Parliament apologises for forced adoptions
Sydney Morning Herald
20th September 2012
Updated 20th September 2012
The State Government has this morning said sorry for the trauma, grief and pain caused by so-called forced adoptions in this state, in which thousands of babies were removed from women who did not want to give them up, to a mixed reaction from those affected.
Premier Barry O'Farrell described the practice as a "shameful episode of our history" and one that inflicted pain he found almost incomprehensible as a parent himself.
"This policy ignored the fundamental bond between mother and child and the lifelong trauma caused when that bond is prematurely and brutally severed," he said.
"We are sorry for the forced adoptions practices that severed the fundamental, life-giving bonds between a mother and her child.
"We say sorry for treating you cruelly and insensitively when what you most needed and deserved was care and support."
The Premier's apology was warmly received by many in the packed gallery but others said it left them disappointed, as they felt it did not stress the criminality of what occurred or offer more reparations, such as better mental health services.
Christine Cole, convener of the Apology Alliance, which has been campaigning for apologies in this and other states, said she had cried during South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill's apology earlier this year. But she did not cry, or even applaud, Mr O'Farrell.
"I'm a little bit disappointed, I thought it could have gone a lot further," she said.
She criticised a line in Mr O'Farrell's speech in which he said "nothing today is critical of adoptive parents who are committed to the wellbeing of their children".
Ms Cole said it was unnecessary and hurtful as the practice was in part driven by demand from infertile couples.
"They gained at our expense, at our tragedy," she said.
Ms Cole said she thought Opposition Leader John Robertson's speech was "stronger", and also applauded the speeches of Community Services Minister Pru Goward and her opposition counterpart, Barbara Perry.
Mr Robertson said the "barbaric" practices were widespread and sanctioned by government policy. He detailed women being tied to beds, drugged, and buried under a mountain of pillows.
"It has become the norm to describe what these women experienced as forced adoption. However mothers I have spoken to feel that the word adoption is too sanitised for what happened to them," he said.
"What they endured was more akin to an abduction or a kidnapping."
He said he respected and acknowledged, to many shouts of "hear hear", those who felt an apology without recompense did not go far enough.
But other mothers said they appreciated the words of all speakers.
Noelene Robinson thought she was signing her own release form from hospital just after giving birth at age 18, only later to discover she had been tricked into signing an adoption consent.
She said it was a "four tissue speech".
"I'm quite happy with what was said. I think they chose their words very carefully but each of them did a nice job," she said.
She attended the apology with her son, Rodney Rose, with whom she reunited in 2010.
The apology was a recommendation of an inquiry in 2000 but was never offered by the former Labor government.