Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a historic national apology in Parliament. She apologised for the treatment of unmarried mothers in Australia. From the late 1940s until the 1980s many unmarried mothers in Australia had their babies forcibly adopted.The news is shocking and seems incredible in the 21st Century. Perhaps it is the fact that it is a country such as Australia why it is all the more shocking. No third world country here but rather a civilised nation.
In the Great Hall of Parliament House Gillard speaking for former governments of Australia apologised. In the audience were some of the people directly affected by the forced adoption policy.
Japan Times reports GIllard saying "Today this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologizes for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.” The PM committed 5 million Australian dollars ($5 million) to help those affected. There will be help for families to reconnect and support services. A national exhibition will draw on people's experiences, using the nation's archives as a source.
The forced adoption policy offers a warning to those who believe we should stick with the tried and tested family unit rather than thinking outside of the box. Times change.
After the Second World War, until the late 70s, the Australian government, and many citizens, believed that a child needed to be raised in a loving relationship or at least by a couple. The parents had to be a man and a woman living as married partners. The idea of a lone parent raising a child was dismissed as not workable
Unmarried mothers faced a tough time. In the early days they were often shunned by family and friends. In the 40s and 50s that was normal in places such as the UK and USA too. In Australia however it went a step further. Unmarried mothers were pressurised to hand over their baby or babies for adoption. They were sometimes threatened and often deceived. The Australian Senate had decided that the babies of unmarried children should be brought up by childless parents. Those who could not have children of their own.
During the last few years there have been a series of apologies in Oz, from such as,
Adoption in Australia is handled by government agencies. Before 1973 government agencies would not allow unmarried mothers any benefits which may have helped the family unit stay together.
An estimated 225,000 unwed mothers surrendered their babies for adoption, most forcibly. There was some corruption with signatures allowing adoption forged. Some babies were signed over before they were even born. The girls and women faced a huge amount of pressure and most gave in seeing no viable alternative.
During the 50s, 60s and early 70s, when most of the forced adoptions took place, Australia was a Conservative led Christian country. The victims of this cruel policy have said that a parliamentary apology was long overdue. Japan Times reports, "Christine Cole, the head of the Apology Alliance, who lost a child through forced adoption, told ABC television the words were long overdue. “I had my baby taken from me in 1969, and I think the use of the term ‘forced adoption’ polarizes the actual phenomena of what was going on,” she said. “What was going on was kidnapping children, kidnapping newborn babies from their mothers at the birth, using pillows and sheets to cover their face, drugging them as I was drugged, with drugs like sodium pentothal, chloral hydrate and other mind-altering barbiturates,” she said. “It was cruel, it was punitive and then often the mother was transported like I was away from the hospital so you had no access to your baby.”
Opinion: Monstrous. Get the apologies over and compensate those involved.