A NATIONAL apology and financial reparation is owed to parents and children who were victims of forced adoption policies, a Senate committee has found.
By Sue Dunlevy
March 1, 2012 / The Australian
The community affairs committee says the practice was wrong not just by today's standards but by the laws of the time.
The committee has called for governments and institutions involved in forced adoption from the 1940s to the 70s to set up grievance processes and provide redress where wrongdoing is established.
And it says the states should provide financial reparation schemes for the victims.
Committee member Claire Moore told the Senate that one mother had summed up the feelings of most of those who appeared before the inquiry. "I just want to make sure my child knows that I love him and that he knows I didn't give him away," the mother told the senators.
The report documents how many women were never allowed to see their babies, some were tied to the bed during labour and many were drugged. Those who resisted adopting out their child were told their boyfriend would be charged and jailed with carnal knowledge. In many cases, women were tricked into signing adoption forms. In other cases, they were separated from their children at birth without being able to hold them, and the adoption took place without their consent.
Many women were denied pain relief during labour and told their pain was punishment for their bad behaviour in becoming pregnant when they were not married, and they were drugged to dry up their breast milk.
About 150,000 such adoptions are believed to have taken place in the 1950s and 60s.
The report says adoption numbers in Australia peaked at 9798 in 1971, but last year there were just 412 adoptions.
In the past, the complaints of those women affected were dismissed because it was claimed the adoption practices could be excused as being in line with social mores at the time.
However, the report says what happened to these women was not only unethical, it was also against the laws of the time.
"It is time for governments and institutions involved to accept that such actions were wrong, not merely by today's values, but by the values and laws of the time," the report says.
It says the commonwealth government and every state government, and the hospitals and other institutions involved in the practice, should individually offer official apologies to the parents and children affected.
It calls for special counselling processes to be funded and wants the federal government to fund peer-support groups.
Lily Arthur, who co-ordinates the support group Origins, said the report shows Australia has "matured as a nation now that we can address the human rights abuses of our past".