The 21st of March 2020 marks 7 years since the National Apology for Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed the Australian Parliament and made a formal apology to those people affected by forced adoption policies and practices.
Forced adoption in Australia
Adoption can have a ripple effect of guilt, shame and grief for families.
The Senate Inquiry into Forced Adoption in February 2012 – shone a light on the alarming facts and impacts of forced adoption practices including practices that were coercive, “unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.” The Senate Inquiry made 20 recommendations beginning with the recommendation that Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments issue formal apologies.
The Senate Rreport estimated there were 140,000 to 150,000 total adoptions between 1951 and 1975. It’s impossible to know how many people are affected by the legacy of forced adoptions, but estimates are as high as 1 in 15 people.
The Apology made on behalf of the Australian people acknowledged the wide net of people that forced adoption practices affected.
“Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.
We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers. And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.”
It also offered hope that the Apology would “assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation’s history.”
Young, isolated and alone
Diane was given no choice to keep her baby boy in 1976.
“I gave birth 42 years ago. I loved him the minute he was born but I didn’t get to hold him,” she says. “I was told that he had died …I was so young, scared and ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone.”
Then last year Diane received an email and family photo from her eldest son who believed Diane was his birth mother. For Diane, seeing the striking resemblance of her granddaughter was both a joy and a shock.
[After receiving the email], “I was in shock and needed support — I found it with The Benevolent Society,” she says.
“Their staff and counsellors have saved my sanity, given brilliant advice and support and held my hand as I walked through the complexities of the situation.”
It’s so easy to love them
Diane — who went on to have 2 more children later in life — wrote back to her son with a simple message.
“I wrote to my son and told him I always wanted three children. I’m a grandmother — a role I feel neither old or wise enough for — but I’m embracing it and it’s so easy to love them.”
Hope and healing
For some forced adoption survivors like Diane, there was comfort in the 2013 apology and she wrote to Ms Gillard to tell her story. Her letter is now part of the Hope & Healing: Ten years of Post Adoption Support Queensland (PASQ) book capturing lived experiences of adoption.
“I wanted to thank you for the work you did that led to the apology for forced adoptions,” she wrote.
“It helps to know that I was not the only one treated in this way. The words you read out in Parliament are so meaningful and helped me accept what happened. Please accept my gratitude that you did all you could for all of us affected by the decisions taken decades ago.”
If you need support
Our specialist post adoption services and support adopted persons, parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended families of people affected by adoption .
Post Adoption Support Queensland
Post Adoption Resource Centre
Call 1800 236 762 for more information.