Click on the above download icon to read the WA 2010 Apology to the states survivors of forced adoption
After a long and difficult road of lobbying, spanning decades, West Australian mothers were finally listened to after the media exposed their stories that told of their stolen babies via past adoption practices and policies. Western Australia became the first state in Australia and the first government in the world, to offer an apology to mothers and their now adult children (adoptees) who were wrongfully and illegally separated by adoption.
Numerous West Australian mothers, long term justice advocates began to lobby the state government, with the support of The Apology Alliance, who provided research and historical evidence detailing the inhuman policies and practices used by governments, churches and NGO's to systematically separate mothers from their newborn babies.
Then in opposition, the Member for Mandurah, HON David Templeman requested the WA parliament formally apologise to be offered; after learning of the horrifing experiences that had been related to him by several of his constituents. Premier Barnett and several parliamentarians offered the formal apology to West Australian survivors on the 19th October 2010.
It would take another three years for the Australian Federal government to formally apologise.
We proudly acknowledge that the efforts of WA survivors in achieving their state apology was to be a powerful catalyst for other Australian states and territories to also apologise. In the years since, numerous international jurisdictions have publicly admitted to their decades long role in the wrongfully removal of newborns from their mothers.
The long road to the Australian Federal apology was again facilitated by the nations survivors of forced adoption. Lobbying of parliamentarians across Australia helped to ensure that a Senate Inquiry was conducted. By 2012, more than 400 submissions and personal testimones were received from mothers, former institutions, support services and various governmental departments. A number of WA mothers participated in the inquiry. However, it must be noted that none of West Australia's adoptive institutions chose to submit a testimony. Unfortunately adopted adults were excluded from the parameters set by the inquiry's committee and as a consequence their important lived experience of adoption was not heard.
The Senate Inquiry formulated numerous recommendations including the provision of a formal National apology. Delivered by PM Julia Gillard on 21st March 2013 in the great hall, Canberra, many West Australian survivors attended the event in person. The apology acknowledged the cruel, inhuman and illegal policies and practices of the forced adoption era (FAE) which operate from the interwar years until the late 1980’s.
In WA we are still waiting for the state government to instigate the 20 recommendations tabled in the Federal inquiry. Just two, pertaining to apologies have been achieved.
In 2021, ARMS WA became involved in the grass roots campaign for a state inquiry into adoption. Joining with adopted people from WA, we wrote letters and met with parliamentarians.
Finally, on February 22nd, 2023 the Western Australian government committed to conducting an inquiry into past adoptive polices and practices. The closing date for submissions is June 16th, 2023.
Representing the WA seat of Rockingham, future premier Mark McGowan testified at the WA apology and suggested the following:
’I would say to the house that this is a start…..
They (survivors) also need to enjoy the knowledge that other organisations external to the Parliament also care about what was done to them in the past and acknowledge their role in what took place, which has caused so much hurt and anguish for many families around our country’.
October 19th, 2010. On the steps of the WA State Parliament
Like many, Barbara Maison - made the trip from intertstate to hear the 2010 WA apology
Judith, Sue & Marilyn
ARMS and Adoption
From the 1940's to 70s, the Australian government deemed that mothers of babies born out of wedlock are incapable of caring for their child. Their lives and the lives of their child would be better if the child was put up for adoption. Obviously, this is not the case. This decision is one-sided. temporary and only benefits the government. The government failed to consider the downstream, long term psychological effects on the mother. If support was provided to the unmarried or underage women then, it would be much cheaper for the government as it would not have to solve and be responsible for these saddening downstream effects.
Throughout these decades adoption up till the seventies awas an entirely closed (secretive) process. This meant that all adopted adults and their natural families were denied access to identifying information. The newborns original birth certificate was to be kept confidential forever, ensuring their true identity was kept secret. A second birth certificate was issued once the adoption was legally finalisaed which stated the adoptee's new name and gave detail of only their new adoptive parents. The adoptee was denied their rights to access their original birth certificates and their natural families, the rights to know the new name of their child. This also includes children being forcefully taken away from their mother without consent. Advocacy to reveal the information started in the 1970s and this law was finally overturned in the 1980s. This was when ARMS was formed. After many years of lobbying MP’s ARMS was successful in obtaining legal access to identifying information once their child turned 18. This was a tremendous victory for the family members affected by adoption. As a result, more families were reunited. Without this information, mothers would not be able to locate their child would not have known the truth about their lives.
Reunion has helped many adopted adults to confirm a sense of identity and for the natural families it has brought knowledge of the welfare of their lost child. For some it has been a devastating experience to discover the son or daughter they were seeking had died or had taken their own life. For many mothers to learn that their child did not live the privaledged life that had been consistently promised by adoption aurthorities but had experienced a traumatic and difficult life. Sadly many adoptees killed themselves before they were able to resolve their inner turmoil and attempt to reconcile their identity and many mothers committed suicide because of the depth of the trauma they had suffered.
Over this period of time ARMS’ members spent their time supporting one another because with each reunion the awful truth about adoption began to be exposed. The fact was that even those adopted people who had good and kind adoptive parents still had a need to know about their genealogical roots. It was helpful for them to associate with other people who looked, acted, felt and thought as they did ie, their natural families. It is a normal human need and this had been overlooked in the race to supply as many babies as possible via adoption to infertile couples. Equally, parents too had been traumatized not only by the separation but also the cruel and inhumane way they had been treated by social workers, their own families of origin, and because of the lies they had been told about adoption.
We are thus formed to reveal the harsh truths of adoption practices to the public and to get an official compensation from the government as well as to provide counselling services to all parties affected by adoption to help them to better cope with the psychological trauma.