Last updated:

February 23, 2018

What do I need to know?

It helps to know as much as possible about times and places of events in the life of the person you are researching.


About these records

Adoption was not formally regulated by the State of Victoria until 1928. Before then, children were put up for adoption through the churches and sometimes through the courts. Most records created after 1928 are closed as they may contain personal and private information about individuals who may still be alive. They are closed under a classification known as Section 9 .

There are no specific collections dedicated to recording children who were adopted until 1928. Any records we may have about an adopted child before 1928 will usually be because that child first spent time under the care of the State or a private institution before being adopted. 

We may have records on:

  • any time spent in State care before the adoption itself (See Wards of the State page)
  • when a court ordered a child to be removed from parents
  • general records about the management of children by state government agencies.

Who created these records?

Below is a list of government agencies who had responsibility for custody of children:

  • 1864–1887: Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools (VA 1466)
  • 1887–1924: Department of Neglected Children (VA 1467)
  • 1887–1954: Department of Reformatory Schools (VA 2963)
  • 1924–1960: Children’s Welfare Department (VA 1467)
  • 1960–1970: Social Welfare Branch (VA 2784)
  • 1970–1979: Social Welfare Department (VA 946)
  • 1979–1985: Department of Community Welfare Services (VA 613)
  • 1985–1992: Department of Community Services (VA 2633)
  • 1992–1996: Department of Health and Community Services (VA 3092)
  • 1996–ct:  Department of Human Services (VA 3970)

Next Steps

Once you have found records of interest to you, order them online and then view in our Reading Room.

What are in these records?

  • summary information about the adoption
  • name and age of the child
  • basic details on the parents
  • reason for adoption.


We may not have many details on adopted individuals. The exceptions are Wards of State records (adopted by the state) See details on Ward Registers topic page.

Post 1928

Records created after 1918 are closed as they contain personal and private information.  If you believe you have a good reason to see these records, you can make a request to the Department of Health and Human Services to see them under Freedom of Information rules. 

Later adoptions might be documented in more extensive case files (apply for access  through the Freedom of Information process). 

Support for your search

If you are an adoptee or the child of an adoptee, or been fostered or ‘boarded’ out there are some organisations you can contact for advice and help in your research different services cater for different cirumstances.