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The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption



This book comes out of a national research project investigating the history of adoption in Australia. The project examined the distinctive ways in which adoption has reflected and shaped family ideals within Australian settler society. It sought to bring into history the stories of people whose lives have been changed by adoption, in order to acknowledge that experience and to read it against policy change.

The study set out to fill a gap in the nation’s self-understanding by explaining the historical factors driving the changing place, meaning and significance of adoption. This undertaking took on added purpose as successive Australian governments, both state and federal, delivered apologies to children and parents who were victims of past policies of forced removal.

Relevant publications by the authors and other members of the research team are listed below. Those interested in reading more about the history of Australian adoption, primary and secondary, will find a comprehensive listing on the Monash History of Adoption project website at:


Cuthbert, D. 2010. ‘Beyond Apologies: Historical Reflections on Policy and Practice Relating to the Out-of-home Care of Children in Contemporary Australia’. Children Australia, 35(2): 12–17.

Cuthbert, D., Murphy K., Quartly, M. 2009. ‘Adoption and Feminism: Towards Framing a Feminist Response to Contemporary Developments in Adoption’. Australian Feminist Studies 24, issue 62: 395–419.

Cuthbert, D., Quartly, M. (eds). 2010. Adoption, Fostering, Permanent Care and Beyond: Re-Thinking Policy and Practice in Out-of-home Care for Children in Australia. Special issue of Children Australia, 35(2).

Cuthbert, D., Quartly, M. 2012. ‘“Forced Adoption” in the Australian Story of National Regret and Apology’. Australian Journal of Politics and History 58: 82–96.

Cuthbert, D., Quartly, M. 2013. ‘Forced Child Removal and the Politics of National Apologies in Australia’. American Indian Quarterly 37(1–2) (Winter-Spring): 178–202.

Howe, R, Swain, S. 1993. The Challenge of the City: The Centenary History of Wesley Central Mission. Melbourne: Hyland House.

Murphy, K., Quartly, M., Cuthbert, D. 2009. ‘“In the best interests of the child”: Mapping the (Re) Emergence of Pro-Adoption Politics in Contemporary Australia’. Australian Journal of Politics and History, 55(2): 201–218.

Musgrove N., Swain, S. 2010. ‘The “Best Interests of the Child” in Historical Perspective’. Children Australia 35(2): 35–37.

Quartly, M. 2010. ‘The “Rights of the Child” in global perspective’. Adoption, Fostering, Children Australia 35(2): 38–42.

Quartly, M. 2012. ‘“[W]e find families for children, not children for families”: An incident in the long and unhappy history of relations between social workers and adoptive parents.’ Social Policy and Society 11(3): 415–427.

Quartly, M., Cuthbert, D., Murphy, K., 2009. ‘Political Representations of Adoption in Australia, 1996–2007.’ Adoption and Culture 2: 141–158.

Quartly, M., Cuthbert, D., Swain, S. 2012. ‘A Report on the Findings of the Monash History of Adoption Project.’ Australian Journal of Adoption 6 (12): n. p. (Papers of the 10th Australian Adoption Conference). At

Quartly, M., Swain, S. 2012. ‘The Market in Children: Analysing the Language of Adoption in Australia.’ History Australia, 9(2): 69–89.

Spark, C., Cuthbert, D. 2009. Other People’s Children: Adoption in Australia. Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.

Swain, P., Swain, S. 1992. To Search for Self: The Experience of Access to Adoption Information. Sydney: Federation Press.

Swain, S. 2010. ‘Birth and Death in a New Land’. History of the Family 15(1): 25–33.

Swain, S. 2011. ‘Adoption, Secrecy and the Spectre of the True Mother in Twentieth-century Australia. Australian Feminist Studies 26(68): 193–205.

Swain, S. 2011. ‘Failing Families: Echoes of Nineteenth Century Child Rescue Discourse in Contemporary Debates around Child Protection.’ In Marie-Louise Kulke and Christian Gutlebon (eds), Neo-Victorian Families: Gender, Sexual and Cultural Politics, 71−91. Netherlands: Rodopi.

Swain, S. 2010. ‘Australia’. In Brigitte Bechtold and Donna Cooper Graves (eds). An Encyclopedia of Infanticide, 24−27. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Swain, S. 2012. ‘Market Forces: Defining the Adoptable Child, 1860–1940’. Social Policy and Society 11(3): 399–414.

Swain, S. 2012. ‘Snapshots from the Long History of Adoption in Australia’. Australian Journal of Adoption 6(12): n. pag. (Papers of the 10th Australian Adoption Conference.) At:

Swain, S., Howe, R. 1995. Single Mothers and Their Children: Disposal, Punishment and Survival in Australia. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Swain, S., Hillel, M. 2010. Child, Nation, Race and Empire: Child Rescue Discourse, England, Canada and Australia, 1850–1915. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Studies of Indigenous Adoption

Cuthbert, D. 2001. ‘Holding the Baby: Questions Arising from Research into the Experiences of Non-Aboriginal Adoptive and Foster Mothers of Aboriginal Children’. Journal of Australian Studies 22 (59): 39–52.

Cuthbert, D. 2001. ‘Stolen Children, Invisible Mothers and Unspeakable Stories: The Experiences of Non-Aboriginal Adoptive and Foster Mothers of Aboriginal Children’. Social Semiotics 11(2): 139–154.

Cuthbert, D. 2000. ‘Mothering the “Other”: Feminism, Colonialism and the Experiences of Non-Adoptive Mothers of Aboriginal Children’. Balayi: Culture, Law and Colonialism 1 (1): 31–49.

Swain, S. 2013. ‘“Homes are Sought for These Children”. Locating Adoption within the Australian Stolen Generations Narrative’. American Indian Quarterly 37(1–2) (Winter-Spring): 203–217.

Studies of Intercountry Adoption

Cuthbert, D. (ed). 2012. The Vietnam Inheritance. Special Issue of Journal of Australian Studies 36(4).

Cuthbert, D. (ed). 2012. Waiting for a Better World: Critical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Intercountry Adoption, Themed section of Social Policy and Society 11(3).

Cuthbert, D., Swain, S., Quartly, M. 2010. ‘Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Intercountry Adoption in Australia’ (Workshop summary). At

Cuthbert, D., Spark, C., Murphy K. 2010. ‘“That was then, but this is now”. Historical Perspectives on Intercountry and Domestic Child Adoption in Australian Public Policy’. Journal of Historical Sociology 23(3): 427–452.

Forkert, J. 2012. ‘Refugees, Orphans and a Basket of Cats: The Politics of Operation Babylift’. In Denise Cuthbert (ed), The Vietnam Inheritance. Special issue of Journal of Australian Studies 36(4): 427–444.

Fronek, P., Cuthbert D. 2012. ‘History Repeating… Disaster-Related Intercountry Adoption and the Psychosocial Care of Children’. Social Policy and Society 11(3): 429–442.

Fronek, P., Cuthbert, D. 2012. ‘The Future of Inter-Country Adoption: A Paradigm Shift for this Century’. International Journal of Social Welfare 21(2): 215–224.

Fronek, P., Cuthbert, D. 2013. ‘Apologies for Forced Adoption Practices: Implications for Contemporary Intercountry Adoption’. Australian Social Work. DOI:10.1080/0312407X.2013.777970.

Murphy, K., Pinto, S., Cuthbert, D. 2010. ‘“These infants are future Australians”: Making the Nation through Intercountry Adoption’. Journal of Australian Studies 34(2): 141–161.

Taft, M., Dreyfus, K., Quartly M., Cuthbert., D. Spring 2013. ‘“I knew who I was not, but not who I was”. Public Storytelling in the Lives of Australian Adoptees’. Oral History (UK) 41(1): 73–83.

Willing, I., Fronek P., Cuthbert. D. 2012. ‘Review of Sociological Literature on Intercountry Adoption’. Social Policy and Society 11(3): 465–479.

The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption

   by Marian Quartly, Shurlee Swain, Denise Cuthbert