The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption tells the history of adoption in Australia from its beginnings in the nineteenth century to its decline at the beginning of the twenty-first. The authors find that a market in babies has long existed. In the early years supply outstripped demand; needy babies were hard to place. Mid-twentieth century demand and supply grew together with adoption presented as the perfect solution to two social problems: infertility and illegitimacy. Supply declined in the 1970s and demand turned to new global markets. Now these markets are closing, but technology provides new opportunities and Australians are acquiring babies through the surrogacy markets of India and the United States.
As the rate of adoptions in Australia falls to a historic low, and parliaments across the country are apologising to parents and babies for the pain caused by past practices, this book identifies an historical continuum between the past and the present and challenges the view that the best interests of the child can ever be protected in an environment where the market for babies is allowed to flourish.
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. 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.