with a birth parent who has an entitlement under the Act
- a biological sibling or birth relative of an adopted person who has the written consent of a birth parent who has an entitlement under the Act
- other people if they can demonstrate that it would be reasonable for them to be provided with adoption information.
How applications are assessed
A number of factors will be considered when making a decision about the release of adoption information to someone who does not have a direct entitlement. These will include:
- the reasons you are asking for this adoption information
- the age of the parties to adoption to which the information request is about. Parties to adoption include birth parent(s), adopted person and adoptive parents
- the relationship between you and the parties to the adoption
- whether a Contact Veto or an Advance Notice affects the release of the information that you are applying for
- how it may affect the parties to the adoption if the information is supplied to you.
How to apply
To apply for Adoption Information without a direct entitlement under Section 140 of the Adoption Act(2000), please download and complete the Application to access adoption information without direct entitlement.
Send a letter to the DCJ Adoption Information Unit (address below) answering the following questions:
- What details you know about the adoption such as the birth parent or parents names at the time of the adoption, date of birth of the adopted person (or approximate) and the adopted person’s name?
- What are your reasons for applying for this adoption information?
- What is your relationship with the birth parent or parents?
- Is the birth parent or parents aware of your application for information? If so, what are their thoughts and feelings? If they are not aware, why aren’t they aware?
- Why do you consider it to be reasonable for you to gain this adoption information?
Provide copies of the following documents:
- Evidence of your relationship with one of the parties to adoption (such as a birth certificate). If you are not related, other evidence will be required to establish your relationship. This can be discussed with a DCJ caseworker at the AIU
- Certified copies of two forms of your own identification, at least one form of identification to include your signature (such as, a current photo driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport, birth certificate, health care card or pension card). If you have had a change of name (such as through marriage), evidence of this must be provided
- All identification papers must be certified. The original document must be sighted by the certifier (such as, Justice of the Peace, Solicitor, Clerk of the Court, Police Officer, Bank Manager, School Principal) and on the copy of the original document, it needs to say ‘this document is a true copy of the original’ document sighted by the certifier
- If the birth parent(s) supports your application, they will also need to provide a letter giving their permission for DCJ to release information to you. They also have to provide two forms of certified identification, at least one form of identification to include their signature
As of 1 July 2022 all fees have been removed, and DCJ will no longer be seeking fees for any adoption application.
If your application is approved, you will be sent an Application to obtain adoption information form. This form allows you to apply for the following:
- Adoption Information Certificate
- social and medical information
- registration on the Reunion and Information Register