Our story

For over 30 years, VANISH has provided specialist search and support services for adults affected by adoption, out-of-home care, and more recently, donor conception. Through this work, thousands of individuals have been assisted to know more about their identity and their family of origin, or in the case of parents, about their child.

VANISH was established in 1989 by individuals from three grassroots organisations who shared a belief that those with a lived experience could make a vital contribution to post-adoption services. They came together to form what was then known as the “Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help (V.A.N.I.S.H.)”. This name was changed to “VANISH” in 2001.

Since then, VANISH has been a strong and consistent voice for those separated from family or from a child or children. Aided by volunteers, supporters, and over 1,000 members, we continue to advocate for a society that honours the right to genetic connection and identity.

Find out more about the history of VANISH in the timeline below.

Adopted adults can obtain their adoption records in Victoria

After many years of cumulative advocacy efforts by several groups, including the Geelong Adoption Program (GAP) led by Pauline Ley OAM, JIGSAW, and ARMS (Vic), and a four-year review, the 1984 Adoption Act is passed in Victorian Parliament.

Adoption Information Service struggles to meet demand

The Victorian Government’s Adoption Information Service (AIS) experiences unprecedented demand from the adoption community resulting in lengthy wait times of up to 7 years for adopted people to access their information

VANISH is established

As a result of the review of the Adoption Information Service (1987), members of GAP, JIGSAW, and ARMS, together with the Adoptive Parents Association of Victoria (APAV), are invited to submit a funding proposal to the Victorian government to form an independent search and support service, involving those with lived experience.

VANISH receives unprecedented numbers of search enquiries

As a result of the review of the Adoption Information Service (1987), members of GAP, JIGSAW, and ARMS, together with the Adoptive Parents Association of Victoria (APAV), are invited to submit a funding proposal to the Victorian government to form an independent search and support service

VANISH extends services to Forgotten Australians

The newly formed organisation experiences an unprecedented demand for service. The search team—Margaret Campi, Ann Farrell, and numerous volunteers—handle thousands of new enquiries. While the majority of service users are adopted people, the numbers of natural parents and adoptive parents double in the second year of service.

VANISH amends its constitution to include Forgotten Australians and their families as members
Constitution is amended to include people affected by donor conception

In line with the overall philosophy of VANISH, the constitution is amended again to include adults affected by third party reproduction. VANISH believes that many of the issues confronting people affected by adoption and separation from their family of origin apply equally to people affected by donor conception and surrogacy.

Name is changed to VANISH

V.A.N.I.S.H. ceases to be an acronym and changes its name to VANISH in order to be inclusive of Forgotten Australians and people affected by donor conception

Open Place is established

A new service for Forgotten Australians called Open Place is established. VANISH continues to provide search services to some Forgotten Australians directly, as well as through an agreement with Open Place.

Victorian Parliamentary Apology for Past Adoption Practices

The Victorian Government formally apologises for forced adoption practices October 25, 2012, following a landmark inquiry by the Federal Senate, which received submissions from hundreds of individuals who had suffered from the impact of forced adoption

VANISH develops professional training for counsellors and health professionals

Following the Victorian Parliamentary Apology for Past Adoption Practices, VANISH is funded by the state government to provide professional training to counsellors and allied health professionals to build the knowledge and skill base in Victoria to appropriately support adults affected by adoption.

National Apology for Forced Adoptions

On 21 March 2013 Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivers a formal apology to people affected by past forced adoption or removal policies and practices on behalf of the Australian Government in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra

Adoption Amendment Act 2013 (Vic) enables natural parents to receive identifying information

An amendment to the Victorian Adoption Act (1984), taking effect on 1 July 2013, enables natural parents to receive identifying information about their adult children without the need for the adopted person’s permission. This information is subject to ‘contact statements’ which involves fines if the statements are breached.

VANISH turns 25

VANISH celebrates 25 years of dedicated service and advocacy, and publishes a commemorative booklet, which you can read here

Adoption Amendment Act 2015 (Vic) removes contact statements for natural parents

Contact statements for natural parents are considered to be hurtful, discriminatory, and unnecessary by many people, particularly parents who had their children forcibly taken. After a public campaign, contact statements for natural parents are removed by the Adoption Amendment Act 2015 (Vic).

New donor conception laws – the right to know

On 1 March 2017, new donor conception laws are implemented in Victoria. This world-first legislation gives all people conceived from egg and sperm donation in Victoria the right to know their donor’s identity

VLRC Review of the Adoption Act

The Commission’s review of the current Adoption Act 1984 is completed in February and tabled in Parliament on 7 June 2017. The Commission makes 88 recommendations to modernise the Act—the main one being that Victoria needs a new Adoption Act. 

Pauline Ley, Founding Member of VANISH, receives an Order of Australia Medal

For five decades, Pauline has been an inspirational and respected leader in the adoption and donor conception communities in Australia and overseas. Pauline was a determined and dedicated advocate for changing Victorian laws to enable people separated through adoption to access their records

Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoptions in Victoria

The inquiry explores the support services available and responses to the issues of historical forced adoptions in Victoria. The inquiry receives 114 submissions and hears personal testimonies from many people affected by past adoption practices at 11 days of public hearings in Melbourne and regional areas.

Victorian Government Response to the Inquiry

In March 2022, the Victorian Government formally responds to the Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria, supporting 33 of the 56 recommendations made by the Legal and Social Issues Committee

Donor Conceived Australia (DCA) is founded

Donor Conceived Australia (DCA), a national, not for profit charitable organisation led by donor-conceived people, is founded by current and former VANISH Committee of Management members Aimee Shackleton and Ross Hunter, together with other volunteers. 

10th Anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions

Tuesday 21 March marks the 10th anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions. VANISH and ARMS Vic hold a commemorative event at the Taken Not Given memorial statue in St Andrew’s Place Reserve, Melbourne, with guest speaker the Hon Nahum Mushin AM.

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Contact us to find out more about our services or have a chat about how we can best support you.