After a hard and difficult road of lobbying and exposing the truth of past adoption practices Western Australia became the first state in Australia and, indeed, the first government in the world, to offer and apology to families and children who had been separated by adoption. This apology was fought for by the Apology Alliance. It was the Apology Alliance that supplied the facts and historic details of past cruel and inhuman practices used to separate mothers from their children and which led to the then opposition Member of Parliament for Mandurah to ask for an apology to be offered; he was horrified and appalled by the experiences that had been related to him by several of his constituents. This was offered on 19th October 2010.
A Federal apology was offered on 21st March 2013. This came after studies by the AIFS into adoption practice and its effects. The apology itself acknowledged the cruel, inhuman and illegal practices that had led to the bumper adoption era as the 50’s through to the 80’s became known. It also led to the formation of the Forced Adoption Support Service, otherwise known as FASS, which is a service designed to assist those who suffer the effects of separation by adoption and is financed by the Federal Government. The offices of FASS are located at 165 Great Eastern Highway, Belmont. FASS is a state-wide service and can be accessed via 1800-21-03-13 by anyone who had been traumatized because of adoption.
We have since evolved into a self-help group for adopted adults and their natural mothers.
ARMS and Adoption
From the 1950s 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.
To make matters worse, adoption up till the seventies adoption was a closed and not open process. This means that adopted adults and their natural families were denied access to identifying information. The original birth certificate of the child was kept confidential forever as a new one was issued bearing the names of their adoptive parents. The adoptee was denied of 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 is 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 and children 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 was a tragic ending as they discovered that the person they were seeking had died or killed themselves and that the adopted adult or their natural parent had had a traumatic and difficult life. Sadly many adoptees killed themselves before they were able to resolve their confusion and settle their identity and many mothers also 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.