The federal government has recently announced that they will apologise to the mothers of forced adoption and their children. They also advised that mothers and adoptees will be consulted via a working party as to the timing and the nature of the apology. Whilst this is a great day for all of us involved in highlighting the events of the past that have so shaped our lives as a result of past actions by those in position of power, the press release does show much more need to be done to ensure that adoptees are in the public eye's and media are not left on the shelf like a used toy.
Firstly let me say I wish all the mothers well and that they rightly deserve as a minimum a official acknowledgment for the past misdeeds that has created a lifetime of pain and suffering in their lives and I pray (in my own way) that the apology will be the start of a long journey of acceptance in their minds and that of their loved ones that they had nothing wrong in the past and that it was and never will be their fault in relation to what happened to them over a period of 80 odd years. Yes the forced adoptions were going on way back in the 1920's and probably earlier.
But this is an adoptees blog so my viewpoints, and mine alone are that of a late discovery adoptee who has seen emotional turmoil in his life and all other adoptees he has met and became close to along his journey. The first viewpoint is that the media has always shown a mild disinterest in the adoptee issue whilst having a changing view on the issue of adoption which ranged from wholesale support of adoption to one now that acknowledged the pain the mothers have endured. Almost like the Lindy Chamberlain case where they supported her, then condemned her then supported her again, they have gone from extolling the virtues of single girls relinquishing their babies to one now of phoney shock and horror at what occurred. Yet just looking at their own archives they would have seen their own hypocrisy. But what about the adoptees. They have always remained in the background apart from the odd photo shoot like the Melbourne Argus report from the 1936 melbourne show where babies had been placed in a stall at the pavilion and viewed for the prospect of being adopted. They also have reported countless times of the shortage of babies , especially in the post war years, available for adoption and how the demand worried them about the illegal market for babies which as one of my friends knows very well happened. They also peddled the line that full backgrounds investigations were being conducted on prospective parents when in fact for most of the period it was a walk in walk out service with no real checks being done and in some cases administration fees being paid to cover minor anomalies. If the media had been doing their job they would have known of those who were abused by their adopting parents and reported it. Whilst i respect the memories of most adopting parents, there were some who were abusive and probably had a history of abuse. Whilst abuse can happen in any family, the fact that the state had handed responsibility to others meant the state had a extra duty of care and the media should have also looked at this issue.
The second point in relation to adoptees is that the public felt and always will feel uncomfortable about the circumstances under which we were removed and therefore in their own minds had to say it was for the best. Remember Australia was a hypocritical place in the long period from the 1920's. i have no doubt exnuptial sexual relations went on at the same rate as it does now, so every time a girl had to go away on a holiday, the rest would always be breathing a sigh of relief (there but by the grace of god go i ). Then that would become a self justification excuse that we , adoptees, would be better off. So society did and still does not really want to know what happened to those cute little babies (well i was don't know about the rest of you). The perpetual baby myth then arose in that adoptees are babies not adults. Sadly for many years the mothers organisation perpetuated this myth by consistently calling us babies and children. That is why you get a press release from the Attorney Generals office which still refer to us as children. The good senators recognised us a adults by referring to us a adopted persons and by giving us a separate chapter in the report. The staff at the A/G's office is well advised to follow the senators lead.
Now in my humble opinion, the minimum the apology should cover for adoptees is the following:
A. recognition that the emotional anguish , depressions and other mental health conditions and in some cases the physical injuries, was a direct result of the policies of the past and that such condition were the result of forced removal (all adoptees are forced) from their natural parent. No if's no buts, no saying it is a result of the pain of the mothers. our pain is separate and different.
B. Recognition that the adoption period did not start in the early fifties o and finish in the late seventies. it went on long before that and finished way after that. There was no magic wand waved on 1 jan 1950 and the race for forcing adoptions started. it had been going on was before and many adoptees are still alive who were removed in the 1920's
C, That adopted persons no longer be referred to as children or babies in government media releases but as the adults they have become and most of which have led productive lives and have contributed greatly to our nation and not wallowed in self pity. I will always understand mothers calling their children as such but that is not the role of media releases or statements of apology which should refer to the us as adopted persons or adoptees, not children or babies. The Stolen generations were treated as adults and the Forgotten Australian were also treated as adults so should we as adopted person accept anything less
D. Acknowledgement should be made of those adopted persons who have not lived to see this historic moment and as such any memorial or museum display should be always have a fully self contained segment on the lives of adoptees.
E. Any support services that may and are needed will be dealt with following the release of the AIFS study so i will not attempt to discuss that at this point.
In conclusion adoptees or adopted persons have been hidden in plain sight within the population. They have quietly gone about their lives many of whom were silently feeling the stigma that being adopted had on their lives. They hid in society being part of society and contributing in many positive ways. yet all that time they were attempting to rationalise their feelings and emotions and how they interacted with the rest of society. And this was done with no real awareness of the society and country they have loved and some of whom have defended.
It is now time our nation recognised the contribution of adoptees to society as well as fully acknowledging the wrong that society had done to all those many years ago.