HUNTER victims of forced adoption practices in the past have welcomed the findings of a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.
The report by a Senate inquiry investigating the federal government’s involvement in past forced adoption was tabled in the Senate yesterday with 20 recommendations.
The recommendations include that governments should formally apologise to mothers and children who were victims of past forced adoption practices.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, about 150,000 Australian unwed mothers had their babies taken against their will by churches and adoption agencies.
The former Catholic Calvary Mater Hospital and Villa Maria home for unmarried mothers at Maitland were both named in submissions to the inquiry for ill treatment of mothers.
Catholic Health Australia has since apologised for its role.
The committee recommended a formal federal government apology, as well as similar statements from state and territory governments and non-government institutions involved.
Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert, who chaired the inquiry, broke down as she tabled the report.
‘‘This was a really hard, emotional inquiry,’’ she said.
‘‘You couldn’t help but take the stories to heart.’’
The senator recalled a mother telling her about the joy of feeling her baby inside her body, but the pain of knowing he or she would immediately be taken away at birth.
Labor senator Claire Moore told the chamber people had to consider in retrospect whether the adoptions had been in the best interests of children and parents.
‘‘In many cases, the parents were threatened with the law of the day,’’ she said.
The inquiry report’s release was only the first step.
‘‘The history ... will now be known and acknowledged,’’ she said.
Senator Moore said one of the most poignant moments of the inquiry was a woman telling senators all she wanted was for her son to know she loved him and had not given him away.
Juliette Clough, Windale: Was placed in a boarding house by the Catholic Church when she was 14 after her parents died. A boarder raped her and she fell pregnant. She delivered a boy she named Richard at the Mater Hospital, Waratah. She said her legs were tied in stirrups, she was drugged and forced to sign adoption papers.
Therese Pearson, Merewether: Was an unwed 19-year-old in 1964 when she was coerced into adopting out her son. She said pillows were held over her face and stomach when he was born.
Deborah Snelson, Victoria: Was placed in foster care at Mayfield at 13 and raped by her foster father until she was pregnant at 17. She was sent to Villa Maria home for unmarried mothers at Maitland. When she tried to tell her case worker what had happened, she was accused of lying. At the Mater Hospital she was left on her own in the labour ward with her feet in stirrups and hands tied to the bed for hours until the birth. A sheet was erected to cover her view and nuns told her she could not keep her daughter. When she insisted on keeping the baby she was told she could not leave the hospital until she signed adoption papers.
Cheryl Smith, Lambton: Was fostered at age six when her unwed mother met another man. She said the government case workers deliberately kept her from her natural mother. It took her 23 years to track down her mother, with whom she now keeps in touch. She said she hoped the government inquiry would make it easier for families to reunite by making it easier to access to historical files.