Monday, October 25, 2010

Letter from Andrew who was at Parliament to hear the Apology.

The initial reading by the premier was pretty wet. If anything, it
failed to even meet even my pre-lowered expectations. "I understand
some of you have hurt feelings. We're sorry your feelings got hurt."

But after that it was excellent. If you have listened to the full
speeches I don't need to repeat stuff, but I felt all the important
ground was covered. I especially liked that it was bipartisan, with
speakers from both parties acknowledging that great wrong was done.
Sitting in the gallery you didn't even really know (or care) which
party a speaker was from, which is as it should be.

As you can imagine there was a lot of crying, but with only a couple
of exceptions I was surprised at how little anger was expressed. Birth
mums have more right than anyone to be furious, and I feel very much
for those who were there with us who had to leave when their anger
became too much to bear. But for me and my mum, and I think for most
who were there, it was an incredibly powerful experience not so much
of 'healing' (I hate that word - it has too many echoes of 'getting
over it' and 'moving on') as of opening up, of a weight being lifted
and shared, of what had previously been a private burden being taken
up by a whole community.

I can say that it was far more significant and moving than either my
my mum or I were expecting. Actually being there, in a parliament,
listening to politicians you normally see on television acknowledging
the wrong and the hurt that was done is something everyone touched by
adoption has a right to experience. For those in other states and
countries it is absolutely something worth working for.

I do recommend, however, that you make plans for a bigger than
expected turn out! There was a moment I witnessed where an usher was
physically blocking a mum from getting into the gallery due to a 'lack
of seating' and 'house rules about not standing', and indeed many were
not allowed in and had to listen from an adjacent room. To be invited
to hear an apology and then be stopped at the door is farcical, but
when the apology is for having been treated like you don't matter and
have no rights it becomes deeply and painfully wrong. To be fair, the
usher was just doing his job and more than a little flustered,
everyone was caught unprepared by the number who attended, and a real
effort was made to accommodate everyone as well as possible on short
notice. But I hope it will be handled better next time.

There was one point where a Member who had (I think) been a Pastor
spoke from a religious perspective about forgiveness that generated a
degree of anger, with at least one mum leaving. While I absolutely
respect the importance of religion in many people's lives, and can
understand and even agree with the essence of what this man was
saying, I think religious people need to be very, very circumspect in
speaking to communities that have been directly hurt by individuals
and organisations acting in the name of their religion. Acknowledging
past wrongs is worthwhile, but they should leave it at that and accept
that on these subjects and to these people they need to display a
degree of shame and remorse and not offer 'advice', however good and

The after-effects have been difficult. The simple fact is that most
people in the community aren't even close to getting it. Even close
friends and family go '"I see that that was important to you, but why
does it matter? What did it achieve?". I think it is unrealistic to
think of this apology as having any direct effect on the public, but
it can still be a bit surreal sometimes when people who know you don't
even mention it - what, do parliamentary apologies happen every day?

Personally, as an adoptee, it had one very difficult emotional result.
While I had long ago accepted the fact that I was not in any sense
'relinquished' or 'given up' or 'unwanted' - my mum and me have been
in contact for five years now - I had compartmentalised that from
thinking of myself as 'stolen'. It is not at all comfortable to think
of my adoptive parents as having raised a child that was stolen. I
suspect many adoptees and adoptive parents will find that a difficult,
if not impossible, thing to face.

Anyway, love and support to you all.

Thank you Andrew for taking the time to share your personal experience with us.

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