UPDATE: In NSW today, Premier Barry O’Farrell delivered an historic address, apologising to the parents and children who were the victims of forced adoption. He said the parliament acknowledged the “the terrible wrongs that were done, and with profound sadness and remorse say to those living with ongoing grief and pain, we are sorry”.
Premier O’Farrell’s speech follows similar apologies from the SA and WA parliaments over the policy of previous governments. Approximately 150,000 children were removed from their unwed mothers between the 1950s and the 1970s.
Bern Morley was one of them. She writes:
I am adopted. My brother is adopted. No, we are not “blood” brother and sister as is often asked. I used to think that a weird question. Like, did people think Mum and Dad found some baby making duo who had my brother, handed him over and then 2.5 years later, gave them me as well? But now I realise people thought we came as a package. That Mum and Dad took the two of us on, me at birth and Les as a toddler. I get that now.
But no, my brother has his own story and I, mine.
In 1974, my mother fell pregnant to her boyfriend and being the “good Catholic girl” that she was, had me in June 1975 and immediately put me up for adoption. I am unsure whether she ever got to hold me. Or see me. From what I gather, she wasn’t given the option to keep me. She wasn’t married, she was barely 19 and she had parents who wouldn’t have it any other way.
I wonder what it must have been like. To feel me kicking inside her, to go into what I’m guessing was a painful labour, and then to hand me over to the nurse without even being granted a glance at the baby she had just given birth to. I feel so incredibly sad for her. After having given birth to three babies myself, I can’t even fathom how she would have coped with her grief. Her pain. Her loss.
But life goes on. Hers and mine.
My childhood was a typical Australian one. It involved being forced into playing backyard cricket with my older brother, riding bikes, playing in the local creek, recycling cans for pocket money. The usual.
I grew up, stuff went down as it does with all families, but one thing I remember vividly was that Mum was extremely open with us about being adopted. She made absolutely no secret about it and I guess that’s why it never felt like a massive deal to me. Well until I hit 18 that was.