These life stories may contain descriptions of childhood trauma and abuse, as well as images, voices and names of people now deceased. If you need help, you can find contact details for some relevant support services on our support page.

Former Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett (b. 1968), was placed in foster care as a newborn baby.

Born David John Bird to a teenage mother in Hobart, David explains that his grandparents decided he would be given up for adoption as they believed it was “in my best interests at the time”. He spent forty days and forty nights in the hospital before being placed with a Tasmanian family, the Bartletts.

The Bartletts were already raising four biological cildren and went on to have one more. David was never formally adopted, remaining a ward of the state until he turned eighteen. This was presumably to ensure the family would receive financial support to assist with David’s significant medical needs as an infant. 

David did not know he was a foster child until he was six. He found a photograph labeled ‘David John Bird’ and asked his father about it. David explains:

There was a never a secret. They wanted to tell me everything they could… They explained… you know, ‘we choose you, we wanted you,’ all of those sorts of things.

 At age eighteen, David began searching for his birth parents. 

I met my birth mother when I was nineteen and have a very strong personal relationship with her, although for many years after meeting her, she was really completely incapable of talking about it without becoming very emotional. 

David did not particularly enjoy school as a child but highly values education for its ability to reduce economic disadvantage.

He worked for the School and College Access programme while attending the University of Tasmania where he earned a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) and a Graduate Diploma of Business. David Bartlett had a career in IT before becoming a politician.

During his time at university, David’s relationship with his mother and his work in education equity led to an interest in Labor politics. 

David Bartlett ran for the Parliament of Tasmania at the encouragement of Australian Labor Party (ALP) member and former federal minister, John Button (1933-2008). He was elected as an ALP member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 2004.

In May 2008, David Bartlett became the 43rd Premier of Tasmania.

As a politician, Bartlett advocated for the legal rights of adopted people. During the debate on the Tasmanian Apology to the Stolen Generations, he spoke in Parliament about the injustice of separation from family and community.  He attended but did not participate in the debate on the Tasmanian Apology to Former State Wards because he did not want to discuss his personal experiences on the Parliamentary floor.

Bartlett recognises how fortunate he is to have had a positive experience growing up in state care and is compassionate towards those who have suffered.

As Premier, I used to sign off on a monthly basis, compensational payments to children in state care who’d been abused. It always actually never failed to make me cry while I was doing my signing, seeing all these names and all these people that were getting compensation from the government, who, just like me, were, wards of the State. And to juxtapose that with [my] incredible upbringing is something that I’m very grateful for.

…We hear all the time about children in State care, and how tough their lot is and how, how the state needs to do so much better. I want to get on the record a story… where the state did extremely well.

David Bartlett resigned as Premier in January 2011 to spend more time with his family. He went on to become the Attorney-General of Tasmania and has had a successful career in IT since leaving politics. 


Evans, Caroline. David Bartlett interviewed by Caroline Evans in the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project [sound recording].” National Library of Australia, 24 June 2011.

Hooper, Fred. “David Bartlett’s ‘huge, weird and wild’ family.” ABC Local, 9 May 2014. 

Image available here.