5th Anniversary Apology Speech

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NSW Parliament House
21st March 2018

Acknowledgement to Country


I would like to also acknowledge and pay my respects to the mothers, fathers and adoptees who are not here today, and to also devote this speech to the late Dian Wellfare founder of Origins where this search for truth began.


I will start this talk by reflecting back.


I remember as a child going to Sunday school and being given a bible to read. It gave a long and extensive list of the descendants from the time of Adam, so and so begat so and so and the list goes on for generations for thousands of years.


Most of us who have read the bible would have found the list of these names tiring and boring to read and skipped the pages to get into some of the stories that were more exciting and interesting. Why would the bible go into such boring stuff as a long list of names that mean little or nothing to us which we dont understand why until we get to a point in our life where we question just who am I ?


As a bit of a family historian there has always been a question of who am I, and just why I am here, and where do I come from, and who are my ancestors?


A few months ago a desire to get my DNA tested was finally done, and the results that came back started me on another journey of my own identity. I had always known that my father was Irish originating from Tipperary.


My mothers background on the other hand was basically very shadowy. All I knew was that her family was Jewish and her maiden name was Solomon. I was eager to explore her side of the family as I knew very little about them.


My results came back and it turned out I was 50% Irish, 14% European Jewish, 14% from the Iberian Peninsula, 12% West European and 1% British. I was given the details of at least 72 distant cousins and stumbled upon one who gave me access to her family tree and lo and behold it took me back through my Jewish ancestors to the mid-1700s.


The information and trying to process it has transformed me from my beliefs that I was English to realising that I was a dichotomy of different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, many of which probably had little in common with each other.


In spite of the myriad of genes etc. it dawned on me that it is highly possible that I may have descended from King Solomon (my mother's family name) and some of those begats may have been my distant ancestors, a lineage that I am made of. I now know who I am and where I came from!


I am an Irish Jew! Or if you prefer an Irish Stew!


Why am I going in this direction you could ask. Well, one only has to look at our children who were taken away from us to have an understanding of why a sense of identity is so important to them and the difficulties they face when their whole sense of self is stripped off them.


When I look at my first and only born son, and the effect of his permanent separation from me, and his family name, and his history, I have an outrage that cannot be denied. Just who and what, thought they had the right to steal him and transplant him on the family tree of strangers.


This leads us into the issues of adoption or abduction, whichever way you feel in regard to the reasons why we are here today.


I know that some here may find my following words challenging, but 5 years since the national apology is a long enough period to be able to reflect on the impact it has had on those who have suffered.


It is no secret that I have not embraced any apologies as I have not received accountability for the crimes that were committed against me, but I am thankful today to give words to my thoughts on the past few years since the day of the apology, and at times I will reflect on my own thoughts and observations of the past 21 years that I have been involved with Origins.


I entered this journey as a bride after marrying my second husband Des who thought that I should have an interest to keep me occupied whilst he worked the long hours at his job.


Innocently I thought that I would study community welfare and eventually it brought me to Origins and in contact with mothers who like me had lost a newborn to the adoption industry.


From the moment of discovery and Dian Wellfare's explanation of what had happened to me I could never close my eyes again and was sent down a path that would take me to the depths of despair, the heights of hope, and the injustice of a failed precedent court case.


I was here twenty years ago with a group of mothers who lost children to adoption and demonstrated outside this house of parliament.


They were there like me because their eyes had been opened to the truth of their adoption experience.


They could not remain silent once knowing the truth that their new-borns were taken from them illegally. Their voices demanded justice and accountability and from then on a movement was founded that effectively brought about a world precedent parliamentary inquiry into the illegal practices of adoption.


Two and a half years and 306 submissions later it was finally admitted that the usual practice of taking the baby in NSW without a mothers consent was illegal, at the very least, a crime committed against young Australian women.


This Inquiry was watched all over the globe and mothers in other states and countries could lay claim to the same experiences that were disclosed in this precedent event. Never had such a challenge or demand of accountability been made to the sacred cow of adoption.


The report was handed down on the last day of the NSW parliamentary sitting at 4 pm on a Friday, leaving little time for Origins to read, and let alone respond to this final report.


Almost two months of deafening silence over Xmas from our duly elected government, whilst they were holidaying and enjoying their families. We were left wondering where are our crusaders? Where was the public outrage for the crimes committed against our young women and their babies?


Six months later an official response and no apologies offered little comfort to those who hoped that justice would prevail for the harm done to them, a miserable effort by the parliament of NSW to one of the greatest human rights tragedies in this states history.


How does one recover from such a mortal blow? The answer was to re-group and continue to demand accountability. Three national mental health conferences, numerous speeches, presentations and a number of failed precedent court cases, trying to invoke a national inquiry into the crimes of past adoption practices followed.


In a climate of atonement towards the abuse of the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians, the forced adoption issue was conveniently ignored. No one mentioned the mothers of these groups, and very few if any traumatised Aboriginal or Forgotten Australians mothers could tell the story of their childs removal and forced adoption. We heard them because they were united with us.


I along with many other mothers have the unhappy situation of also being a Forgotten Australian, a former state ward incarcerated against my will as well as being a mother of a child stolen by the state.


Many of us Forgotten Australians were locked away against our will in institutions that forced us to work for no pay, enslaved by religious institutions that were funded by the very governments that colluded with them to steal our children.


In 2009 and due to our relentless calls for a Senate Inquiry the committee of Origins was invited to Canberra to meet with Minister Jenny Macklins advisors. We were asked what we wanted and what would help us to move on. A united response was to have a senate inquiry so that mothers, adoptees and those affected by adoption could have their stories told.


The next day I was contacted by a policy advisor to the Minister and asked if Origins would be happy for mothers of forcibly adopted children to be mentioned in an apology to the Forgotten Australians.


And it was outrageous to think that Origins could accept an apology on behalf of mothers who never had a chance to speak. We rejected the proposal and vigorously stood our ground that we would not be tacked on the end of someone else's apology.


How would that offer be taken by the Forgotten Australians and Child migrants who fought so hard to tell their story. The idea was an insult to those who fought so hard for their inquiry.


It could have been so very easy take the 30 pieces of silver and as an organisation we could have had all kinds of support from the federal government without having to tell one story, but we had no right to accept or demand an apology for those still seeking accountability!


Our legal issues were completely different to those of the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians.


Nearly two years later, and after much media attention on illegal adoption we were finally granted a Senate Inquiry after the Senate rejected the motion of a national apology.


Our chief allegation that brought about the Inquiry was that the federal government was responsible for illegal adoption.


And this claim was going to be contested in the Inquiry terms of reference.


We expected a long list of terms, as with previous Senate Inquiries but there were only 2, namely what was the Commonwealths role in forced adoption and what was needed to address the outcomes of the inquiry.


How does a small group of people without extensive legal knowledge manage to attribute accountability to the governments of this land?



Like the most complex problems known to man the answers are fairly simple. It is arriving at a decision to address them, that is the problem.


And the simple response to the Commonwealth was that as citizens of this country we had an inalienable right to protection from those who would breach the common law of this land.


The states and it's cohort religious institutions etc committed blatant breaches of our laws to steal our children in public institutions and these practices were overseen by the commonwealth.


Of course the commonwealth was and is responsible for the illegal actions of the states.


The victims of the illegal abductions of our children are owed accountability and redress.


Has this issue been addressed since the senate inquiry. The answer is a resounding No!


Has anyone, or any organisation been dragged before the law to be made accountable for the crimes committed against us? Again the answer is No!.


Did we get our children back again, No! The crime continues.


21st March or today is Harmony day and according to our federal governments blurb on the internet

So we are told Harmony Day celebrates Australia's cultural diversity.


Its about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone, and a day of national observance.


Was it coincidental or cynical that on a day inclusiveness and belonging such as today, that an apology for one of the greatest human rights abuses in this country was acknowledged?.


That very day 5 years ago saw this event marred by a failed leadership challenge to the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard minutes after her magnificent apology speech.


A circus by our elected politicians saw journalists and media etc, racing up the hill to Parliament house leaving those who had witnessed such a historical event collapsing on the lawns of the house.


Of all days to deliver such an important admission of sorrow to the hundreds of thousands affected by such heinous crimes, these distractions did little to remind us of the significance of a world first acknowledgment of human rights abuses.


Why have these opportunities of recognition by state and federal governments been marred by deliberate efforts of governments to ensure that we are swept under the mat of history?


Can an apology circumvent breaches of the common law? This is a question we must resolve within ourselves.


As for restitution and accountability we have been denied any form of self-empowerment to guide and resolve our issues ourselves.


We as mothers, father and adoptees have been continually used, and exploited up to this very day for the benefit of those who have gained from our tragic situation.


Where are our champions?


Where are the voices raised in outrage about the crimes that were committed against those who could not protect themselves?


Origins is an international organisation that has fought for, and with the warrior mothers, adoptees and the very fathers who brought about the senate inquiry.


Our members have contributed the extensive evidence and research of the effects of forced adoption, and up to today have still not received one dollar of funding to ensure our survival and to determine our own ways and means of healing.


We now see our branches across the world following in our footsteps with Origins Canada at this moment having a short parliamentary hearing that may lead to a senate inquiry.


The wheel rolls around again and reading the news of today where adoption is again promoted and the theft of newborns is justified by still being in the best interest of the child makes me and other realise that in spite of 3 national apologies and numerous state and other apologies that we have not learned a thing from the past.


The trauma and effects of permanent separation has been again glossed over to make it more fuzzy and palatable to again promote the forced removal and adoption of children today and justifying the theft of future generations by calling it open.


The reality is that permanent damage is still inflicted on those who like us do not have the power to protect themselves from those who still demand the children of others.


After attending 3 national apologies with promises that these practices should not happen again, does this say to you that there has been sincerity in the word Sorry?


I could speak a million words about this issue, and still not adequately convey the effect of the punishment that was doled out to us for bringing a child into the world.


We will carry the scars from the actions of others until we take our last breath, as will our children who will also pass this onto their future generations.


I am seeing these effects now on my great-grandchildren.


I am coming to the end of my own personal journey, and hopefully the lost children of tomorrow will have the children of yesterday raising their voices against the indifference of others to know one's own true identity and sense of self.


It has been a long hard journey but I have had the good fortune to be accompanied by many brave people who have stood beside us to voice our anger about the injustice of adoption


I would like to acknowledge those member and mothers of Origins who have stood by us, loved and comforted us, and in particular my husband Des for breathing life into me when I thought all was lost, my sons father Steve who is here today and has stood by me for over 50 years and for my family who gave me the hope to keep going.


I would like to thank Relationships Australia for inviting me to speak today and in particular to Lisa who has been at the receiving end of my soap box ranting.


I must admit that I have given the RA workers a hard time over the past few years in regard to funding issues, nothing personal to anyone. They have done a good job trying to deal with the complex issues we are dealing with. It is hard for anyone to fully understand what we have to live with every day.


I would like to finish by saying never stay silent when you see injustice. It is when there is no accountability for the actions of others that future generations will suffer by the ambivalence of a passive society.


Thank You

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