Adoption is one of a range of options used to provide care for children who cannot live with their birth families. This report presents the latest data on adoptions of Australian children and those from overseas, while also highlighting important trends in adoptions over the last few decades.

Data for this report were obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Adoptions Australia data collection. This data collection is a record of all finalised adoptions in Australia since 1990-91, collected from each state and territory department responsible for adoption.


Since the early 1970s, there has been a 22-fold decrease in the number of adoptions in Australia-from 9,798 to 440 adoptions between 1971-72 and 2007-08. However, the total number of adoptions has remained relatively stable since the mid-1990s, at around 400 to 600 children per year. The overall decline in adoptions can be attributed to a fall in the number of Australian children adopted (including local and 'known' child adoptions). In contrast, intercountry adoptions have increased overall in the last 25 years, and have emerged as the dominant category of adoptions-representing 61% of all adoptions in 2007-08, compared with 6% in 1982-83.

In 2007-08:

  • There were 440 adoptions in Australia-the lowest number of adoptions recorded since 1969-70, and a 23% decline from the previous year. However, this may be part of the normal variation in the number of adoptions over the past decade-data from future years need to be monitored to see whether this trend continues.
  • Of the 440 adoptions in 2007-08, 61% were intercountry, 16% were local and 23% were 'known' child adoptions (see Glossary for definitions).
  • Just over half of all intercountry adoptions were from China (23%), South Korea (17%) and the Philippines (15%).
  • Four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were adopted in 2007-08. Only 96 Indigenous children have been adopted over the last 17 years.
  • In local and intercountry adoptions, nearly all children were less than 5 years old (99% and 92% respectively); whereas for 'known' child adoptions, most children were aged 10 years and over (69%).
  • Of the children in local and intercountry adoptions, three in five had adoptive parents aged 40 years and over, and just over half were adopted into families with no other children.
  • Agreements made at the time of adoption indicate that the majority of local adoptions are now 'open' (77%)-only 23% of birth parents requested no contact or information exchange.
  • For 'known' child adoptions, two-thirds of adoptions were by step-parents (67%), and just over a quarter were by carers (26%).