Federal push to review adoptions
AGE, April 22, 2010
Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin will raise past adoption practices with her state counterparts after calls for an
apology or inquiry from some women coerced into giving up their babies.
federal government commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to review past adoption practices to help piece
together what happened. The recently released review found that relinquishing a child for adoption had the potential for lifelong
consequences for the women and their now grown children. But it says there is no reliable data on the number of women coerced
into adopting out babies, or how many report continuing negative effects.
says understanding of the full impact of past practices is needed to be able to help those affected.
is believed to mainly affect single women who were pregnant between the 1940s and the 1970s. The report says research suggests
that from the 1940s it was ''seen as desirable to relinquish children as early as possible - straight after birth''. Women's
magazines became fierce advocates for adoption and in the 1940s and '50s waiting lists of prospective adoptive parents grew.
report's author, Daryl Higgins, general manager of research at the institute, said: ''No one is disputing what has happened
in the past. There are opportunities for doing further work to understand the current need - the emotional needs, the psychological
health needs - of those who were affected by past practices. The breadth of the evidence shows that this was not a unique
or isolated event and it's associated with significant long-term impacts for these women, including grief and loss and trauma.''
women have said they were heavily drugged, affecting their capacity to give consent. Other women were not permitted to see
their baby after birth and not told of their right to change their mind about relinquishing a baby.
was raised in parliamentary inquiries in Tasmania and New South Wales but, the report says, it would take significant research
to determine the extent to which these practices were widespread.
O'Dwyer, who is on the committee of the Association of Relinquishing Mothers, is one who has been pressing for an apology.
She does not oppose an inquiry but says other inquiries have left women with no support after they told their stories.
are left feeling bereft,'' she said. ''The thing that women need is counselling.''
spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said the report would be carefully considered, and the minister would raise the issue with her
state colleagues at their next meeting in June.
have started a dialogue with women affected by past adoption practices,'' she said.
Cuthbert, a professor in Monash University's school of political and social inquiry, is one year into a four-year project
looking at past adoption practices. It is a historical investigation of adoption legislation and policy in Australia. There
is also an interactive website, where people can share their stories.
were probably many occasions where, judged by today's standards, women weren't treated well,'' she said.
Head Qld Doctor Admits baby theft in Channel Seven Interview
PROFESSOR JONES: Well, my friends, on behalf of the
hospital, in recognition of the suffering and the pain that you’ve gone through for so many years, I’d like to
offer you this letter of apology and also to wish you the best for the future and, hopefully, you will gain a lot from the
counselling that you’re about to receive. Thank you very much.
INTERVIEWER: So, Professor Jones, can you tell me how today came about?
PROFESSOR JONES: Well, first of all, I got a phone call
from our colleagues here in the background saying that they really wanted to meet us and they said that, over a number of
years, the hurt of having their babies taken away from them hadn’t gone away.
So that was one thing. The next thing they came across with was, not only
does it affect them but it also affects the child who’d been taken away. The
child has been sort of brought up with the idea that, “My mother didn’t want me.” But that’s far from the truth. So this is another thing
– that we wanted to make sure that we gave the ladies something to give to their children to say “Look, we didn’t
want to give you up; we really loved you. But, unfortunately, things aren’t
like they are now with so much support around where women who are in this circumstance would be looked after exactly the same
as anybody else – they would be informed about their choices; they can make choices – whereas these poor women
didn’t have that choice at all. Things were just done to them. The system, as it was, thought they were doing the right thing. But
that’s not true. It was miles out.
So, anyway, the mothers were upset, the children are still upset, and then we’re also concerned about the adoptive
parents. Some of them also found it difficult to take a child who’s been
given up because nobody wanted it which, again, is far from the truth. So the
ladies came to meet us. They’ve met the senior social workers in the hospital;
they’ve met the senior nursing person for the hospital, Miss Narelle Pridhams(?), and we’ve come to an agreement
as to what we should do. And the first thing that we did was to write a letter
to answer their questions and provide something tangible so they could give it to their children to say, “Well, this
is really what did happen” and this hospital – the Royal Women’s Hospital – has acknowledged, “Hey,
we didn’t do things right and we want to put things right.” So, after
that, they’re now at the step where, this afternoon, some of them are actually going to receive some counselling and
I think this is all very important. So we’ve got -- we need to do things
better for these women. And these are the brave ones who’ve come forward. There’s a large number of them behind this group who will also come forward,
we hope, and will also be able to get some help. So that’s that group;
we’re looking after them. We hope we’re going to be looking after
the children and then if any of the adoptive parents have got any issues, we’re happy to talk to them as well. So this is what we’re doing.
INTERVIEWER: It’s almost like another “Stolen
Generation” that Australians don’t know about.
PROFESSOR JONES: It is.
You’re absolutely right. And that’s what I felt the first
time I heard their stories. You know, I’ve been an obstetrician now since 1975 and, in 1975, things like that were happening. But now, it’s just so -- so different, which is very very good. Obviously, you’ve got the Government recognising these people are Australians and they need help
and they give them some help. There’s all the social work backup they can
have and you don’t have to give your babies up anymore. There are some
women, of course, who did choose to do that. Well, okay, that’s their business
and that’s the way they want to run it but there are obviously many more who don’t want to give up their babies
and we’ve got to be alert to this and help them achieve what they want to do.
INTERVIEWER: This was a fairly common practice telling -- telling unwed single mums that adoption
was the only option?
PROFESSOR JONES: Yes, I’m afraid it was. And so these young women, coming into a big centre - who often moved away from their
home - coming into some form of hostel, by themselves, being asked to do work to sort of pay for their board and then coming
into the big hospital - which obviously wasn’t like it is today - frightened and then just told what they
were going to do. Often didn’t see the baby; the baby was taken away from them.
They often didn’t even know whether it’s a boy or girl. So
this is incredibly sad.
INTERVIEWER: So this is a very brave step of this hospital,
actually acknowledging it - and in writing.
PROFESSOR JONES: Well, it’s a step in the right
direction but I think we’ve got to have the courage to do these sorts of things.
But I think the bravery is with our ladies behind us. These are the ladies
who brought this forward. They’ve got their society and they’re helping
other women - the ones you just don’t see.
INTERVIEWER: So you’re saying you’d like to offer support to some other ladies who
might have gone through the same...
PROFESSOR JONES: If they need it. But these are our flagship people. They’re the ones
who are going to tell us what we need to do; is there anybody else we can identify and how we can help them.
INTERVIEWER: Would you like other hospitals around Australia to follow suit?
PROFESSOR JONES: I think that would go without saying. Yes.
INTERVIEWER: This is just almost inconceivable, in this
day and age, to think that this could have happened.
JONES: Which is not that long ago. I mean, you may think it is, but...
INTERVIEWER: Well, not that -- yes.
PROFESSOR JONES: ...the ladies and myself don’t
think that way - that long ago - yes, so, certainly in my business as a 'working man' in my lifetime.
INTERVIEWER: So do they say -- I mean, were the babies
virtually stolen? Is that what’s being acknowledged now?
PROFESSOR JONES: Yes.
And sometimes the women were asked to sign on the dotted line when they’d been given morphine and all those sorts
of things. We’re not allowed to get a consent for an operation if anybody’s
under some form of influence. So these ladies were under an influence, if you
want to put it that way, of the medication that they were given to “zonk them out” so that they wouldn’t
suffer. But, in fact, of course, they’ve obviously suffered a lot.
INTERVIEWER: Professor Jones, is there anything else you wanted to say?
PROFESSOR JONES: No, I think that’s it, thank
INTERVIEWER: (To video operator) Let’s stop
JONES: (To women standing at back of room)
Is that good enough?
PERSON 1: That’s okay.
PERSON 2: Yes!