Dian Wellfare Adoption Rights Campaigner (1951-2008)

Overview of Adoption In Australia

Overview of Adoption
"A Sanctioned Evil" Adoption History in Australia
"A Sanctioned Evil" 2
"A Sanctioned Evil" 3
"A Sanctioned Evil" 4
"A Sanctioned Evil" 5
A Sanctioned Evil 6
Dian's Tribute Page
Civil Rights Crimes in Adoption
Wake up Little Suzie
Beyond Pain
Responses to the NSW Inquiry
A Judge Speaks
What they Knew
South Australian Vetos
Dian's Portrait at National Gallery
Origins INC NSW
The Punishment of the Unwed Mother


Adoption History




An estimated 300,000 adoption have occurred within Australia.  A similar number of  unregistered  adoptions  where no official transaction took  place is also  believes to have occurred. 


Of those  official adoptions,  they include  pre 1960’s  intra-familial placements where the child was absorbed into the natural family to be raised by a relative.  These figures include step parent adoptions and  to a lesser degree the placement of older children held in orphanages and the care system  who really did need a new family to care for them.  These types of adoption occurred primarily before   the mid 1950’s.


However, this  overview is about Traditional Adoptions.


These were  the most commonly promoted form of  adoption and known as  infant adoptions – where the newborn child was removed form its mother at birth and placed with non related strangers to be raised as their own  as if born to them.


It is estimated that at least 200,000 such adoptions have occurred in Australia  since WW2.


2. Birth certificates


Every adopted person has  two birth certificates.


An Original Birth Certificate -  providing a true record of his birth  which included his mothers name  and the name she chose for him – if she was allowed to name him.


The second is called the Amended Birth Certificate – which replaced  the original one and claims the adoptive parents as being the original parents of the child and implies that the  adoptive mother gave birth to him.


Sealed Records


Upon the adoption order being finalised through the Supreme court,  the original Birth certificate is sealed away forever and was never to be released. The mother and child were  forbidden by law to ever  know  each others names.


Humphries, described  the separation between mother and child  under  closed adoption legislation  as being as complete and  as final as the veil between life and death itself. 


Brief  history of adoption in Australia

Adoption legislation was first introduced in NSW in 1923. 


It’s original intention was to care for children who were without parents.


Prior to WW2  illegitimate  children and children of  the poor  were usually placed into institutions  until their parents were better placed to care for them.


By 1939 legislation evolved to secure adoption placements  to avoid children being returned to the state by their adopting parents.


But adoption was slow to be accepted due to the belief that  illegitimate children and children of  the poor  inherited these  and  other “evil tendencies”  which were  

passed on from mother to child through the parents BAD BLOOD.


The original intention of adoption

Was to provide permanent alternative care for a  child deprived of his own family. It was not meant to set about depriving  the child of his own family. But that’s what it did.

The law stated that except in cases of abandonment, abuse, or neglect, authorities had no  jurisdiction to interfere in the primary relationship between a

mother/parent and her child.


Adoption was only considered to be in a child's best interest as the  preferred option to that of becoming a state ward, and only if a mother  had surrendered her child to the state.   Nowhere in the Adoption Act or its accompanying regulations does it  state that a child's best interest is best served by being removed from  his own mother at birth - or thereafter, to be made available for  adoption.


                    How did infant adoptions evolve???


Nature v Nurture debate


After World War 2  the  shame of the Holocaust  caused  societies around the world to rethink their  inheritable  BAD BLOOD  theories, deciding that a child’s environment had more to do with the quality of the child than who he was born to.


Once environment was seen as more important than  genetics in  the development of the child, adoption became more popular as people became less afraid of  our “bad blood.”.


By the 1950’s  the medical profession was  trying to find a cure for infertility.  When their fertility treatments didn’t work  they advised on adoption.


By the fifties,  childless married couples began demanding  newborn infants .and putting pressure on the Child Welfare Departments to supply them.


The  demand for newborns  made adoption  a political issue.  


-Social Medicine-

The Medicalization of Infant Adoption

 “The last thing the obstetrician should concern himself with is the law in regard to adoption.”  The Anxieties of Pregnancy -  D.F. Lawson M.B. F.R.C.S., F.R.C.O.G.

Medical Society Hall East Melbourne  August 19, 1958


The medical profession was encouraged to disregard the law when it came to infant adoptions and the rights of single mothers. 



In his presentation to the  Fetherston Memorial Conference in Melbourne 1959 Dr Lawson, an obstetrician  announced that the prospect of  the unmarried girl or of her family adequately caring for  a child and giving it a normal environment and upbringing is so small that I believe for practical purposes it can be ignored. I believe that in all such cases the obstetrician should urge that the child be adopted. In recommending that a particular child be fit for adoption, we tend to err on the side of over cautiousness. “When in doubt, don’t” is part of  the wisdom of living; but over adoptions I would suggest that “when in doubt, do” should be the rule.


Heredity is important: but everything we hear from the child health specialists tells us  how important is the right environment for normal mental and social development. To them environment is almost everything, and I believe that a good environment will make a better job of bad genes than a bad environment  will make of good genes.


When you walk through the nurseries,  you know that some babies are hungry, some have a belly ache, but none of you imagine that they are stuffed with original sin – the way they are cuddled and kissed as they are  carried to their mothers makes this obvious. It is environment which pushes the sinfulness into these babies. Adoption  brings joy to the adopting parents and the prospect of a better life to the child, and makes the life of the mother much easier.


The last thing that the obstetrician might concern himself with is the law in regard to adoption. All of you here belong to some club or another – the British Medical association, the Royal College of Nursing, golf clubs, tennis clubs – and you all know that if you do not behave properly you can be thrown out. If you belong to a  bowling club, you cannot trample on the green with hobnail boots; but you can trample on  the face of everything that  is decent and proper, and because of something which is called the sacred right of parents, you can never be  thrown out of the parents club.


There are many welfare and foundling homes full of neglected children. To have children  is to assume an obligation and to create the opportunity of rearing good people. When parents continuously neglect their obligations, should they not  be deprived of their rights?


It was form this point on that almost all hospitals around Australia introduced the medicalization of adoption/ By that I means taking/stealing  the baby during the process of labour.





To  resolve two social problems.


To eradicate illegitimacy and single motherhood  from society where young mothers were expected to forget about their child and get on with their lives, get 

married and have children of their own.


To  cure the social problem of childlessness within marriage. 


None of these theories were based on any scientific evidence.


Infant Adoption  as a  Eugenics Based  social cleansing


The Baby Boomers


At a National Conference on Social Welfare in the early 60’s in the US,  Dr. Clark E. Vincent, Professor of Sociology gives us the clue  as to why the peak era  of infant adoptions occurred so prolifically at a time of such monumental social change and Women’s liberation Movement. 


Dr Vincent, a sociologist and  prognosticator of social forecasts, had outlined his predictions  on adoption  in his paper titled `Illegitimacy in the Next Decade: Trends and Implications'.


He explained that as a result of the post war baby boom, a huge pool of teenage mothers born during the post war era  would  produce a potential over-supply of illegitimate babies  as they reached the 15 to 19 year old age group. Unless this crisis of  illegitimacy levels could be socially controlled it would create a major social problem.


Teenage mothers were  seen  as “the greatest suppliers of adoptable babies”


This would create a major economic and social imbalance in the acceptable levels of illegitimacy in the community and have a detrimental EFFECT ON THE STABILITY OF  SOCIETY and the  sanctity of MARRIED LIFE  unless enough potential adopters could be  encouraged to consider adoption.


Ironically, Vincent  warned  that   "If the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed the supply...then it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed mothers will be "punished" by having their children taken from them right after birth." He explains that:


"A policy like this would not be executed - nor labelled explicitly as "punishment". Rather, it would be implemented by such pressures and labels as - scientific findings, the best interest of the child, rehabilitation of the unwed mother, and the stability of family and society."  This all came to pass  and the rest is history.                          


The Infertility Epidemic.


According to the Australian medical Journal an epidemic of  clamidya swept the nation  after WW2 which returned  soldiers brought back from the war and transmitted to their wives and girlfriends. This resulted in  a  wave  of  infertility problems in many women. 


The introduction of the  pill was also a factors in the increased infertility problems –oestrogen levels too high.


And along with  medical problems such as endometriosis  and other unfortunate gyneacological problems, illegal unsanitary  abortions also gave rise to the problem of  infertility.


Sterility caused  by Mumps in men was also another serious factor


In addition to  infertility, unconsummated marriages  accounted for  up to 50% of adoption applicants.  These marital problems were the result of  latent or closeted  homosexuality, and sexual inexperience and  an adversion to sex by staunchly religious women.


 Cross Cultural Data Collection


Federal Governments had already begun providing funds for research and demonstration projects dealing with illegitimacy and related problems during the late 1950's and early 1960's, and estimated how, by 1965-1970, more attention would be given to international and cross cultural comparative data, reticent interest in unwed fathers., and that longitudinal studies into illicit sexual activities were already being accompanied, if not exceeded by, the increased research interest in highly selected aspects of illegitimacy ie. adoption.


These developments and the push toward coordinated services were intended to understand illegitimacy and to diminish its occurrence, through education, research, and preventative and rehabilitative services and activities.


And although he was only three years out, he had also forecast how the illegitimacy levels would eventually be controlled by 1970 through the introduction of easy access to terminations and the availability of contraception to unmarried women. His forecasts have all came to pass.


Vincent’s studies   were  the underlying reason why Governments of all English speaking nations, including Australia, took over control of all adoptions, and therefore illegitimacy, with the implementation of the Adoption of Children Act 1965.


The only way  the state could  effectively cull the illegitimacy rate to  a more acceptable level was to  disregard their own legislation, regulations and responsibility toward the psychological well being, legal rights, and  legal protection of the unwed mother and her child.


No research was conducted into the effects of relinquishment on the mother herself until the 1980’s.


In short this was  the systematic kidnapping of  possibly  200,000 newborns at birth.


The website is constructed and maintained by Lily Arthur in memory and honor of Dian Wellfare


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