The Victorian Government records relating to wardship and adoption date from 1864 to the present. These records were created by the state government departments that were responsible for child welfare in Victoria. Generally, records less than 99 years old are not open to the general public because of the personal and private information they contain. If the records are about you, or members of your family, you have a right to access these records.
For a variety of reasons that may be to do with protecting privacy, cultural sensitivities, etc. some records can only be accessed by certain people or groups for a defined period. Records less than 99 years old that relate to children in 'care' can be accessed by former wards and adoptees, but they are not open to the general public because of the personal and private information they contain. The State Government calls these 'closed' records.
Access to government records relating to wardship and adoption is controlled by a system that can be hard to understand and navigate. However, there are services like the Care Leaver Records Service, Freedom of Information Unit in the Department of Health and Human Services that help former wards access government records. Former state wards wanting to find information about their time in care, or access personal files can contact the Care Leaver Records Service directly. If you do not want to approach the Department yourself, someone else (like a worker from a support service) can apply to the Care Leaver Records Service on your behalf.
After 99 years, government records relating to children in the 'care' of the state are opened to the public. This means that anyone is able to access them. Generally speaking 'open' records can be accessed directly at the Victorian Archives Centre, Public Record Office Victoria.
Some of these records are held at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and some are held at Public Record Office Victoria (PROV).
In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services published 'Finding Records', an online finding aid with information about the records in its custody relating to child protection, youth justice, disability services and mental health services.
The 'Finding Records' website contains more than 200 collection guides which describe these records. It is possible to search for records relating to a particular institution.
The Finding Records website has the most comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information about Victorian government records relating to Care Leavers. Finding Records contains much more information about Victorian government records than the Find & Connect web resource (this website). We recommend that users interested in records of a particular institution search for its collection guide on Finding Records.
The information on 'Finding Records' can help users know what records exist and what to apply for.
'Finding Records' also has links to support organisations who can help people through the process of searching for, applying for and receiving records.
Sources used to compile this entry: Department of Health and Human Services, Finding Records, State of Victoria, 2016, https://www.findingrecords.dhhs.vic.gov.au/; Public Record Office Victoria, Adoption, Ward of State and Care Leaver records, Government of Victoria, 2020, https://prov.vic.gov.au/explore-collection/explore-topic/adoption-ward-state-and-care-leaver-records.
Prepared by: Rosemary Francis
Created: 12 October 2011, Last modified: 30 June 2017