Today, 21 March 2023 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Federal Apology for forced adoption practices, given by the Prime Minister of the time, Julia Gillard, on behalf of the Australian Government, on 21 March 2013.
We wanted to take this opportunity to share the thoughts of someone who was directly impacted by forced adoption practices in Australia.
The article below was written by Shane Bouel, an advocate for acknowledgment and justice.
Australia’s Dirty Laundry
The Stain of Forced Adoption in Australia’s History
Forced adoption in Australia was a government policy that aimed to remove children from single, unwed mothers, and Indigenous families, among others. This policy had a significant impact on the lives of those who were taken from their mothers, and it has left many with long-lasting psychological trauma. The Australian government’s practice of Forced Adoption in the 20th century was a national tragedy that continues to impact many families today.
The practice of Forced Adoption is a stain on Australia’s history, and the fact that it was allowed to happen for so long is a reflection of the inadequacies and failures of the Australian government at the time. The experiences of those who were forcibly removed from their families, and the trauma that they have had to endure as a result, are a reminder of the need to ensure that such practices are never repeated.
While it may seem like a humorous analogy, the question of whether the Australian Government is capable of doing its own “laundry” in addressing the stain of Forced Adoption is a serious one. Given the profound harm caused by this policy, it is essential that the government takes responsibility for its past actions and works to provide support and resources to those affected. This requires not only acknowledging the past wrongs, but also actively working towards healing and reconciliation through ongoing efforts to provide mental health support, facilitate legal reunions for those separated from their families, and ensure that such policies are never repeated in the future through critically needed reform.
Whether or not the government is capable of taking on this task remains to be seen, and will likely depend on a range of factors including political will, public pressure, and the dedication and expertise of those involved in the process. However, it is clear that the need to address the legacy of Forced Adoption is urgent and pressing, and failure to do so risks perpetuating the harm caused by this policy for generations to come.
Sorting the Stains:
The Impact of Forced Adoption
My recent open letter to The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP brings attention to the fact that the current Prime Minister was almost a victim of this practice, which highlights how widespread and devastating the impact of Forced Adoption was. Although his mother was not forced to give him up for adoption, it was noted that she stated she was a widow and had no father recorded on his birth certificate. This, combined with the fact that his father was Italian, could have potentially made him vulnerable to being taken away by the government. The policy of the time was to place children born to single mothers in care, and it is fortunate that this was not the outcome in his case.
The open letter to The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP is an emotional plea to the Australian government to acknowledge the harm that was done to those who were forcibly removed from their families.
Full letter Here:
Open Letter to The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP.
Urgent Request for Attention to Ongoing Struggles of Those Affected by Forced Adoption
Separating Whites from Colors:
Double Standards and Marginalization
The fact that Peter Dutton, a former Minister for Immigration, did not attend the first apology to the Stolen Generations and 15 years later he apologises for not attending the first apology. This shows how the government has failed to take responsibility for its actions. The apology was an important step in acknowledging the harm that had been done to Indigenous Australians, but the fact that a senior government official did not attend shows that there is still a long way to go.
The failure of Dutton to attend the apology highlights how the government has been reluctant to acknowledge the harm that was done and has been slow to take action to address the situation.
Neglecting to Wash:
Government Failure to Take Responsibility
The quote from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his recent speech for the 15th Anniversary of the Stolen Generation is another example of how Forced Adoption has impacted Australian society. In his statement, Mr Rudd asks:
“What would have happened IF white Australian children had been taken away from their parents without cause or evidence of maltreatment, but simply as a matter of general policy? Our reaction would have been outrage, anger and the deepest sense of injustice “
He notes that the reaction to such a policy would have been one of outrage, anger, and a deep sense of injustice. This statement highlights the double standard that exists when it comes to Forced Adoption and how it is viewed or in most cases, unacknowledged by the wider Australian public.
What Mr Rudd failed to realize was that the forced adoption practices actually occurred in Australia during the 20th century and affected not only Indigenous Australians but also white Australians. An estimated 250,000 white Australian children were taken away from them without any specific case evidence of maltreatment as a matter of general policy.
Airing the Dirty Laundry:
Urgent Need for Support and Acknowledgement
All these issues are connected and show how the government has been inadequate and failed to take responsibility for its actions. These examples highlight how the government has failed to provide adequate support to those who were affected by Forced Adoption. In many cases, the adoptions were carried out without the mother’s informed consent often by extreme psychological abuse and coercion, and there was little support provided to those who were affected. This lack of support has had a significant impact on the lives of those who were taken from their mothers, and it has left many with long-lasting psychological trauma.
Within the current political landscape, we observe a fascinating interplay of personal histories and official apologies. The present Prime Minister, for instance, narrowly dodged the fate of Forced Adoption as an infant. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition Incumbent, who has only recently expressed remorse for failing to attend the first Apology to the Stolen Generations some 15 years ago, confronts the weight of history and its enduring effects. And let us not forget the former Prime Minister who issued both the inaugural and 15th apologies to the Stolen Generations, yet appears unaware of the First National Apology for Forced Adoptions a decade prior. The 21st of March 2023 is the 10th anniversary of the First National Apology for Forced Adoptions, one cannot help but wonder what further complexities and contradictions will emerge from this tapestry of narratives around #truth, #culture, #diversity & #inclusion.
Will Australia address the need to do its laundry or will it continue to sit in its own filth?
Here are two simple things that would ease the burden on adoptees and their mental health:
- The issuance of Birth Certificates that state the correct relationship between guardians and birth parents. Past and current process remove any mention of biological family and implies that the adoptive family gave birth to the adoptee. This is how adoptive parents get away with not telling adoptive children that they’re adopted. Many people do not know that this is still a standard policy in today’s adoptions.
- Ease of access to no fault no fee discharges, so those of failed adoptions like myself are able to return to their family of origin. This would avoid going through extreme, unnecessary trauma, time and time again through lengthy excessively expensive court proceedings.
Adoptees nationally have been advocating for these changes to legislation state by state for decades to no avail.
Please help us spread awareness and share this article with anyone who may benefit from the information provided. Together, we can support those affected by past forced adoption policies and practices.
I’d go as far to say, if you have an adoptee in your family or know an adoptee, however distant, you have an obligation to share this article and turn the narrative towards the real coversation.
With heartfelt empathy and respect,
Shane Paul Bouel
(Born: Paul Allan Morley, Adopted: Roger Shane Blackwell)