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Adoption in Australia: The Ugly Truth

By Hannah George
YWCA Victoria student on placement

Women and men- take a minute to think about this statement.
Imagine if YOU were forced to give up your child for adoption.
Then think about this….
You were never able to see this child....

In the 1960s and 70s the adoption business was booming. Whilst women were supposed to make their decision freely, many women claim that this was not the case. Far from volunteering their children, they feel they were given no choice. These women say they were brainwashed, bullied and sometimes misled by family members. Discrimination began when they first walked through the hospital doors; unmarried mothers automatically had their records marked ready for adoption.

There were policies put in place to ‘protect’ mothers but it seems these rules and regulations were hardly adhered to. One woman in ABC’s Four Corner’s program ‘Given or Taken’ even explained that after changing her mind three days after the birth of her child, she was told he had already been adopted out. According to adoption policies in Australia, mothers were able to change their mind up to 30 days after giving their child up for adoption. This woman found out later that she had been lied to and her son had not left the ward until after 30 days. Several similar stories were told throughout the program; women accused medical staff of drugging them in order to get them to sign the adoption papers. Perhaps even more horrific, many women were not able to see their children after the birth- leaving them feeling empty and lost.

It seems to me that these women were obviously discriminated against. They were treated as if they were ‘naughty little girls’. This was a way of punishing them for the choices that they had made. Single, unmarried pregnant women were socially outcast. Often, they were sent away by their own families; the shame of having a pregnant daughter was too much. These women had little to no social and emotional support, not even their families were there for them.

Several women in Australia reported unfair treatment and discrimination with their pregnancy years after it occurred. Eighteen months ago, a National Senate enquiry was investigated on ‘forced’ adoptions between the 50s and 70s. It found undoubtedly that past policies and practices have caused great harm and hurt to mothers, fathers, adoptees and their family members. The committee recommended that a formal apology be given by the federal government that identifies the actions and policies that encouraged forced adoptions.

Alarmingly, the Council of Single Mothers and their Children have said it feared a repeat of the 1960s adoption levels. The CSMC said lack of support for single mothers by the federal government was a “direct contributor” to past forced adoption practices. Society has come a long way since the 60s and 70s; health organisations (hospitals, churches and charity organisations) are monitored constantly and society expectations have changed significantly. However, I think it is extremely important that we, as a society support single mothers and the women involved in ‘forced’ adoption practices between the 50s and 70s. It is encouraging that our society has ‘woken up’ to this issue; many hospitals and people involved have officially apologised to all that were affected.

For many of these women, however, the pain of losing a child will forever haunt them.



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