Origins SPSA Inc. is a charitable organization supporting indigenous
and non-indigenous Australians separated by adoption. Therefore, it has a mandate to its members to insure that both indigenous
and non-indigenous Australians are included in the terms of reference of any apology for the impact
of former forced adoption policies and practices.
Representing the firsthand
witnesses of mass removals of mostly illegitimate infants at birth, Origins has set a benchmark from which it has not departed
in having rejected all apologies offered for forced adoption to date. That benchmark was implicitly validated in chapter nine
of the Community Affairs References Committee's (CARC) Final Report 'Commonwealth Contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices'.
Chapter nine treats of apologies
to the survivors of forced adoption, addressing what they should in future consist in, including the recommendation:
that apologies by the Commonwealth or by other governments and institutions should satisfy the five criteria
for formal apologies set out by the Canadian Law Commission and previously noted by the Senate Community Affairs Committee.
In summary, The Five Criteria
of the Canadian Law Commission are:
1. Acknowledgment of the wrong done or naming the offence.
2. Accepting responsibility for the wrong that was done.
3. The expression of sincere regret
and profound remorse.
4. The assurance or promise that the wrong done will not recur.
5. Reparation through concrete measures.
The CARC acknowledges a single dispute over the ‘effectiveness of an apology, unless it (is) in the context
of other actions’ (9:12), quoting Lily Arthur, co-ordinator of Origins, in its chapter on apologies:
An apology without exposure, redress or accountability for criminal
behaviour is not only an insult to an established legal system but also opens the opportunity for other types of criminal
activity to occur on a grand scale, such as past adoption practices. Crimes can be perpetrated on victims with the knowledge
that, if you can hide your crimes long enough, then you can get away with it. (9:12)
Origins views on what apologies should consist in, as contained in
the latter quotation, are in keeping with ‘The Five Criteria’ of the Canadian Law Commission:
on the ‘exposure’ of forced adoption as an unlawful action opposed to the common law is in agreement with the
first criteria: ‘acknowledgment of the wrong done or naming the offence’;
on ‘accountability’ agrees with the second criteria: ‘Accepting responsibility for the wrong that was
Regarding the third
criteria, which is the ‘expression of sincere regret and profound remorse’, Origins has not rejected the
idea of an apology per se but has always maintained the insincerity and inadequacy of past apologies in their lacking of the
exposure and accountability necessary to provide assurance that the past wrong will not reoccur. Origins has always maintained
the need for exposure and accountability as pre-requisites for opening up the way for tangible evidence of regret for forced
adoption via concrete measures as due acts of good will and justice;
concern that ‘other types of criminal activity (could) occur on a grand scale, such as past adoption practices’,
that is, equates with the fourth criteria that the apology gives ‘The assurance or promise that the wrong done will
Origins belief in and work towards ‘redress’ as a tangible sign of sincere
regret for forced adoption, that is, agrees with the fifth criteria: ‘Reparation through concrete measures. Notably, the CARC’s Final Report made it clear that ‘acknowledging
hurt and distress is not the same thing as stating what caused it, and then taking responsibility for that action’ (9:34).
Criticism of past apologies
for forced adoption