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What do I need to know?

Are you looking for Victorian records that are less than 99 years old, about yourself or a family member? Read our Guide to accessing Victorian Child Welfare and Adoption Records.

Are you looking for Victorian historic records that are more than 99 years old? Public Record Office Victoria could help you. Please see next steps below.

Adoption records are closed to public access for a period of 99 years from their creation to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned. If you are seeking access to your own adoption records or someone else’s when the records would be less than 99 years old, visit the Guide to accessing Victorian Child Welfare and Adoption Records.


About these records

Before 1929

We do not hold many records about the adoption of children before 1929. Those that we do hold relate to notifications received by the Department of de facto or informal adoptions that occurred, and are often not very detailed. For some adoptions we may hold no records at all.

We do hold records of children who had been under the ‘care’ of the State before being adopted and the records held are predominantly about their time in care.

Adoptions were not formally regulated by the State of Victoria until the Adoption of Children Act 1928 became law in July 1929. Before then, adoptions were de facto or informal arrangements made by both Government and non-government organisations as well as by individuals.

After 1929

The adoption records we hold in the main date after 1929, once the State regulated the process. Adoption applications were heard by the Supreme Court, County Court or Court of Petty Sessions (the Adoption of Children Act 1958 removed the power from Court of Petty Sessions). Adoptions that occurred through the courts resulted in parental rights, duties, obligations and liabilities being legally transferred to the adoptive parents.

Types of records after 1929 include adoption registers and case files created by the Courts as well as various registers, indexes and files that were maintained by the Department responsible for adoption services. The level of details recorded about an adoption does vary according to when the adoption occurred.

Who created these records?

Below is a list of government agencies which have had responsibility for the adoption of children.


VA 1467


Children's Welfare Department 1924-1961 (previously known as Department for Neglected Children 1887-1924), Chief Secretary's Department

1887 - 1961

VA 2784


Social Welfare Branch, Chief Secretary's Department

1960 - 1971

VA 946


Social Welfare Department

1971 - 1979

VA 613


Department of Community Welfare Services

1979 - 1985

VA 2633


Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria)

1985 - 1992

VA 3092


Department of Health and Community Services

1992 - 1996

VA 3970


Department of Human Services

1996 - 2014

VA 5037

Department of Health and Human Services


2015 - 2019

VA 5252

Department of Justice and Community Safety


2019 -


Courts (responsible from 1929 onwards)

VA 2549

Supreme Court


1929 - ct

VA 686

County Court of Victoria


1929 - ct


Court of Petty Sessions (various)


1929 - 1958


What are in these records?

Language warning          

The language used in this records can be distressing or offensive. It reflect the attitudes of the time and PROV does not endorse these attitudes.

Before 1929

Because of the unofficial nature of adoptions before 1929, there are not many adoption records in existence. There was a requirement for people to notify the Department that an adoption occurred, and details were recorded in registers maintained by the Department such as De Facto Adoption Register (VPRS 17822)

Researchers may also locate information or clues about an adoption in other records such ward of the state records, court records and maintenance records.

After 1929

The adoption records, which include registers and case files, typically provide the following details: 

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

The amount of information recorded varies depending on when the adoption occurred. More recent adoption records generally contain more information than earlier ones.

Support for your search

If you are an adoptee or the child of an adoptee, or have been fostered or ‘boarded’ out there are some organisations you can contact for advice and help in your research different services cater for different circumstances. Visit the Guide to accessing Victorian Care Leaver and Adoption records for more details.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples