Technical notes



Australian Capital Territory


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Coronavirus 2019


Department of Social Services

Hague Convention

Hague Convention of Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption


New South Wales


Northern Territory




South Australia






Western Australia



. .

not applicable


not available


not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data

less than

  Data sources and processes

  • The AIHW Adoptions Australia data collection is the authoritative source of national adoptions data for Australia. This report presents data extracted from the administrative systems of each state and territory department responsible for adoption, according to definitions and technical specifications agreed by the jurisdictions and the AIHW.
  • In this report, the terms ‘mother’, ‘father’ or ‘parent’ are used to describe a child’s biological parents. ‘Birth mother’, ‘birth father’ and ‘birth parent’ are considered less appropriate terminology, but, where required for clarity, these terms are also used in this report to refer to the biological parents (Higgins et al. 2016). The terms ‘adoptive mother’, ‘adoptive father’ or ‘adoptive parent’ are used to describe parents who have adopted a child. The children who have been the subject of an adoption order are referred to as ‘adopted children’ or ‘adoptees’.
  • Data for the years prior to 1985–86 were collected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Adoptions, Australia (Cat. no. 4406.0). Data between 1987–88 to 1989–90 are from the Standardisation of Social Welfare Statistics project (WELSTAT), Adoptions: National Data Collection. No national data were collected in 1985–86 to 1986–87.
  • Data on Adoption visas issued in 2021–22, including those for children adopted by expatriate Australians, are provided by the Department of Home Affairs.
  • Due to the size of the target population of this collection, some analyses contain small counts. Where published in this report, these data have been cleared for release by the state and territory departments responsible for adoption and, in some instances, reflect data that are publicly available elsewhere at the same level of disaggregation.
  • From 2019–20, the Department of Communities Tasmania requested that counts lower than 5 not be separately identifiable for Tasmania in national reporting on adoptions. This request was consistent with the position of the department to suppress similarly low counts in other national reports based on community services data. To accommodate this request, data from Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have been combined in tables that present data disaggregated by state and territory. In some instances, the reported combined count will include ‘null’ or ‘zero’ counts from one or more of these jurisdictions.
  • Definitions can be found in the glossary. Further information on the data contained in this collection can be found in the data quality statement.

Adoptions not included in the data counts

  • Adoptions by relatives or other known carers of children from countries other than Australia, known as ‘known child intercountry adoptions’, are excluded from total counts of intercountry adoptions.  
  • Adoptions by Australian citizens or permanent residents living abroad that occur through an overseas agency or government authority are excluded from counts of intercountry adoption. These adoptions are referred to in this report as ‘expatriate adoptions’. Australian adoption authorities are not responsible for facilitating expatriate adoptions, and do not assess or approve applicants for such adoptions.

Intercountry adoption in Australia

  • After a child is placed with their adoptive family, if a recognised full adoption order is not in place, there will be a period until the adoption order is finalised by Australian authorities. As a result, some children placed for adoption during the year might not have had their adoption finalised within that financial year.
  • Since 1998, adoptions where the Hague Convention had not entered into force in the adoptive child’s country of origin before the file of the prospective parent(s) was sent were referred to as ‘non-Hague’ adoptions for national reporting purposes. Commencing 2017–18, the term ‘bilateral’ is used to refer to such adoptions.
  • Only countries of origin with which Australia had an official intercountry adoption program since 2011–12 are presented.

Adoptions of children with additional care needs

Adoptions of children who require additional care are examined through a continuum of level of need from those adoptees and their families who do not require any additional resources to those who require regular and more intensive resources and supports.

Although definitions of children with additional care needs vary between countries of origin, in general, the following represent a growing proportion of children for whom intercountry adoptions is used as an option to create permanent care arrangements (Mignot 2015):

  • older children
  • sibling groups, or
  • those with complex social histories and medical backgrounds.

Western Australia do not provide data on additional care needs of intercountry adoptees.


Age is calculated from date of birth, in completed years. For intercountry adoptions, it is the age at which the child was placed with the adoptive family.

Median length of time

The intercountry adoption process has 4 stages where median processing times are calculated:

  • Approval: Time between when the applicant becomes an official client of the state or territory adoption authority to when an approval decision is made
  • File sent: Time between when an approval decision is made, and the file is sent overseas
  • Matching: Time between the file being sent overseas to a child being matched
  • Placement: Time between a child being matched to a child being placed

The median length of time calculated for intercountry adoption processing times is reported in whole months. Medians are not presented where there were fewer than 3 placements in an age group or from a country of origin.

Local adoption in Australia

  • Age is calculated from date of birth, in completed years. For local adoptions, it is the age at which the child was placed with the adoptive family.
  • The mother’s age is her age in completed years at the date of birth of the child.

Known child adoption in Australia

  • Age is calculated from date of birth, in completed years. For known child adoptions, this is the age when the adoption order for the child was granted.
  • ‘Other known’ was introduced as a reporting category in 2000–01, but not consistently used as a reporting category until 2007–08. In addition to adoptions from commissioning parents, adoptions recorded as ‘other known’ prior to 2007–08 may include adoptions where the relationship with the adoptive parent was unknown.
  • Data on the composition of adoptive families for known child adoptions is limited, as New South Wales are unable to report on these data.

Expatriate adoptions

Expatriate adoptions occur when an Australian citizen or permanent resident living abroad adopts a child through an overseas agency or government authority. Australian adoption authorities do not facilitate these adoptions, nor assess or approve applicants. An adoption-specific visa must be applied for, and granted, through the Department of Home Affairs for children adopted this way.

Consent arrangements

  • Dispensation of consent is a legal process by which a court may declare that consent of a parent is not required for an adoption order to be granted. This can occur in both local and carer (known child) adoption types, usually provided by the relevant court in each state or territory.  For local adoptions, dispensation can only occur when the parent(s) are unable to give consent themselves. In carer (known child) adoptions, dispensation is provided where:
    • the parent(s) cannot be found
    • the parent(s) are unable to give consent, or
    • in some instances, there is a history of abuse leading to the child being removed from their care for an extended period.
  • Where the data indicate ‘Mother only’ or ‘Father only’, the other parent’s consent was either dispensed with or not required.
  • In carer (known child) adoptions, where a child is aged 12 and over, all jurisdictions are required to obtain consent from the child before an adoption order is made. A court may dispense with the child’s consent if the adoption is believed to be in their best interests (Monahan & Hyatt 2018). This data is not currently reported in the Adoptions Australia data collection.

Information applications and vetoes

  • Two types of information applications are possible in Australia:
    • Identifying information applications, which include details about the person whom the information is being sought, or
    • Non-identifying information applications, which include details such as age of the birth parent(s) and place of birth.
  • Two types of vetoes are possible in Australia:
    • Identifying information veto, used when a party to an adoption request that identifying information not be released to any other party to an adoption
    • Contact veto, which creates legal requirements for those receiving identifying information not to contact the other party. This can be lodged even if the information about an adoption is never requested.