Skip to main content

Australia apologizes for forced adoptions

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 11:40 PM EDT, Wed March 20, 2013
A file image of newborn babies in a hospital maternity ward, 1955.
A file image of newborn babies in a hospital maternity ward, 1955.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Forced adoptions were widespread in Australia for decades
  • They were often arranged for the babies of unwed mothers
  • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivers the apology

(CNN) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered an apology Thursday to the mothers, children and families affected by forced adoptions.

An untold number of unwed women in Australia were forced to give up their children for adoption over decades during the 20th century.

"To you, the mothers -- who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice -- we apologize," said Gillard, speaking in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra.

Addressing those ripped from their families, she said: "To each of you who were adopted or removed, who were led to believe your mother had rejected you, and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin, and to connect with your culture, we say sorry."

Gillard's comments came about a year after a Senate committee that investigated forced adoptions released its report, which included a recommendation for a national apology.

The report found that some mothers signed adoption papers while under the influence of medication. Others were not advised of government payments that may have been available to them.

"Most common of all was the bullying arrogance of a society that presumed to know what was best," Gillard said.

The report estimated there were 140,000 to 150,000 adoptions between 1951 and 1975, and as many as 250,000 from 1940 onward. It determined it was impossible to say exactly how many of those were forced.

Gillard pledged support for families that continue to be affected by such adoptions, committing $5 million Australian to improving access to specialist support and records tracing.

"We offer this apology in the hope that it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation's history," she said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 4:15 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 5:57 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT