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Catholic hospitals in Australia recently apologized for forced adoptions that took place in Australia decades ago.
Thousands of children were taken away from their unmarried mothers and were given to other married couples. The practice of adopting out newborns to other families was common from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Martin Laverty, the Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Health Australia has apologized for the forced adoptions that took place in Australia’s Catholic hospitals in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The apology was calculated to “speed up the federal government into action,” said Laverty, as he apologized for the forced adoptions. He continued to say that there is a need to create a national program in order to help all the mothers and children who were harmed by forced adoptions.
In a report by CatholicCulture.org, Laverty also said, “we now know that there were many hospitals across Australia.”According to calculations, more than 150,000 Australian babies were separated from their mothers.Laverty expressed his sadness and referred to this period as a “shameful and regretful time” in Australia’s healthcare history.
“It’s with a deep sense of regret, a deep sense of sorrow that practices of the past have caused ongoing pain, suffering and grief to these women, these brave women in Newcastle but also women around Australia,” he said.
The apology comes in the wake of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation investigation into claims of abuse and trauma in Newcastle, New South Wales.
Due to the importance of the issue, Laverty made a written submission for a national inquiry into what role the federal government had in such adoption policies. The chief executive officer said that the federal government should establish a national program funded by state governments, which have primary responsibility for Australia’s adoption laws.
The program should help to establish “a fund for remedying established wrongs” in addition to help all the families reunite by finding the medical records.
In the words of a psychiatrist who has been treating some of the women affected told the program, it seems as though this had happened in a “totalitarian country somewhere hundreds of years ago.” But these forced adoptions happened only 30 to 40 years ago and will stigmatize Australia’s history.
There are many testimonies from mothers who lost their children from the 1950s to 1970s. The unease and the pain are so strong for all victims and the trauma won’t be easily healed.
Sixteen-year old, Juliette Clough, lost her baby boy shortly after his birth in a Catholic-run hospital in Newcastle in 1970. She still remembers her ankles being strapped to the bed and being gassed.
She said, “they just snatched away the baby” according to an Australian Associated Press report in the Sydney Morning Herald. She wasn’t allowed to see him, hug him or touch him.
“It was just like a piece of my soul had died, and it’s still dead,” Clough said.
She thinks about her son constantly. He would be 42 years old now and she wonders what his life is like, whether he has children and a family and if she has grandchildren. Clough has made a statement for a Senate inquiry into forced adoptions.
The enquiry, officially titled the “Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices”, was set up late last year and was due to report at the end of June 2011 but, because of “the large volume of evidence and the complexity of issues”, this has now been extended until 21 November 2011. The Community Affairs References Committee said in the meantime they will “continue to welcome evidence from new submitters”.
As Laverty said, he and his organization learned about the women’s experiences for first time this June. In a submission to the committee of inquiry he said they were “genuinely sorry” for the “pain that arises from practices of the past.”
Clough, although she has married and given birth again says that the traumatic experience marked her in a strong way. The memories from her first baby taken from her have prevented her bonding properly with her other children.
She suffers from depression and she finds it very difficult to be the mother she wanted to be. There are many more stories like Clough’s. It will take time until everything will be in the public eye.