But that statement is a little misleading. In many cases the mothers had no say in the removal of their babies. For some they were coerced into the surrender. Others had the child they carried for nine months whisked away in the night, or when they were unconscious.
So ‘relinquished’ is a euphemism for the trauma that actually took place. But what else to call those stolen babies?
For the most part, they were never named by their mothers.
And who knows where they are now. Birth records were patchy.
What are ‘forced adoptions’ and when did they take place?
The numbers vary wildly so it’s impossible to say for sure.
For decades it was the social norm to expect young and unmarried mothers to give up their children. A cultural attitude that prevailed not only in some church run institutions but allowed to take place – and sometimes encouraged – by government legislation at the time.
There are reportedly at least 150,000 Australian women who had their children taken from them by some churches and adoption agencies from the early 1950s to the 1970s. The situation has been described as a blight on Australia’s history.
Some estimates put the figure at 250,000 women affected in Victoria alone, as a result of state sanctioned policies.
What we do know is that it was common, consistent and devastating for the families involved.
The chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, Martin Laverty, says he is sorry for what happened.
He says the organisation is committed to righting the wrongs and wants to develop protocols to assist women affected.
“It’s with a deep sense of regret, a deep sense of sorrow that practices of the past have caused ongoing pain, suffering and grief to these women, these brave women in Newcastle but also women around Australia,” Mr Laverty said in July last year.
The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne apologised this month.
“We are apologising to every woman who felt that she had no choice but to relinquish her baby for adoption whilst in our care.
We certainly are aware that many of them experienced and indeed continue to experience feelings of grief and pain and anger and loss. And we very much hope the apology that we’re issuing goes some way to acknowledge the pain and loss to those women, but also to their families,” said the hospital’s Fiona Judd.