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Without Consent: Australia's past adoption practices


  • Margaret Whitlam Galleries (map)

On the fifth day I was called into a back office to sign papers. When I refused to sign, I was told that if I signed I would be able to see my son and hold him. After I signed, that offer was taken off the table. I was then told that I was too young, there was no help and that I would be a bad mother and my baby would never forgive me.

 Linda (as told to the Senate Inquiry)


Without Consent is much more than an exhibition. It is a significant contribution to the narrative of our national history, giving voice to an estimated 250,000 Australians affected by forced adoption policies and practices, largely occurring between 1950 and 1975.

Incomplete jumper knitted by Kim McIlveen, 1974. Photographer: Angus Kendon.

Incomplete jumper knitted by Kim McIlveen, 1974. Photographer: Angus Kendon.

This touring exhibition from the National Archives of Australia provides an opportunity for these mothers, fathers, siblings, families and adopted persons to share their experiences in their own words, photographs and voice – many for the first time.

Their stories describe a dark period of Australian history, and begin to fill the silence created by the very few records kept by state and private institutions. Many of the accounts shared are those of unmarried mothers, whose babies were taken from them because of social stigma, and who subsequently were forced to live a lie for decades. Tragically, for some, their experience of forced adoption was a secret they took to their graves.

The exhibition and a website were developed following former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's national apology to those affected and in response to a specific recommendation by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report entitled Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. The exhibition challenges long-held assumptions and reveals the greater truth – that these forced adoptions were illegal and that the babies taken for adoption were dearly loved and wanted by their parents.

Without Consent is a tribute to the courage and generosity of those who volunteered to share their experiences. The Whitlam Institute is privileged to be hosting the exhibition and invites you to share their remarkable - often moving - stories.

7 July - 22 September 2017
Thursday and Friday 10:00am - 4:00pm
Saturday 8 July 11:00am - 4:00pm
Saturday 12 August 11:00am - 4:00pm
Sunday 27 August 10:00am - 3:00pm
Saturday 9 September 11:00am - 4:00pm

Without Consent: Australia's past adoption practices is a national touring exhibition developed and presented by the National Archives of Australia, assisted by the Australian Government's Visions of Australia program.