Inheriting a deceased person’s rights to adoption information

Adoption Act 2000 (s137) & Adoption Regulation 2003 (cls49-51)

Under the Adoption Act 2000 an adopted person and their birth parent(s) have a direct entitlement to receive certain prescribed social and medical information. This would depend on when the adoption took place and age of the adopted person.

In the event of a death of an adopted person or birth parent, a relative or a significant other person can apply to ‘inherit’ the deceased person’s rights to adoption information. This is not an automatic entitlement. A person’s application to inherit the rights of a deceased birth parent or adopted person will be assessed.

If your application is approved you may then apply for an Adoption Information Certificate (AIC), that would have otherwise been issued to the adopted person or birth parent. You are also entitled to some of the information which would have been provided to the deceased person.

How applications are assessed

When considering an application the Act requires that the Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) Adoption Information Unit (AIU) 'take into account any likely detriment to the welfare and best interest of any adopted person, birth parent, relative or spouse of the deceased adopted person, or any other person, if the birth certificate and adoption information is supplied'. s137(3).

There are two main types of inherited rights applications:

  • family history (ancestry) applications
    These are applications where both the adopted person and birth parent(s) are deceased. They are more likely to be approved. In these situations the release of adoption information is less likely to cause distress to any surviving person.
  • family identity (kinship)
    These are applications where one of the parties to the adoption (either a birth parent or the adopted person) is still likely to be alive or a significant person who was very close to one of the parties is possibly still alive. Depending on the specific circumstances, family identity applications are more likely not to be approved under s137 due to the risk of their high sensitivity. These applications are often instead considered under other sections of the Act that may also enable access to family information and potential reunion.

How to apply

In order for a decision to be made concerning your application and to locate the record of adoption, you will need to consider and provide detailed information to a range of questions on the application form.

Download and complete the Application - Inheriting a deceased person’s rights to adoption information form.

Options available if your application is not approved

If your application is not approved, you may be advised that it is more appropriate to apply to register your name on the Reunion and Information Register (RIR) maintained by FACS.

If you are asked to join the RIR, the following are possible options that will be discussed with you:

  • place your name on the RIR and wait until / if, the person you are seeking also registers. This may be appropriate in situations where:
    • it is unknown whether the adopted person knows of their adoption
    • it is unknown whether other people in the birth parent's family know of the adopted person's birth
    • other potentially very sensitive situations
  • place your name on the RIR and potentially be matched with another person connected to the same adoption, who has also registered. If other people connected to the deceased person have also registered on the RIR a match will occur between the applicant and that person
  • place your name on the RIR and have the AIU undertake an outreach on your behalf to locate and make contact with the person you are seeking. The AIU will consider whether this is the most suitable option in your individual circumstances.

Fees

  • Initial application $50.
  • If your application is approved and you apply for an Adoption Information Certificate (AIC) $35.
  • To register your name on the RIR $65.
  • Concession rate of $35 applies for pensioners, Veteran Affairs, holders of the Health Care Card and for people formerly under the care of the Minister for all of the above services.

Searching for surviving relatives of the deceased

Sharing news about a death of an adopted person or death of a birth parent may be extremely distressing for both you and for the person receiving the news. AIU recommends that you use the support of a specialist adoption intermediary service. The Adoption search guide will also provide guidance in your search for and potential contact with any surviving relatives of the deceased.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (24 hours/7 days)