Members of the audience listen to then prime minister Julia Gillard deliver the apology at the National Apology for Forced Adoption in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra in 2013. IN1984 the Adoption Act enshrined the rights of adopted children and natural parents to information about and contact with each other.Adults over 18 were finally able to apply for their original birth certificate and records.
If a natural parent did not want contact this was recorded in the Adoption Information Register and conveyed to their child upon application. However for adoptions before 1984, the Act did not treat natural parents equally – they could only access non-identifying information like the gender of their child.
In 2012 the Victorian Parliament apologised for the wrongful past policies and practices and “acknowledged that many thousands of Victorian babies were taken from their mothers, without informed consent, and that this loss caused immense grief “.
The apology brought validation, healing and hope for many. They felt heard and believed. The government also pledged to finally allow natural parents identifying information about their child.Hope was short-lived – the new law had a provision for ‘no contact’ statements to be lodged, which, if breached, attracted penalty fines of up to $9100. Some adoption records are known to contain misinformation about natural parents and their circumstances so decisions about contact are being made based on untruths. Yet if a mother or father writes a letter to set the record straight when a no contact statement is in place, it is a crime.
The opportunity for mothers and fathers – many of whom were victims of illegal practices when their babies were removed – to receive identifying information about their child is long overdue, and something many have not lived to see. The assumption that people now in their 60s, 70s and 80s will behave like criminals adds insult to injury. Unfortunately even the possibility of having a contact statement being placed against them is enough to deter some who are scared of the ramifications.
Most adoptees affected are in their 30s, 40s and 50s – not young children. They do not need special protective laws. This legislation perpetuates the myths that justified the immoral removal of infants – that natural parents are bad and their children need to be protected from them. Equal rights should apply to all parties to adoptions. The wishes of an adopted person can be adequately managed in the same way the wishes of natural parents have been for the last 30 years.
The pledges made at the bipartisan apology should be upheld wholeheartedly without barriers. The last thing individuals affected need is to be treated like children (adoptees) or like probable criminals (natural parents). We hope Victorian parliamentarians will seek to end this discrimination and support the repeal of contact statements in the Legislative Council this week.
Coleen Clare is the Manager of the Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help (Call 1300 VANISH or go to vanish.org419论坛)Jo Fraser is the Secretary of The Association of Relinquishing Mothers (ARMS) (Call (03) 9769 0232 or go to armsvic.org419论坛)This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.