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Australia: Adopted Persons in NSW Able to Obtain Birth Certificates with Birth Family Information

(Dec. 24, 2020) On November 16, 2020, the Adoption Legislation Amendment (Integrated Birth Certificates) Act 2020 (NSW) came into force in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, following its enactment in September 2020. The Act amended the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW) (BDMR Act) and the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) to allow the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) to issue Integrated Birth Certificates (IBCs) to adopted people in the state. An IBC “is a new form of birth certificate that includes information about an adopted person’s parents and siblings at birth, as well as their parents and siblings after adoption.”

Previously, the BDM was only able to issue post-adoption birth certificates, which provide information regarding the adopted person’s adoptive parents only and cannot include any information that indicates a person has been adopted. The Act provides that, for adoptions registered on or after the commencement date of the Act, the BDM must issue both a post-adoption birth certificate and an IBC. (BDMR Act s 25A(3).) For adoptions registered prior to that date, relevant parties can apply for an IBC, with the process dependent on the relevant dates and circumstances:

  • For adoptions registered on or after January 1, 2010, an adopted person over 18 years old, as well as the birth parents and adoptive parents, may apply directly to BDM for an IBC; if the adopted person is under 18 years old, the consent of the adoptive parents is needed, or the adoptive parents can apply for the IBC directly, while birth parents will first need to obtain an Adoption Information Certificate (AIC) from the Department of Communities and Justice before applying for an IBC.
  • For adoptions registered before 2010, where the adopted person is over 18 years old, the adopted person, birth parents, and adoptive parents will first need to obtain an AIC, and adoptive parents will also need to have the consent of the adopted person; where the adopted person is under 18 years old, any party seeking an IBC will first need to obtain an AIC, with adopted persons first needing the consent of their birth parents and adoptive parents in order to obtain an AIC.

In a press release following the passage of the Act, NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said that “[t]he introduction of IBCs is the result of reviews and extensive consultation with key government bodies, the adoption community and members of the public,” and that

This reform is not just symbolic; it reflects NSW’s contemporary open adoption policy[.]

Connections between birth and adopted families are encouraged under modern practices so that children are able to better understand their background and heritage.

An IBC reflects this approach as it records the names of both the birth and adoptive parents and siblings on the one document.

IBCs have also been introduced in South Australia, following the passage of the Adoption (Review) Amendment Act 2016 (SA) in December 2016. The Australian Capital Territory also enacted legislation, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Act 2020 (ACT), in August 2020 that enables the introduction of IBCs, with the provisions scheduled to commence on June 30, 2021.