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New South Wales - Legislation

Adoption of Children Act 1965 (1965 - 2003)

Principal Act

The Adoption of Children Act 1965 (23/1965) was 'An Act to make provisions with respect to and consequential upon the adoption of children; to amend the Child Welfare Act, 1939, the Registration of Births Deaths and Marriages Act 1899, and certain other Acts'. It was a model Act for other laws in Australia. The Act required courts making orders in matters relating to the child to regard the child's welfare as the paramount consideration. It banned people from arranging their own adoptions, and it tightened secrecy around adoption, enabling adopted children to assume an entirely new identity (and birth certificate) that was tied to their adoptive parents. In 1991 the Adoption Information Act gave adoptive children and birth parents the right to information about their adoptions, including their original birth certificates. The Adoption of Children Act was repealed in 2003 when the Adoption Act 2000 came into effect.


The Adoption of Children Act banned privately arranged adoptions, making it an offence to advertise a child for adoption or seek adoptive parents. Birth parents were not allowed to choose who their child went to - they could only give consent to the child being adopted. In practice, this meant adoptions were arranged by adoption agencies and approved by the court. Exceptions were made for relatives or step-parents.

The most important element of this Act was a tightening of secrecy provisions to ensure members of the birth family and the adoptive family would not discover each other's identity, and that the records of the adoption would be kept confidential. Indeed, the new birth certificate issued for the adopted child (the 'amended birth certificate') was intended to disguise the fact that the child had been adopted.

The Act was changed over time to take into account new ideas about marriage and parenthood. In 1979, after the Domicile Act 1979 abolished the legal principle that married women lived wherever their husbands did, the Act was Amended. In 1980-1982, under various Amendments, an Adoption Tribunal was created. In 1984 the Act was Amended to allow adoption by a man and a woman in a de facto relationship, and to require permission for adoption to be sought from the fathers of ex-nuptial children.

The Community Welfare Act 1983 also resulted in Amendments to the Adoption of Children Act 1965. In 1987 the Act was further Amended to allow adoptions from other states and countries, to recognise various forms of de facto and married relationships and change some of the rules about children's input into their own adoptions, including the age at which they could consent to be adopted.

Amendments were as follows: Amended by Act No.19 1966, Act No 13 1971, Act No.119 1979, Act No.78 1980, Act No.37 1982, Act No.77 1982, Act No.148 1984, Act No.58 1987, Act No.174 1987. Please note, not all these Amendments are described in the Find & Connect web resource.


 1866 - 1901 Destitute Children Act 1866
 1869 - 1901 Reformatory Schools Act 1866
       1881 - 1901 State Children Relief Act 1881
       1892 - 1902 Children's Protection Act 1892
       1901 - 1905 Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1901
             1849 - 1901 Infant Convicts Act 1849
             1901 - 1923 State Children Relief Act 1901
             1902 - 1923 Children's Protection Act 1902
             1904 - 1923 Infant Protection Act 1904
             1905 - 1923 Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905
                   1901 - 1939 Infant Convicts Adoption Act 1901
                   1923 - 1939 Child Welfare Act 1923
                         1939 - 1987 Child Welfare Act 1939
                               1965 - 2003 Adoption of Children Act 1965
                                     2000 - Adoption Act 2000

Related Glossary Terms

Related Legislation



  • Burford, Sister Kath R.F.J., St Anthony's Family Care, St Anthony's Family Care, Croydon, 1989. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Report 69 (1992) - Review of the Adoption of Children Act 1990: Summary Report', in NSW Law Reform Commission, Law Reform Commission New South Wales, 1992,; Discussion Paper 34 (1994) - Review of the Adoption of Children Act 1965 (NSW), Law Reform Commission New South Wales, April 1994,; Report 81 (1997) - Review of the Adoption of Children Act 1965 (NSW), Law Reform Commission New South Wales, 1997,; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry and Liam Hogan