The Interplay Between Infertility and Adoption in Policy and Practice in Twentieth-Century Australia

  • Shurlee SwainEmail author


This chapter traces the changing relationship between infertility and adoption in mid-twentieth-century Australia. After the Second World War, the lack of babies available for adoption made the role of the adoption broker critical. This coincided with the point at which infertility came to be seen increasingly as a medical or psychological problem. In evidence before the recent Australian Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices, it was alleged that doctors and social workers were under pressure to satisfy the ‘customer’ by producing the baby when other treatments had failed, creating an environment in which single mothers came under extreme pressure to relinquish their children. This chapter explores the validity of such claims, and argues that while the power imbalances between single women, infertile couples, and the agencies which manage adoption remain unaddressed, there is no guarantee that similar injustices will not occur in the future.


Adoption Class Psychology Race Social workers 

Research Resources

Primary Sources


    1. Adoption History Project website, 2012:
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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