"The NSW Government expresses its great sorrow and remorse for the lasting damage the forced adoption practices of the past have caused in the lives of so many. We are sorry that those who suffered have waited so long for this acknowledgement. We know you live with this loss every day.”
On 20 September 2012, then Premier Barry O’Farrell apologised on behalf of the NSW State for the trauma, grief and pain caused by forced adoptions in the state.
Each year, our Post Adoption Resource Centre NSW (PARC) team hold a safe space for our client groups to acknowledge the anniversary.
To mark the 10th anniversary this year, our PARC staff and clients attended a special commemoration today at the Australia Museum in Sydney hosted by the NSW Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care and the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
The apology acknowledges the traumatic effects of the forced adoption practices of the past that have echoed through the lives of tens of thousands of mothers, fathers, people adopted as children and their families.
“For the team at the Post Adoption Resource Centre, the NSW Government’s Apology for harmful past forced adoption practices was a historic moment offering recognition that the suffering of many of clients and those in the wider adoption community had been finally and formally acknowledged,” says PARC Team Leader, Sarah Burn.
“The trauma they had carried had been laid bare and spoken aloud. Many felt validated for the first time and it allowed some to begin to share their story and start to heal after many years carrying secrecy and shame.”
Pictured is The Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services, Natasha Maclaren-Jones.
Plans for public memorial
The Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services, Natasha Maclaren-Jones, announced plans at today’s event for a permanent public memorial to be constructed as a place of active remembrance and a central place to gather and reflect for people affected by past forced adoption practices. It will be unveiled in September 2023 to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the NSW State Apology for Forced Adoption Practices.
The apology and planned memorial are significant steps in helping those affected by forced adoption to heal but there is more work left to do.
“While the formal recognition has been important for many, others still long for more, such as a redress scheme which has been offered to other communities who have been harmed by past Governmental policy,” Sarah says. “Others call for easier access to the discharge of their adoption, many want an increase to specialist services who are knowledgeable about adoption matters and trauma informed in their approach.
“Some still carry deep emotional and psychological wounds from their experience of forced adoption and seek easy and affordable access to psychiatric services.”
While the apology and planned memorial are important, it’s only a small step along the way of a very sensitive journey for victims enduring lifelong ramifications.
“For many, the Apology did not go far enough and little has changed,” Sarah says. “There were requests that the Apology not be shown at the event, as some individuals and groups are still distressed that the Apology did not ‘name the wrongs’.
“For some, the Memorial brings up mixed emotions between wanting to keep the conversation about the impact of adoption alive and educate those unaware of these past practices, and unease that the Memorial might be seen as the panacea for the lifelong suffering endured by those separated by adoption.”
On this milestone anniversary, timely access to adoption records is one of the most pressing issues facing the adoption community.
“COVID gave many people the time and space to reflect on their adoption experience and take steps to begin the journey of accessing their adoption information,” Sarah says. “This saw a sharp increase in applications to the Department of Communities and Justice’s Adoption Information Unit, meaning longer time frames for people wanting to access information.
“Many of the mothers from the forced adoption era are ageing and the ability for families to connect who have been separated by adoption begins with access to identifying information to start the search for each other.”
Supporting those affected by adoption
PARC has supported people affected by adoption in NSW since 1991. Post Adoption Support QLD (PASQ), established in 2009, supports clients in the Sunshine State and they will commemorate their State Government’s Forced Adoption Apology on 27 November 2022.
The services PARC and PASQ provide include information and support (accessing records, family tracing and post adoption related issues), counselling, intermediary services to connect family members separated through adoption, therapeutic groups and community awareness activities.
“We are here to support anyone impacted by adoption,” Sarah says. “That maybe someone who is adopted, someone who has been separated from their child through adoption, as well as adoptive parents and extended family who are touched by adoption or impacted in some way.”
It is estimated 1 in 15 people are affected by adoption in Australia. Those affected by adoption often seek support at key identity moments in their life; for instance, adolescence, meeting their life partner, starting a family or the death of loved ones.
“Often the clients we work with don’t have people in their lives who understand their experience, they feel a bit dismissed sometimes or not validated in their experience because people don’t really understand adoption unless you’ve walked in those shoes,” Sarah says.
“Our services assist people to navigate their way and support them on that journey.”
Click here for more information on the Post Adoption Resource Centre NSW and here to find out more about the Post Adoption Resource Centre QLD.