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In the period 1945-1975, over 45,000 adoptions were legalised in Victoria. With the demand for adoptable babies at its peak across Australia, up to 68 per cent of ex-nuptial births resulted in adoption. It was argued that adoption guaranteed the moral and social redemption of mother and child, with adoptive parents cast as benevolent and sympathetic. Professionals who facilitated adoption perpetuated the stigma attached to single motherhood by encouraging silence, secrecy and relinquishment. Drawing on economic and business concepts to emphasise the incentive-driven, transactional nature of the adoption industry in this period, this paper examines past adoption practices at the Royal Women’s Hospital (RWH) in Melbourne. This analysis reveals the persistence of market-like transactions, notwithstanding legislation that was introduced in the early twentieth century which intended to distance adoption practices from past discredited trade in babies.


School of Arts

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access