On 27 November 2012, then Queensland Premier, the Honourable Campbell Newman MP, made a historic apology for past forced adoption policies and practices in Parliament, on behalf of the Queensland Legislative Assembly.
Every year since, our Post Adoption Support Queensland (PASQ) organise an event to commemorate the anniversary.
Commemorative events have been held at Brisbane’s Roma Street Parkland, where a memorial exists to honour this history and to provide a space of reflection for those affected.
This year, the event will be held at Queensland Parliament House on Friday November 25.
PASQ Team Leader, Jane Sliwka, says: “The apology acknowledged that Queensland mothers and fathers were denied the choice of parenthood. In particular, the mothers were denied a voice, dignity, care and had untruths told about them.
“The apology went on to address the trauma and pain that many adopted people have suffered due to the severing of bonds between them and their mother, father, siblings and extended family members. It was acknowledged that these other family members have also suffered grief.”
A recording of the event will be available after the event on the PASQ website here.
Forced adoptions memorial located in Roma Street Parkland, Brisbane.
Post adoption support in Queensland and NSW
The Benevolent Society has a long history of supporting those affected by adoption. The Post Adoption Resource Centre in NSW celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021 and, based on its success, the PASQ Service was established in 2009 to support Queenslanders affected by adoption separation, trauma and loss.
When supporting people affected by adoption, Jane is able to draw on her personal experience having been adopted herself. She spent a week in hospital with her birth parents, then about 10 weeks in foster care before being adopted.
Her birth mother was 17 and her birth father was 22 when she was born in 1987. It wasn’t the peak era for forced adoptions but in her birth mother’s case, there was definitely pressure on her to put Jane up for adoption.
During her psychology studies at university, Jane explored the impact adoption has on the attachment style of adopted people as part of her honours thesis.
“My finding was that those who were adopted, even as infants, were more likely to develop both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance which would impact upon all future relationships,” she says. “This is not to say that adopted people cannot heal these wounds, but it requires great commitment, conscious energy and often professional support.”
After attaining her degree, Jane knew her calling was to work with people impacted by adoption and it led her to The Benevolent Society.
“It has been a great privilege for me to work alongside clients and advocates within the adoption space since 2008 as a volunteer, student, counsellor and most recently the Team Leader of The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Support Queensland,” she says. “In these roles I have provided counselling support to those affected by adoption, search and intermediary services to assist with reconnection, advocacy for continued legislation change that will uphold the human rights of those affected by adoption and the organising of events to commemorate the state and federal apologies each year since they were given.”
Recently, the PASQ team hosted an online AdopTEA event during Queensland Mental Health Week (October 8-16) to increase understanding of the impacts of adoption and reduce the stigma associated with reaching out and seeking support.
“AdopTEA is an initiative that came from one of our stakeholders; her name is Judy Glover and she's a representative of a group called the Association for Adoptees. She came to The Benevolent Society with this idea in 2021 about how can we raise more awareness of the impacts of adoption.”
Jane (far left) and the PASQ team hosted an online AdopTEA event.
One of the highlights in Jane’s career was working alongside former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, on a project to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Federal Government’s Forced Adoption Apology, which was delivered by Julia herself on behalf of the Australian Government.
Jane Sliwka with Former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
“Every State Government in Australia, along with the Federal Government has taken responsibility and apologised for past adoption practices in this country,” she says. “Julia Gillard’s words on 21 March 2013 were like balm for my soul: ‘To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now’. It is the many advocates who kept speaking up over many years, often to their own detriment, that led to these apologies.
For more information about our post adoption support services, visit the Post Adoption Resource Centre QLD and Post Adoption Resource Centre NSW webpages or call 1800 236 762.