On the 25th October 2012
and on the anniversary of the birthday of Dian Wellfare, the Victorian Government gave a historical apology
that admitted that adoption practices
illegal and harmful
Mothers and a small number of adoptees in Victoria have worked tirelessly for
years for this acknowledgement
Funding of $500,000 over two years to establish a professional development program to build specialist competencies in
post forced-adoption psychotherapy for qualified counsellors
- amending the Adoption Act 1984 to allow birth parents to receive identifying information about adopted people
- waiving fees for people affected by past forced adoption practices that seek access to personal and family information
through the Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND) service provided by the Department of Human Services.
A DVD of the broadcast will be made available in the coming weeks. To order a copy of the DVD contact Robyn
Gumley by email at email@example.com or via telephone on 03 9096 7366.
time supporter of exposing Forced Adoption
Christine Campbell MP's speech
Today’s apology is due to the relentless, courageous endeavours of mothers for the
truth to be recognised: the truth that they gave birth to babies that they loved, and continue loving. Parliament and society
denied them the right to exercise their mothering role.
I rise to offer an unconditional and sincere apology on behalf
of the Victorian Parliament for the profound pain and distress caused by past unlawful adoptions and abductions. In these,
past Victorian Governments were complicit both in terms of their actions and omissions.
I say sorry to the mothers whose
children were taken from them and who since have suffered lifetimes of trauma. I say sorry to those who missed the direct
affection, love and care that their mothers were desperate to give them, and who were deprived of knowing their families.
I say sorry to fathers who were not given a chance to meet, bond with or raise their own children.
We recognise and acknowledge
that many past practices and policies denied human rights, were abusive and unlawful, and contravened codes of professional
The multiple abuses and unlawful practices which took place included depriving mothers of information about their
rights to keep and raise their babies; lying to mothers about the material assistance and supports to which they were entitled;
and lying to mothers about the outcomes of keeping their babies.
It included coercing mothers into signing adoption papers
and having people, other than the mother, signing the adoption papers. In many cases, the legal status of those papers was
never properly explained and a copy not given to the mother; in other cases those papers were misrepresented to the mothers
as formalities or even death certificates. Lack of informed consent included the failure to explain the consequences of signing
papers and the right to revoke was both a denial of the mothers’ rights and indeed entrapment.
If a copy of the adoption papers, plus honest explanatory material, had been provided as
required in law, mothers would have known of their right to revoke consent and how to go about it. So many mothers say they
went back to the hospital on days after signing, but were told “you are too late, the baby has gone.” In many
cases, this was a downright lie. The baby was still in the nursery unable to receive a mother’s cuddle. So the law was
systematically broken with immunity. Theoretically the purpose of adoption laws was designed to protect a mother’s right
to raise her child, and this was broken.
There was no advocacy and no truly independent third party to assist mothers.
of this included from the moment of birth whisking the baby away, unsighted by its mother, denying babies the chance of direct
affection and love in their first days and to mothers a chance to cradle, feed, and in many cases, name their babies.
was also the use of medical drugs and procedures without consent and with the aim of such treatments being, not the administering
of medical care, but as a control mechanism to sedate and to restrict mothers’ rights and access to their children and
an attempt to prevent the development of a bond between mother and child.
There was systematic lying to adopted people about their identity, including fraudulent
alteration of birth certificates. To this day, many adults are completely unaware of being adopted. Psychological assistance
and counselling to mothers was withheld and many were lied to about the outcomes for their babies, in some cases being mistakenly
told they had died or in other cases being told the baby was a boy when it was a girl, or vice versa.
In hospital, mothers
had no-one to advocate for them.
Many were emotionally manipulated. They were told that their babies’ best interests
would be served by giving them to a married couple who would provide them with a family environment. Yet the birth of a baby
meant they were already part of a family. An innate, lifelong bond between mother and child existed. The failure to acknowledge
the truth of these deep connections facilitated the incidence of forced adoptions, sometimes under the disguise of altruism.
These actions were not only misguided in their intent, but illegal and immoral.
There was total denial of the right of a mother to be with her child, regardless of her
marital status or her financial position, regardless of the lack of approval from her family, community or society at large,
regardless of the desire of others to adopt her baby. Being with their babies was a right; a right that these mothers had
taken away from them.
When a woman becomes pregnant she becomes a mother regardless of whether the state supports her or
not. She is always a mother - that does not leave her. The pregnancy ends but the motherhood does not. Parliamentarians and
society failed in our duty of care to mothers. We also failed by allowing so many of their children to grow up thinking they
were not wanted or loved.
Governments and the health system permitted
these and other inhumane and unethical practices to take place in our hospitals and in organisations that received government
support and backing. We worked against the interests of mothers, many of whom were single, without independent financial means
and kept in the dark about the financial support that was then available. We facilitated the removal of children from their
mothers by force, and subjugated mothers’ human rights to those of agencies who did not have their interests at heart.
Collectively, society judged, denigrated, intimidated, shamed, coerced. For all of this, I am profoundly and deeply sorry.
This litany of abusive practices has had consequences that can never be undone, resulting
in an untold amount of trauma, grief, loss, pain, anger and despair that can never be repaired. That profound trauma has manifested
itself in some cases with mothers having no memory of being in a hospital or even giving birth. For these and other ramifications,
I offer my unreserved apology to mothers, their children and all families that suffered because of this inhumane treatment.
In a state that has had a continuous 156 years of parliamentary democracy, this institution
of Parliament must accept responsibility on behalf of all Victorian governments for these wrongs that were committed under
the jurisdiction of this state.
I acknowledge that what happened with adoption in this state over many decades was against
the law: the actions to forcibly remove babies from their mothers was considered child stealing under the provisions of the
Criminal Law and Practice Statute 1864 and the Victorian Crimes Act 1958. Child stealing is contrary to the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights which recognised under Article 5 that no one shall be subjected to degrading treatment and in
Article 25 which decreed that all children whether born in or out of wedlock are entitled to the same social protection. Past
governments also acted against the requirements of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child which stipulated that all
children should be cared for and provided for and should not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from their mothers.
These actions happened at a time when people knew it was morally wrong to forcibly separate
mother and child. They were not consistent with society’s stated values, then or now. As it would be wrong now to flout
the law with mothers and their babies, it was wrong, indeed unlawful, then as now.
Many Victorians including Parliamentarians have learnt and will continue to learn from
these mistakes and malpractices and will strive to ensure that such terrible injustices against a mother and her child will
never again be repeated.
Who is more vulnerable than a mother and her child in the delivery room?
We also need to redress the injustices that have already occurred. I urge that this Parliament takes
tangible steps to allow those involved, especially mothers and adopted people, to take steps towards healing and recovery.
The first step is to uncover and acknowledge the truth of what happened. We are doing so
today. Healing requires deep honesty. The disturbing truth of what happened with adoption in this state over many decades
needs to be presented, in all its painful reality, to the Victorian people. In the words of one mother:
“When parliamentarians get social policy wrong, it is incumbent on us to identify
the truth - the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth - facing it, dealing with it. Until we fully confront that truth, there
will always be a shadow hanging over all of us…We have never parented our children. Our children live with the reality
of being parented by others. The reality for most mothers is a lost baby at birth, a profoundly painful reality that is only
fully understood by each mother in her unique circumstances.”
As a step towards healing and recovery, I urge the Victorian Parliament, as part of this
apology, to put into place legislation within the next twelve months to ensure that hospital or organisational records pertaining
to adoption in this state cannot be lawfully destroyed. We need to give parents the right to know what happened to their children
and assist people to know and understand the truth of their own stories, their own lives, their own medical and genetic histories.
This can only be done if records are kept and made available to those to whom they pertain. Many birth registrations were
A legal birth certificate should be truthful
and where it is not, a corrective mechanism is urgently required.
As well as mothers, many people, including fathers, grandparents and families, continue
to suffer as a result of the unlawful and immoral decisions that were made with the approval and imprimatur of our Victorian
governments. Between the hospital and the official lodging of birth details, the names of some fathers were removed by hospital
social workers or almoners. We should not compound their suffering by turning a blind eye to those who wish to cover up the
truth, or worse, destroy records of it.
We need to educate the health care professionals
about the sensitivities of issues around a separated mother and child- the pregnancy ended but their motherhood continues.
further obligation on this Parliament is to ensure that adopted people are properly supported in the process of finding out
about their families of origin and learning the truth about their mothers’ stories. This means providing sufficient
medical, psychological and emotional support to individuals, family groupings and organisations representing those who suffered
under the degrading regime of enforced adoption. It means listening to what they say their needs are and acting upon them.
Today’s apology is unequivocal - to do otherwise is to retraumatise mothers. To complete
our apology here today we must also put into place independent accountability mechanisms to ensure that our undertakings to
mothers and fathers, to adopted people, to other family members and to the broader community are fully and unequivocally met.
I make a personal commitment, and encourage other MPs, to continue to work to ensure that all these mechanisms are put
in place so that significant steps can be made towards healing the gaping and terrible wounds that exist in our community.
the illegal, immoral and unethical behaviour of past governments, their agencies and the people employed by them, this Parliament
the mothers joining us at parliament house today and to those who cannot be personally present, can I say, I am truly sorry
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