Today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will deliver a national apology to the tens of thousands of Australians affected by forced adoptions.
Forced adoption policies were in place in Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s. Those affected by the forced adoptions – mothers, fathers, children, siblings and extended family – have been lobbying for an apology since 2008, when Kevin Rudd first issued an apology to the Stolen Generation.
Keen to know more?
Here’s a quick guide to the history, the policy, the significance of today’s apology and most importantly, the stories of those who were affected.
How many forced adoptions took place and when did it happen?
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.
What is happening today?
The Prime Minister will deliver a national apology on behalf of all Australians, to those who were affected by the forced adoption policy. The apology will happen in the parliament today and the Leader of the Opposition will also have the opportunity to express his words of apology as well.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will also announce $5 million for those affected by forced adoption. This money will give those who were affected access to specialist mental health support and support to be able to better trace their records and find their parents or children, if they wish.
Mrs Jean Ann Argus (Victoria)
“I would like to take you back and have you think about a few things. This is from a mother of a child that she lost to adoption. Think about the labour ward. Try to imagine a baby being born and you hearing that first cry of life, the life that you have created.
“You want to see that child, but you cannot because you are shackled to a bed or there is a pillow on your stomach which stops you from viewing that child. You ask for your baby: ‘Can I see my baby?’ All you want to do is hold your baby, count the 10 fingers and the 10 toes. This child has bonded with you for nine months.
“You have carried this child. You have felt every movement while this child has been with you. You are the only person this baby knows. It has bonded with you in the womb and yet you are denied that right.
They have denied you the right of seeing your child. They have denied you the right of letting you know what the sex is of your child. Then there is silence. Your baby is taken and put in a different nursery somewhere, crying because the only person that baby knows is you, the mother. It does not know the nurse who took it out.
“We are the mothers of these children, the natural mothers who were persecuted. We were not even given the basic human right as a mother or a human being to make that choice, whether to keep our child or to adopt our child out. It was not given to us. Our rights were denied.”