Skip to main content

Australia apologizes for forced adoptions

By Dana Ford, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 0340 GMT (1140 HKT)
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
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 2001 GMT (0401 HKT)
The U.S. has promised to supply and train "acceptable" rebels in Syria to counter ISIS. But who are they and are can the strategy work?
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0655 GMT (1455 HKT)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1549 GMT (2349 HKT)
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT