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Australian Apology to Unwed Mothers
March 21, 2013 permalink
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has apologized for the past separation of babies from unwed mothers. Hear her words on YouTube or a local copy (mp4). Like Canadian prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, she uses good words. Sadly, those good words are not matched by good actions. In both Australia and Canada, separations of parents and children continue at a high rate. Only the pretexts have changed.
We apologise, PM tells victims of forced adoptions
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has told victims of forced adoption practices: "We apologise".
Ms Gillard made the long awaited national apology at a special ceremony in Canberra attended by hundreds of people, including mothers betrayed by a system that decided their children were better off elsewhere.
"We acknowledge your loss and grief," the prime minister said.
From the 1950s to the 1970s an estimated 150,000 unwed Australian mothers had their babies forcibly adopted under a practice sanctioned by governments, churches, hospitals, charities and bureaucrats.
Some women were tricked into signing adoption papers, drugged and physically shackled to hospital beds.
Ms Gillard was speaking ahead of parallel motions being moved in the House of Representatives and the Senate later on Thursday to formalise the apology.
It will say that the parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies.
''This apology is extended in good faith and deep humility,'' Ms Gillard said.
''It will be a profound act of moral insight by a nation searching its conscience.''
Ms Gillard said it took courage to say sorry.
''What we see in that mirror is deeply shameful and distressing,'' she said.
''A story of suffering and unbearable loss.''
The prime minister spoke of young and vulnerable women who lost their children under pressure and sometimes the influence of drugs.
''Most common of all was the bullying arrogance of a society that presumed to know what was best,'' she said.
''For decades, young mothers grew old haunted by loss.''
Ms Gillard also spoke of the children who were adopted, some of whom suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their adoptive parents or in state institutions.
''Many others identified the paralysing effect of self-doubt and a fear of abandonment,'' she said.
But Australia could not forget the fathers, who were often ignored at the time of the births and whose names were not included on birth certificates.
''No collection of words alone can undo all this damage,'' Ms Gillard said.
''But by saying sorry we can correct the historical record.
''We can declare that these mothers did nothing wrong.
''That you loved your children and you always will.''
Ms Gillard received a standing ovation after her speech in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told the story of his former girlfriend Kathy Donnelly, who in 1977 gave birth out of wedlock to a son, whom for years Mr Abbott believed was his.
''There is no stronger bond than that between mother and child,'' he said.
''There are no first or second class mothers ... and every mother has the right to raise her child - we know it now and we should have known it then.
''We were hard hearted and we were judgmental, that's why we should apologise.
''We did inflict pain on those we loved.''
A number of women in the audience began yelling at Mr Abbott when he used the words ''birth parents''.
He said: ''We honour the birth parents, including fathers, who have always loved their children.''
Mr Abbott also acknowledged the efforts of adoptive parents, as those in the audience continued to shout.
''I hear what you are saying ... I honour the parents, who have always loved their children,'' he said.
''The last thing I would wish to do is cause pain to people who have suffered too much pain already.
''I am happy to retract it,'' he said.
In some quarters, the term ''birth parent'' is deemed insensitive to women who relinquished their children under difficult circumstances.
The parliamentary motions to be moved on Thursday will also acknowledge the profound effects of forced adoption policies and practices on fathers.
Source: The Australian
Christopher Booker comments on the emptiness of the apology.
Australia’s scandal of forced adoption is happening here in Britain
The forcible removal of children by social workers in Australia between the 1950s and the 1970s has parallels with what is happening in British courts today
Listeners to Thursday’s Today programme heard a truly remarkable item. The presenter Sarah Montague reported that the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, had issued a solemn apology for the forced-adoption scandal.
Between the 1950s and the 1970s, thousands of young Australian women – many of them unmarried mothers – had their children forcibly removed, often at birth, by social workers who then sent the children off for adoption. Ms Montague interviewed one such mother, who described how she had been arrested when pregnant by the police and incarcerated in a special unit, where, the moment her baby was born, it was removed by social workers and handed to a family that lived three doors down the road.
Ms Montague was astonished by what she heard. “It sounds terrible,” she said, “how was it allowed to happen? How was it considered acceptable?” After a pause when the interview finished, her equally shocked co-presenter, Evan Davis, said: “We’re in stunned silence.”
What is astonishing about this, of course, is the reaction of the Today journalists. They are clearly completely unaware that similar events to those they found so shocking are occurring here in Britain every day of the week. The latest figures show that applications to take children from their parents into care continue to break all records – nearly 1,000 a month in England and Wales alone – and far too many of these child-snatchings have no more rational or humane justification than those for which Ms Gillard was belatedly apologising.
For some years now a handful of journalists, including Camilla Cavendish on The Times, Sue Reid of the Daily Mail and several writers on The Sunday Telegraph, including me, have been trying against all the odds to lift a tiny corner of the veil of secrecy that hides what is routinely going on in our social-service departments and family courts. Our own forced adoption scandal is a tragedy just as terrifying as anything that happened in Australia all those years ago.
But I am also reminded of the occasion on February 24, 2010, when Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all stood up in the Commons to apologise for the equally shocking scandal that had long since been brought to light over the fate of some 50,000 bewildered British children, who were torn from their families half a century ago or more, to be sent off to a miserable new life in Australia and Canada. Only decades later did the tireless efforts of Margaret Humphreys, a former British social worker, bring this tragedy to public view (described in her heartrending book, Empty Cradles).
Clearly, when they uttered their apologies, Brown, Cameron and Clegg had no idea that something just as horrifying was going on under their noses at the very time they were speaking. Doubtless we shall have to wait for another 30 years, for another generation of politicians to utter empty apologies for the crimes that were being committed behind closed doors in the Britain of 2013 – when there is no longer anyone around to be held accountable for what our politicians of today are still allowing to continue.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
An Australian story on the apology shows the harm done by social worker lies.
Adoption apology won't erase decades of lies
A woman whose husband was born in Newcastle and forcibly adopted in the 1970s says an apology by the Prime Minister today will do nothing to ease their trauma.
Julia Gillard will today make a formal apology to families affected by forced adoption practices after a senate inquiry last year found 250,000 babies were taken from their mothers over several decades.
The woman, known as "Sydney", says her husband's adopted parents were told by a social worker in 1972 that his mother was a 15-year-old Newcastle girl with a boyfriend at school, unable to keep her baby.
"Sydney" says just this week, documents arrived from an adoption support unit explaining that she was in fact 19-years-old, the victim of a rape and from a farming community.
She says lies by social workers have left her husband in the dark.
"He burst out crying," she said.
"All his life he was brought up to believe that his parents brought him into the world with love.
"I want the social worker to apologise to my husband's family for lying, and being so insensitive."
She says her husband is devastated by the news.
"She (his birth mother) didn't know who the birth father was," she said.
"He was a predator.
"Social workers all along had been lying."
Source: ABC (Australia)
Addendum: A report only a week later confirms that contemporaneous with the apology to mothers Australia is separating mothers and children at an increasing rate.
Growing number of young people taken into care
Australia's biggest survey of young people in care has revealed that growing numbers of children are being taken into government protection due to neglect and abuse.
The CREATE Report Card 2013, commissioned by the CREATE Foundation, the peak body for children in care, surveyed 1,069 participants aged eight to 11 from all states and territories except Western Australia.
The report shows 37,648 children and young people were in out-of-home care at June 30, 2011. That represented a 33 per cent increase between 2007 and 2011, a rate of increase of more than 7 per cent each year.
Report author Dr Joseph McDowell said the jump in numbers had a lot to do with a broadening of the definition of abuse and greater vigilance.
"I think the community as a whole is becoming a lot more vigilant about the problems that many families experience," he said.
"There is a lot of attention being focused on that, and certainly in some jurisdictions you find that a lot of young people who are having problems with the family are being taken into care."
CREATE's chief executive Jacqui Reed said she thought there "probably" was "an increase in abuse and neglect".
"We certainly know that drug and alcohol issues play a part in that, and we're seeing that in endemic proportions. We also see families more fragmented," she said.
Hayden Frost was raised in 39 different foster homes from the age of three.
"There was a lot of drug and alcohol abuse and lot of mental issues in my family," the 22-year-old said.
For years, he did not know why he was in care, and was not involved in any decisions about his life.
"It was just someone would come and pick me up and then we're into a new family," he recalled.
"I wouldn't know until that day where I'm woken up and told, 'Mate, it's time to pack to your bags'.
"The anger that goes through your head... the first thing you want to do is just grab something and throw it through a wall."
The report examined how the child protection system was faring from the point of view of young people living in it.
It found that while more than 80 per cent of respondents were happy in their current placement, they were not as satisfied with their placement history.
Thirty-five per cent of those surveyed had to deal with five or more caseworkers during their time in care.
Around a third went to three or more primary schools, while 40 per cent did not feel like they could contact their caseworker when they needed to.
Around half of those surveyed did not know why they were in care. Less than a third knew anything about the care plan developed for them, including a leaving care plan for what was likely to happen after they turned 18.
The proportion of young people who know anything about the plan for the future has remained static in the CREATE studies since 2009.
"The most disappointing part is that still, after all the efforts so many people have put in, we're not getting the best participation we can from young people," Dr McDowell said.
"They're not being given the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making that affects their lives."
The situation is far worse for Indigenous young people, according to the report card.
They are up to 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care and experience more disruption during their placements.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people had more placements and caseworkers. Thirty per cent reported little to no connection with their cultural community, and only 10 per cent of those surveyed were aware of a cultural support plan.
"It's just a litany of problems that the Indigenous group faced, and certainly we have to do far more," Dr McDowell said.
"Maybe we have to take more overt action engaging with the elders of communities to actually prepare some sort of program in the different regions to help young people understand their background and their culture.
"A lot of the problem seemed to be because a lot of the young people seem to have nobody they can talk to about their culture about their background."
The report found 36 per cent of respondents in out-of-home care who had brothers and sisters were separated from their siblings.
The figure jumped to more than half in South Australia. But siblings were still the most frequently contacted family members followed by grandparents and then mothers.
In contrast almost 50 per cent never saw their fathers at all.
Dr McDowell says the lack of contact with fathers is problematic.
"There's a lot of literature now that's pointing to how important fathers are in the life of young peopleÂ in general, particularlyÂ young people in care," he said.
"Placement durations can decrease, the likelihood of reunification with family is higher when there is some relationship with fathers."
Stephen Smith was reunited with his father when he was 10. The now 36-year-old was put into foster care when his parents split up when he was 12 months old.
"One of the problems I experienced while in foster care was lack of communication," he recalls.
"I'm sure all the adults were communicating around me."
He left home when he was a teenager and is now a successful opera singer, with a family of his own.
"I think it's hard coming from a broken family to really get the concept [of] family," he said.
"It's very easy not to realise the importance of the stability that a family provides, of the ability to talk to your brothers or your sisters, or your mothers or your aunts or your uncles, about the things that are important.
"Because without those people, who do you turn to? Who are your examples? Who are your mentors? Who is there to believe in you? Who is there to encourage you?"
Source: ABC hosted by Yahoo