NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Into Adoption Practices

Origins Response

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Inquiry Evidence

Everyone who has made a submission to the NSW Standing Committee Inquiry will automatically receive a copy of all evidence that has been given. Please be patient, it may take quite some time.

If you did not make a submission but would like to receive a copy, please contact the Committee Director Jenny Knight (phone 9230 3435 or e-mail sociss@parliament.nsw.gov) and ask to be put on the list.

Evidence will be available from the Committee web site later in the year but the address is not established as yet.

In the meantime we have included a little of the evidence given by Dian Wellfare speaking for Origins.

Standing Committee on Social Issues - Legislative Council Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices Witness and Representative for Origins: Dian Wellfare Secretary.


Question No.4

Does Origins believe mothers received adequate counselling or information regarding alternatives to adoption before signing consent to adoption?

We have never come across any mother who had any idea that alternatives to adoption had been available prior to 1973 until they heard it from us. Nor have we come across any mother who has been warned of the psychological harm inherent in adoption separation. Quite the contrary. Because quotas had to be filled all counselling centred around giving the baby up "in it's best interest! "

If a mother was audacious enough to ask to keep her baby she would be swiftly reprimanded for her cruelty and reminded not to be so selfish.

It has been generally assumed that financial assistance for unmarried mothers first became available when Mr Whitlam introduced the sole parents benefit in July 1973. But that isn't historically true. All Whitlam did was advertise the already available benefit, gave it its own name and brought it into line with CPI.

So contemptuous is the industry of the mother's rights, even the NSW President of the AASW Ms Jill Davidson disputed one month ago in the Newcastle Herald that any benefit was available until the early 1970's.

And yet Origins discovered the availability of financial assistance in their own literature, although varying depending on circumstances but was always apparently one dollar less than the widow's pension.

Not only did we discover our rights to such assistance in the Child Welfare regulations from 1956 (which clearly no-one has bothered to read for over forty years), but in the social work and district officers' training manual of 1958, the Daily Telegraph 1965, the social service statistics for 1968, the 1969 Social Service's eleventh national conference papers presented by Pamela Roberts, but also in their own Social Work journals which outline the financial assistance, available day care facilities which gave the unmarried mother priority to enable her child to be cared for while she works, temporary accommodation, and the right to apply for housing commission accommodation (although there was a three year waiting time in 1968), assistance with obtaining maintenance from the child's father, a layette, special food and formula where required, and state wardship or foster care, until the mother was better placed to care for her child.

As we managed to discover our rights in their own literature it was obviously known to the Department, but none of this information had ever been made known to the unsupported mother prior to 1973.

Given that even the Law Reform Commission of NSW in reviewing the Adoption of Children Act 1965 and every other historical document ever written blames contraception, abortions and the introduction of the sole parents benefit as reasons why the baby market began to dry up during the 1970's, our rights have been a very well kept secret.

Although the apologists will defend themselves by declaring that either 60% or 40% of unmarried mother kept their babies (depending on who is telling the story) of those who kept, the majority were older mothers in stable de-facto relationships and the very young who came from child welfare institutions and possibly knew their way around the child welfare system and/or were supported by their parents. Whereas these provision were implemented specifically to provide for the unmarried mother and her child who had no family support and yet they were the very mothers who were being denied these options.


QUESTION 5.

The Committee has been asked to consider whether past adoption practices involved unlawful or unethical practices. What practices do you consider were:

(A) unethical (B) unlawful. Please give examples.


I believe the first big mistake the Adoption industry has made is that it has entirely misinterpreted its own regulations and the law for almost fifty years.

Firstly - under the Child Welfare Act it was in the childs best interest to remain with its own mother and provisions were introduced in the early 1950's to enable an unmarried mother to care for her child.

Therefore in having promoted adoption over assisting the mother to keep her baby - and not warning her of the potential harm such a course of action may cause her - the Department of Child Welfare and its adoption agents have committed an offence which not only breaches their own regulations and adoption legislation but also constitutes: a breach of duty, unconscionable behaviour, and is in breach of statutory law.

The next point that needs to be fully understood is that the reason very little is mentioned about the natural mother in either the Child Welfare Act 17 or the Adoption of Children Act 1965 (other than the protection clause which explains how the mothers consent cannot be obtained by coercion, duress or undue influence) is because, in law, the Adoption Act does not actually come into play until a mother has signed a consent to adoption.

This means that the period prior to signing a consent i.e. process surrounding the mothers' pregnancy, birth experience or post confinement period, does not come under the jurisdiction of the meaning of any adoption Act.

The natural mother, by law, what ever her age or marital status is the sole legal guardian of her child and had the same legal rights to her child as any other mother giving birth and could not legally be separated from or denied access to her newborn child.

Therefore under Administrative Law any hospital which introduced practices that discriminated against the unmarried mother has gone beyond their powers - which constitutes - not only malpractice - but is also a breach of ULTRA-VIRES law. (to go beyond ones authority)

In relation to the question of what is Unethical vs. Unlawful practice: it is difficult to differentiate as we understand that while it is unethical to deprive a mother of her alternatives and options to adoption, it then created the unlawful situation which denied the mother her legal right to make a free and informed decision based on her legally available options as regulations and the law dictate.

With regard to the Department of Community Services a few examples are:

1. To systematically deny mothers all knowledge of their legal rights and option contravenes ultra-vires law, and constitutes breach of duty of care, unconscionable behaviour, breach of statutory law and element of conspiracy to defraud.

2. Using both overt and covert methods of coercion to obtain consents by acts of misrepresentation i.e. using the term that adoption is in the child's best interest constitute undue influence, coercion, duress, unconscionable behaviour and are criminal offences.

3. Not informing mothers of the 30 day revocation period - constitutes unconscionable behaviour, fraud, breach of duty of care, breach of statutory standard.

4. Expecting young unskilled mothers (minors) to sign legal documents without an adult advocate present and without her understanding the meaning or interpretation of the document she is signing - constitutes breach of statutory law.

5. Preventing mothers from exercising their legal right to revoke their consent within the legally permitted time by advising them the baby had already been placed - constitutes element of conspiracy to defraud, unconscionable behaviour, ultra-vires law.

6. Promising that which never can, in effect, be guaranteed i.e. an ideal life for the child in being adopted into a two parent family - constitutes misrepresentation, unconscionable behaviour.

Re hospital practice - a few examples are:

7. Introducing the inhuman practice of forbidding eye contact between mother and child to prevent bonding - constitutes a violation of human rights. Breach of duty of care. Contravening ultra-vires law.

8. Interfering in the primal act of giving birth between mother and child by removing the child prior to the completion of the birthing process and hiding babies from their mothers even though she was the sole legal guardian of her child constitutes unconscionable behaviour. Element of conspiracy to defraud, violation of human rights, conspiracy to defraud, criminal offence under A9 1 NSW Crimes Act 1900 (taking child with intent to steal), violation of statutory law, violation of natural law, breach of duty, violation S90A kidnapping and contravening ultra-vires law.

9. Forbidding mothers to see or touch their babies until a consent is taken constitutes breach of ultra-vires law, coercion, violation of human rights, violations of statutory right, duress, element of conspiracy to defraud.

10. Sedating mothers during labour and post confinement period with mind altering psychotropic barbiturates - constitutes a criminal offence under A.38 Crimes Act, unconscionable behaviour, conspiracy to defraud.

11. Preventing lactation by using the synthetic hormone stilboestrol or breast-binding without prior consent from the mother constitutes common assault, trespass to the person, violation of natural law, violation of human rights,

12. Transporting mothers by ambulance whilst heavily sedated to a different hospital without their babies and without their permission - constitutes false imprisonment (common law offence) element of conspiracy to defraud.

13. Informing the mother her baby had died when it had in fact been adopted constitutes fraudulent misrepresentation, unconscionable behaviour, element of conspiracy to defraud, A9 1 taking child with intent to steal, A9 1A, kidnapping, violation of human rights, intent to deprive owner permanently.

14. Social worker failing to inform mothers of conflict of interest in her dual role of serving the mother and the prospective adopters simultaneously constitutes a breach of professional ethics where no statute of limitations in the Court of Equity applies. Failing to have any proper regard for natural law, and prevailing domestic and international principles concerning the advancement and protection of human rights.


Question No.6

The Committee has been told that mothers were not encouraged to speak of the loss of their child through adoption and were advised to 'get on with their life'. While it has since been acknowledged that this advice was inappropriate what do you understand to be the long term impact of this advice?


It is understood that when a person is subjected to an unnatural trauma, the sound mind protects itself by manifesting a false self in order to essentially remain sane. And although it is correct that we were encouraged to get on with our lives and forget what had been done to us, our silence has not necessarily been a voluntary response. But an involuntary reaction where it becomes impossible to speak about - because it has become unspeakable.

The loss of a living part of one's self creates in the mother a level of trauma and anxiety so great that the mother must manifest a false self in order to survive. The experience essentially becomes "something that happened to someone I used to be". The mother dissociates as soon as the baby is taken at birth. She remains suspended and therefore silent until and unless a trigger event occurs and forces her mind to face her loss.

This is why it is known (as with every reaction to trauma) that the mother regresses back emotionally to the age she was when she lost her baby. In many instances her hormones and body react in the same way as they were meant to had her birthing experience not been interfered with. The found child connecting to his or her reality does exactly the same upon reunion.

During this period of dissociation the mother is trapped into a pathological way of coping with the affects, and remains distracted and distanced from her emotions. She exists on a level of anxiety created both by the loss of her child and out of her unconscious terror and the fear of annihilation she will suffer if she is forced to face her loss. Her ability to remain sane relies on her minds' ability to keep the secret of her experience from herself.


Question No.7

What measures might assist people experiencing distress as a result of past adoption practices?


While we believe that no mother has ever been provided with her legal and human rights in relation to her adoption experience, we do not profess to speak on behalf of every mother with regard to their requirement for justice and for personal healing.

There will be some for whom a sincere apology and acknowledgement of past practices will be sufficient. Others will find some relief to know their children are made aware of the separation practices from their mothers, Others for whom that will not suffice may wish to take action through the Supreme Courts, while some may wish to take up their right to lay charges under the Crimes Act bypassing the Statute of Limitations, and others wishing to overturn their child s adoption based on improper consent.

This is a very serious legal issue with potentially very serious consequences for many, and so for the sake of the mothers contributing to this inquiry, their displaced children, the mothers waiting for the outcome of this inquiry in other states who seek their own justice, including those future mothers who remain too traumatised to yet speak. It is one we cannot and have no intention of taking lightly. We therefore request that avenues be made available for discussion with Origins committee members and other appropriate parties for discussion in the implementation of our following requirements.


1. Arrange to provide regular seminars and workshops accredited by the Department of Community Services and The Health Department to educate and inform all mental health workers of the nature of emotional implication resulting from the mothers experience.

2. Provision of weekend, weeklong and monthly de-programming, Trauma recovery, research, and respite centres to be made available for those in need of in-depth recovery where required.

3. Provide state-wide financial and material support to enable the development of self-help organisations in city, regional and outer lying areas around the state.

4. A review into, and improvement of all counselling procedures.

S. A statewide/national campaign to remove the stigma put on mothers who surrendered children to adoption in the past, including the removal of the stigma inflicted upon our children in having been classified as unwanted.

6. A full National Judicial Inquiry into adoption practices and/or

7. A Statewide Criminal Investigation under the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 Kidnapping clauses.

8. Overturn the Statute of Limitations.

9. A full and sincere apology to all mothers and children who have been separated by adoption from the Australian Association of Social Workers, charitable organisations, licensed adoption agencies, the medical profession, the Nursing Association, the Department of Community Services, and the N.S.W. Health Department.

10. Reparation.

11. The reinstatement of all original Birth Certificates.

12. Full disclosure of the truth regarding adoption practices as an Act of Parliament to begin the official rewriting of adoption history.

13. To have the separation of mother and child at birth officially recognised as a severe trauma to both.

14. Full research and disclosure into adoption consequences, including:
a. Suicide rates in adopted children and mothers.
b. Mental health implications in both mothers and children.

15. Disclaimer stickers posted on all past historical adoption literature and case work studies found in state libraries which depict improper adoption facts based on the promotion of adoption mythology - to ensure that such inhumanity is never allowed to be repeated.

16. The de-registration of all adoption agency and agent licenses for non-compliance with the terms and conditions of their professional license issued by the Department of Community Services for their failure to comply with the terms of the Child Welfare Act 17, the Adoption of Children Act 1965, failing to comply with their own regulations, failing to apply a professional standard of duty of care as a professional adoption service to the community.

17. Accountability in the failure of the relevant Director Generals of the Child Welfare Departments (and its alternative and subsequent names), to police the goings on of its own Department and licensed private adoption agencies as licensing regulations dictate.

18. Accountability on the part of the Health Department and/or other responsible persons in its/their failure to police negligent and criminal hospital Administration regulations and practices carried out by licensed hospital staff.


Copyright Dian Wellfare, Origins Inc, 1995
Supporting People Separated by Adoption