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Parliament recalls ‘shameful’ adoption practice



Powerful stories detailing the impact of forced adoptions have been shared as parliament turns 10 years since a national apology.

Hundreds of thousands of young single mothers and babies were affected by the illegal practice between the 1950s and 1980s.

Unmarried and often young Australian women were forced to give up their newborns for adoption.

Although difficult to confirm due to poor record keeping, it is estimated that the total number of forced adoptions could be as high as 250,000.

In 2013, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a historic national statement on behalf of all Australians, fully apologizing for the practice and acknowledging the harm it was causing.

On Wednesday, more than 100 people who experienced forced adoptions sat in the public gallery of the House of Representatives to mark 10 years since.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said Australia would never forget such a shameful chapter in its history and institutions would not repeat the same mistakes.

She said the practice was driven by the societal judgment that children should be raised by married parents and have a mother and father at all costs.

Ms Rishworth shared the story of a young mother being restrained and blindfolded while giving birth and said that eye contact should be avoided in order for the baby to bond with its adoptive parents.

50 years passed before he was reunited with his son.

“We have not forgotten the mothers, adoptees, fathers, families and communities torn apart by forced adoption,” said Ms. Rishworth.

“We recognize that the pain has not gone away and will never go away.”

Ms. Rishworth said the federal government was committed to continuing support for people affected by forced adoptions.

“All governments must come together to strengthen the support available and should do better with affected mothers, adoptees and relatives who have historically been let down by institutions and government,” he said.

“We need to… do better for everyone who was let down by society and the institutions they should have been able to trust to protect and care for them.”

Nearly $2 million is provided annually for existing support services, including a national helpline, social assistance, family tracing services, and access to counselling.

Opposition spokesman Michael Sukkar said forced adoption practices deny women and would-be families their fundamental right to care for and love their own children.

“A mother’s love for her child should never have been compromised by an intervention,” she said.

“It should never have been assumed that these women did not have the ability to raise their own children.”

Sukkar said that while history cannot be rewritten, future governments must continue to recognize and support those affected.

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