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Intercountry adoption

Intercountry adoption is a formal process that occurs when an Australian citizen or permanent resident, who is residing in Australia, adopts a child from another country through the authorities in their Australian state or territory.

This Attorney-General's Department is responsible for enabling the performance of Australia's obligations under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

From 1 January 2017, responsibility for managing and establishing Australia’s intercountry adoption programs transferred to the Department of Social Services (DSS).

  • For information about programs, including eligibility criteria and post-adoption support, visit the Intercountry Adoption Australia website.
  • For intercountry adoption policies and key documents for prospective adoptive parents and approved applicants, visit the DSS website.
  • For latest intercountry adoption news, visit the Intercountry Adoption Australia website.

The Australian Government does not process adoption applications. This is the role of the state and territory central authorities. State and territory central authorities assess the eligibility and suitability of people wanting to adopt a child from overseas against criteria outlined in their own legislation. They also manage the adoption application process.

Intercountry Adoption Australia

The Intercountry Adoption Australia service, delivered by DSS, provides information and referrals for anyone involved in the intercountry adoption process. It includes a website and a free telephone information line staffed by qualified social workers and counsellors.

Intercountry adoption statistics

Global trends

Statistics show that intercountry adoption rates are declining worldwide. Figures published on the Hague Conference on Private International Law website show a global decline of over seventy per cent in the last decade, from 45,483 adoptions in 2004 to 12,201 adoptions in 2015. This decline is due to a number of factors including economic and social changes that allow children to remain with their birth family or be adopted in their country of origin.

A statistic often quoted about the number of children in need of adoption is that there are over 140 million orphans worldwide. However, since the 1990s, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and many other international organisations have defined 'orphan' as a child who has lost one or both parents. The vast majority of orphans are still living with a family member. Even where orphans are living in institutions, many are regularly visited by family members. Generally these children are not considered to be in need of intercountry adoption.


Each year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare produces a report on finalised adoptions in Australia using information obtained from each state and territory department responsible for adoption. The Adoption Australia reports and dynamic data displays are available on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.