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Babies For Sale In Queensland

How Widespread Was This?

An article in the QLD Sunday Mail dated Aug 27 1995 alleges that baby selling was being carried out in Queensland.

In the article two women one a natural mother and the other other an adoptive mother tell their stories of how the matron of St Marys Home at Towoong deliberately broke the laws of the time and sold babies to adoptive parents for the sum of fifty pounds or in todays equivalent $100.

The matron Ivy McGregor forced mothers to sign adoption papers before the birth of their babies and then arranged adoptions of newborns to adoptive parents outside Australia.

One 16 year said that she was sent home from the hospital after the birth without seeing her baby. She only saw the baby when she was taken back to the hospital to hand the baby over to the adoptive parents. She recalls the look of compassion at her distress from the adoptive mother when she handed over the child.

The matron then told her to look out the window and watch the adoptive parents take the child away.

The woman later wrote to the Department seeking information but was told that there was no record of her adoption as some of the adoptions at the home were illegal, and there was nothing they could do about it.

The article went on to tell about a couple living in Papua New Guinea in the 60s who asked their local Anglican minister to help them adopt a child. The minister then initiated contact with Matron McGregor who informed them that she had 26 girls in the home and could do something for them.

The matron stressed the importance of getting an entry permit for the baby before they left New Guinea and told the woman to leave Australia on the day she collected the baby. They were also advised that a sum of money in cash was to change hands before the event. The sum of fifty pounds was passed over and no receipt was given.

The couple was then told to make the adoption legal in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. And not in Brisbane.

The woman told of the day that she collected the baby. She went to Ashgrove Private Hospital and was horrified when told the natural mother was to hand over the baby to her. The baby was then given to the mother who had to hand it straight over to the adoptive parents. She went on to say that she could only thank the mother who ran crying into her room.

Matron's Creed

In July 1962, Matron Ivy McGregor told the Courier Mail that she would continue to arrange private adoptions outside the State Childrens Department.

She said that most of the specific adoption arrangements were made before the baby was born to "avoid unnecessary contact with the Department".

"When a girl first arrives I usually tell her that an illegitimate child has a very hard life, and it is only fair to give it up for adoption, intelligent girls always put the baby first".

Matron McGregor said that in the previous year she had 85 girls in the home and all 85 of them had their babies adopted. She said that half of them went to parents on the State waiting list and the other half went to private adoptions interstate.

In late 1964 a new Adoption of Childrens Bill was introduced and came into effect the following year.

In Parliament in November 1964, the then Minister for Labour and Industry Alex Dewar made critical reference to a home that had encouraged and arranged private adoptions.

Researcher Bernadette McCabe believes Mr Dewar, then the minister responsible for administration of the state childrens department was clearly referring to St Mary's Home Towoong.

Mrs McCabe says from what she has learned there was certainly potential for improper private arrangements to be made through St Marys.

While Mr Dewar says that he believes that the home had not been involved in financial dealings he was concerned that the movement of Queensland babies to other states says that it is here where a danger of baby selling exists.

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