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Recognising mums of another stolen generation – Senate Committee releases Forced Adoption recommendations

Did you catch this week’s Four Corners program on the forced adoption practices in Australia? (If you missed it, you can watch it on iView here – it’s absolutely brilliant journalism by the FourCorners team.)  The program covered the policies and practices relating to forced adoption in Australia and the tragic human impact of five decades of soul-destroying interventions of government and adoption agencies (read here: the churches).  I admit to having a very sleepless night after watching it.

In case after case, mothers revealed stories of lives and dreams shattered as babies were taken from them at birth, of the life sentences they have carried, and of the loss and guilt they’ve been burdened with.  Why? Because our society deemed them unfit, unworthy and shameful for an act that was simply unforgivable at the time: falling pregnant outside of wedlock.

The stories of women coerced into signing adoption papers, often under the influence of sedatives administered to induce compliance; of families implicit in the heartless practices, sending their young daughters “away” to convents and homes during their confinement; of case workers trained to convince women they were incapable of giving their children a “good life”; of hospital staff who facilitated the trauma.

These young mums were convinced by everyone around them that they were the source of unforgivable shame; yet what happened to them is one of the most shameful chapters of Australia’s young history.

As a mother I found it incomprehensible that other mums were considered incapable of looking after their babies, purely because they weren’t married.  That these mums were forbidden from seeing and holding their new babies before they were taken from them is galling. Of course there was a bond that could never be broken, even if these mums were never to see their children grow.  Notwithstanding the love that most adopting parents shower on their babies, when you create another living being you give a part of yourself to them forever and I really get this.  So as I watched the program I held my young son, asleep next to me, and sobbed silently.

On Wednesday the Senate committee investigating forced adoption practices released it’s findings and recommendations, core of which is the need for a formal public apology and funding for support groups for those affected by these practices.

So why does this matter in 2012?  With so much water under the bridge, can’t we just move on? Does it really matter what happened all that time ago?  The answer is absolutely yes – it matters a lot.  It matters because these practices reflect society’s views at the time of women, our role, our rights and our responsibilities – or lack thereof.  And there’s a part of that still in the our socity’s attitudes toward women today.

We need to reflect on what happened in the past, so that we can understand where Australian women have come from, the burden of past practices, and the pain that endures long after the act.

If you or someone close to you was involved in a forced adoption, my thoughts and feelings are with you.  May you experience love, compassion and empathy as a result of the Senate Report, and may you heal in time and be at peace with yourself.  I cannot imagine the pain you’ve endured, but I can imagine a world that supports your healing.


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