Anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions

Monday 21 March will mark the 9th Anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions.

The NSW Forced Adoption Support Service at Wattle Place is holding a High Tea for people who have used the service, to commemorate the Anniversary. We commemorate the Anniversaries to remember all who were impacted by forced adoption policies and practices, and to honour those who fought for recognition and Apology.

On 21 March 2013, Julia Gillard, the Prime Minster at the time, delivered a formal apology to people affected by past forced adoption or removal policies and practices on behalf of the Australian Government.

The apology was a recommendation from the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices, released in February 2012.  “It acknowledged the experiences of those affected by forced adoptions, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.

The Committee’s report found the policies and practices that resulted in forced adoptions and the removal of children were widespread throughout Australia, particularly during the mid-twentieth century. The Senate Committee received submissions from hundreds of individuals who have suffered from the effects of forced adoptions and found there were many different ways in which forced adoptions occurred. The accounts range from personal experiences of mothers drugged and shackled to beds, to social workers failing to advise mothers of the government payments available at the time to support mothers to keep their child.

Forced adoption practices impacted a large number of Australians and caused significant ongoing effects for many people, particularly mothers, fathers and adoptees. The report estimates there were 140,000 to 150,000 total adoptions in the period between 1951 and 1975 (the peak period in which forced adoptions occured). The report concludes it is impossible to know the exact number of people affected by forced adoptions.” (DSS 2021)

“In Australia, like elsewhere in the world, it was common practice in the past to remove newborn babies from mothers who “society” deemed to be unfit parents, often based on moral grounds.  For instance, babies of unwed mothers were taken at birth and given to childless married couples, sometimes without consent of the mother. In other cases, unethical, dishonest, even illegal, methods were used to obtain consent under duress, deception, manipulation or coercion. In some cases, the mothers’ signatures were even forged on consent documents. These practices were carried out by doctors, nurses, social workers and religious figures. The mother’s family members were often complicit in coercing her into the adoption. Mothers were often sent to institutions for the pregnancy, until the baby was born. The treatment they received at these institutions was often harsh and abusive.

Medical treatment during the birth was often poor, sometimes abusive and sometimes involved drugs being administered against the mother’s will. The separation experience at birth for a mother and her baby was often profoundly traumatic for both of them.

Fathers were generally not allowed to visit the mothers during their stay in the institution, and did not see the babies after they were born. Their input or wishes about the child or adoption were often ignored.” This excerpt is taken from the Wattle Place website. You can find more information about the history of forced adoptions at

The Forced Adoption Support Service at Wattle Place supports people who have been impacted by past forced adoption practices. We provide the following services:

  • Face-to-face, phone or online counselling
  • Assistance and support to access personal and adoption records
  • Assistance and support with family tracing
  • Assistance to re-connect with family and support through these processes
  • Assistance to connect with support groups and networks of others with shared experiences
  • Apology commemoration events
  • Casework and Advocacy
  • Small Grants program
  • Quarterly Newsletter

If you or someone you know was impacted by past forced adoption practices, please have a look at our website for more information at, read our booklet here or contact the Forced Adoption Support Service at Wattle Place directly on 1800 21 03 13.