Friday, December 24, 2010

Brisbane Times 24th December 2010

'Your son is gone. He's with his adoptive parents' Marissa Calligeros
December 24, 2010 -
View the original article on Brisbane Times website: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/your-son-is-gone-hes-with-his-adoptive-parents-20101222-1958a.html

View the Gallery at:
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/photogallery/queensland/motherhood-lost/20101215-18xsz.html?selectedImage=0

Motherhood lost
Marg Hamilton has struggled to come to terms with losing a child to a forced adoption. Photo: Dean Saffron

.."The room was blacked out. There were no windows and just one door.

"They tied my hands and feet to the bed. I was in agony. I was screaming out in pain.

"Then there was silence.

Advertisement: Story continues below "No one would have known a baby had been born. But I did."

There, in an isolated delivery room of the Royal Brisbane Hospital, Trish Large's quest to find the son taken from her at birth began.

Trish would be among 250,000 unwed mothers of the "white stolen generation" in Australia.

The young women were drugged, tethered to beds, and never allowed to see their babies.

It was a practice which has been described as 'institutionalised baby farming', whereby babies born to unwed women were forcibly taken from them and illegally adopted to infertile couples.

This was the accepted practice at the RBH for up to five decades from the 1930s.

As she prepares to celebrate Christmas with her family tomorrow, Trish remembers a time when her family was incomplete.

“The nurse told me I was unfit to be a mother ... that I didn't deserve to see my son,” she said.

“My son was whisked away out of the delivery room and I was taken to an unmarried mothers' ward in the hospital.

“I demanded every day to see my son ... for every day that I was in that ward.”

However Trish, at 20 years old with no family for support, was no match for the system.

“The next day my milk came flooding in. So they forced me to wear an extremely tight elastic bandage that covered my entire chest right down to my hips," she said.

“It was so tight I could barely breathe.

“They also gave me the drug stilboestrol to dry my milk, but it also made me very calm and very quiet, just as they wanted me.”

Trish has since learned the drug is used to treat incontinent female dogs.

“The next morning a social worker came in and demanded that I sign an adoption form. When I refused she told me I would be charged with 'seduction' and deported back to England and never allowed in the country again with no chance to see my son,” she said.

The same happened the following morning, and the following.

Finally, the seemingly exacerbated social worker told Trish she could sign a hospital release form and take her son home.

“I was so excited. I thought I had won. I thought I had beat them at their own game,” she said.

“The social worker came with some forms on a clip board and I signed them. Then I sat on my bed and waited and waited for them to bring me my son.

“I sat there until they put another woman in my bed.

“At five o'clock I asked the nurse for the final time when my son would arrive.

“She turned to me and said: 'Your son is gone. He's already gone with his adoptive parents'.”

The following morning Trish – now a desperate mother – went to the Department of Child Services seeking help. Her plight fell on deaf ears.

“So I marched right to the police station on Roma Street and told them my baby had been stolen from me," she said.

“The policeman at the desk said he would need some proof that I had in fact had a baby.

“So I went back to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. I said to the woman at reception, 'I had a baby here, I would like my records'. I gave her me name.

“She said, 'Are you sure you had a baby in this hospital?'

“She said there was absolutely no record of me ever having been admitted to the hospital. And there was no record of my baby being born.”

Two years earlier Margaret Hamilton, now 64, delivered her son in the same ward.

“But I have absolutely no memory of giving birth. I have no idea how my son came into this world,” she said.

“Perhaps it was such a traumatic experience I blocked it out ... perhaps I was drugged.

“I was 19 years old. I was engaged and pregnant, but my fiancĂ© called it off. I was to be a single mother, so I went where all single mothers went ... to a home.”

There, Margaret lived with 50 other young women, all pregnant and unmarried.

“No one asked me what I wanted to do,” she said.

On the May 11, 1966 Margaret was admitted to hospital.

“I was left on a bed in a corridor. I heard another woman scream and I thought, 'Oh I don't want to be like that',” she said.

Then nothing.

“My friends tell me I must have had such a traumatic experience there I have blocked it out. But I can't imagine I would do that,” Margaret said.

“It's not unlikely I was drugged, but I have no medical records.”

Like Trish, Margaret was forced to sign adoption papers, but not before she caught a glimpse of her son in the hospital nursery.

“Yes, I saw him through the window ... but I was never allowed to hold him, or touch him,” she said.

“The adoption was illegal. I was only 19. It was not legal for a woman to consent to adoption until they were 21.

“My son was stolen from me.”

Once Margaret signed the adoption papers she was told she needed to leave the hospital.

“I was expected to return home, return to my job and never speak of it again,” Margaret said.

“I couldn't do that.”

In the weeks following the birth Margaret became increasingly depressed.

“I didn't care whether I lived or died,” she said.

“I would walk across the road without looking, hoping a car would hit me.”

Eventually Margaret could not bear her life in Brisbane.

“The streets were too familiar. Not only had I been abandoned by the man I loved, I had lost my child.”

Margaret moved to Melbourne where she regained some semblance of a normal life.

It was not until she returned to Brisbane, married and with two children, in 1990 that she once again yearned for her lost son.

“I wasn't coping. I had to find him,” she said.

Margaret, like Trish, found an ally in ALAS Queensland – Adoption Loss Adult Support – for mothers searching for their lost children.

One year later Margaret saw her son again for the first time.

“He was not the baby I saw in the hospital. He was a man. He was 25 years old,” she said.

The pair met at a country fair in regional New South Wales.

“There were people everywhere and I was so scared I would miss him," she said.

“Then I saw a man walking across a field. I recognised him by his walk. He has the walk of my family.”

There for the very first time Margaret held her son.

Margaret and Trish are among the fortunate few who have been reunited with their children, but their grief for the babies they lost has never faded.

“The grief never goes away. Adoption is a life sentence,” Margaret said.

She finds comfort remembering walking the streets of Brisbane's CBD when she was pregnant.

“I loved being pregnant, because then my baby was mine and no one could take it from me," Margaret said.

“I love my son, but I still grieve for my baby.”

For this, a formal apology from the federal government is crucial.

Margaret made a personal request to Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a community cabinet meeting at Clontarf, north of Brisbane, last month.

"My name is Margaret Hamilton," she began.

"I'm from ALAS - Adoption Loss Adult Support. There are over 250,000 white mothers who lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal mothers.

"How do you feel personally? Should they receive an apology?"

Ms Gillard replied: "I see in the media - and have heard sometimes face to face - some of the stories of women who face very devastating circumstances of having children taken, or being put under intolerable pressure to relinquish their children, in a different age and a different time.

"So, as a human being, of course you extend your sympathy to anybody who lived through that and through years of not knowing what happened to their child. So I think it's something we can all say, we're sorry that ever happened in Australian history."

Although this was cause of much excitement for Margaret and Trish, this personal “sorry” from the Prime Minister was not enough.

“We want our children to know that we did not give them away. We want them to know that they were loved and wanted,” Trish said.

“We do not want compensation, we just want healing.”

The "white stolen generations" are so-called to distinguish them from the indigenous stolen generations, but their suffering is shared.

Margaret last year received a handwritten letter from an indigenous elder.

"I applaud the Prime Minister's apology to our mob. But what about the white stolen generations that have suffered the same fate," the elder wrote.

"I know many white people who went through the same pain. So why can't the government do it's healing again and apologise to the white stolen generation to bring closure to all this suffering.

"As we walk the same land. Breathe the same air. Drink the same water."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sydney Morning Herald: White mothers of stolen children also deserve an apology

On page 14 of this morning's Sydney Morning Herald, Liz Hannan writes "White mothers of stolen children also deserve an apology" article.

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/white-mothers-of-stolen-children-also-deserve-an-apology-20101207-18o7t.html#comments

Copied from the site:
In an attempt to revive her battered image with Queensland voters, Julia Gillard and a dozen ministers and parliamentary secretaries journeyed north last week to convene a ''community cabinet'' in a school hall in the marginal Labor seat of Petrie.

Little was expected of the evening. The Prime Minister's office did not keep a transcript of proceedings. But one exists and, among talk of sustainable fisheries and the $1.15 billion Petrie to Kippa-Ring rail line, was a significant exchange between Gillard and one of the 400 locals on hand.

''My name is Margaret Hamilton,'' she began. ''I'm from ALAS - Adoption Loss Adult Support. There are over 250,000 white mothers who lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal mothers. How do you feel personally? Should they receive an apology?''
Advertisement: Story continues below

The PM replied: ''I see in the media - and have heard sometimes face to face - some of the stories of women who face very devastating circumstances of having children taken, or being put under intolerable pressure to relinquish their children, in a different age and a different time.

''So, as a human being, of course you extend your sympathy to anybody who lived through that and through years of not knowing what happened to their child. So I think it's something we can all say, we're sorry that ever happened in Australian history.''

It was a ''sorry'' heard by few that has since reverberated to broken-hearted middle-aged and elderly women across the land.

These are the mothers of the ''white stolen generations'', so-called to distinguish them from the mothers of the indigenous stolen generations, though their suffering is shared.

In the five decades up to 1982, the newborn babies of these young, unwed women were forcibly removed from them for adoption. Their stories are shocking. They were drugged, tethered to beds, not allowed to see their babies, told they were dead.

Margaret Hamilton had a son taken from her in Queensland. For Christine Cole - the founder of the Apology Alliance - it was a daughter. She says institutions such as Crown Street Women's Hospital in Sydney engaged in institutionalised baby farming, whereby those deemed inferior were taken and assimilated into the middle class.

Cole was 16 when, in 1969, her mother took her to Crown Street, where she was given military-style mind-altering barbiturates in the lead-up to the birth. She never saw her baby daughter's face. After five days on drugs to dry up her milk and sedate her in her grief, she was made to sign adoption papers and sent home.

An apology from the federal government - and to a lesser extent the states - is crucial to women like these two.

NSW held an inquiry more than a decade ago. These women are still waiting for a parliamentary apology, not the statement of public acknowledgment the then treasurer, Michael Egan, gave to Parliament in 2001.

At federal level, a Senate inquiry is under way, with a report due in April, but they fear a repeat of the Bringing Them Home report. It took more than a decade for one of its recommendations, a parliamentary apology to the stolen generations, to occur.

These mothers believe it is cause for hope that the federal government and two states are now led by women. Kristina Keneally knows what it is to labour and give birth to a child she will never know. Two months ago, she spoke publicly about the daughter she delivered in 1999, knowing congenital defects meant she would not survive birth. ''I have a picture of Caroline next to my bed,'' she said. ''She's often the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. The person I am today is because I'm Caroline's mother.''

The Prime Minister and premiers should follow the lead of the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, who, in October, in an Australian first, delivered a parliamentary apology on behalf of state institutions involved in the aggressive adoption practices and government policies that were unsupportive of pregnant, unmarried women. There was no political fallout, no avalanche of compensation claims, only joy and healing for the women whose babies were taken.

Last week's personal ''sorry'' from Gillard, while cause for excitement among the women, is not enough.

When Kevin Rudd examines the flaming wreckage of his prime ministership, he must reflect with satisfaction on the apologies he made on behalf of the nation.

The first, in February 2008, was to the stolen generations. The second, in November last year, was to the forgotten Australians - the half-million Australian children and British child migrants who suffered years of neglect and abuse in orphanages and state and religious institutions.

Some mothers of the ''white stolen generations'' are dead. Others are dying. Many live in despair, still longing for the chance to hold their baby, to see its face, to rewrite their sad history.

They deserve parliamentary apologies. Without delay.

Dec 8th 2010 - Liz Hannan.

Friday, December 3, 2010

25th Federal Cabinet Meeting at Clontarf Beach High School.

Last night, Thursday 2nd December, I attended the 25th Cabinet Meeting of our Federal Politicians at Clontarf,(near Redcliffe) in Queensland.
Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Jenny Macklin, Nicola Roxan and many others Ministers were there.
In the forum, I was lucky enough to be selected by Julia Gillard to whom I asked this question on behalf of our group Adoption, Loss, Adult,Support,

"There were over 250,000 white mothers who had their babies forcibly removed at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal Mothers.

Do you personally feel that they should also receive an apology?"

In front of aproxamately 500 people our Prime Minister answered my question.
Julia spoke of the apology for the Forgotten Generation and The Stolen Generation and said she agreed that Kevin Rudd had done the right thing.

Then Julia APOLOGISED for herself,
and said she was aware of all the women still out there still needing recognition of the suffering they had endured. Julia then passed my question over to Jenny Macklin, who said that she was also aware many women still lived with the grief of loosing their children to past adoption practices.
Jenny spoke of the Senate Inquiry and hoped we would all send in our stories.
I was able to then add that we had many mothers in their 70's and 80's that thought they may not live long enough to hear rhe results of an inquiry, that an apology was what they wanted to let their children know that they "did not give their children away", that they were loved.
Jenny said that she was aware of these older women.

I have been given a contact card so I can speak some more to her advisor.

I would have to say, I was most impressed with the forum and think my question was well answered.

Margaret Hamilton.

Senate Inquiry

Subject: Your submissions are needed URGENTLY - a Senate INQUIRY re: forced adoption
polices

To all mothers, and adoptees, and families, siblings ... ANYONE ... who has been
affected by the past practices of adoption PLEASE get your stories down, either on
paper and post them in or go online and post online on the website below.
Barbara
of Mothers of a White Stolen Generation
Victoria

"The Apology Alliance wants to formally thank the Greens for their ongoing support.
The Alliance members were well aware that gaining the apology in WA would be a
crucial step in achieving a National Inquiry. The following is an extract from an
email forwarded to the Alliance:

"The Senate has supported an Australian Greens motion for the Community Affairs
Reference Committee to examine the Commonwealth Government's role in forced adoption
polices from the late 1940s the 1980s. Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens spokesperson
for Community Services says the Committee's inquiry is an important step in
addressing the issue of forced adoption and comes in the wake of the WA Parliament's
formal apology to those affected by the policies.
"Today's vote starts to recognise the suffering that so many people have endured as a result of forced adoption policies," Senator Siewert said today."

Alliance members, with the support of the Greens, Liberal and Labor politicians,
lawyers and journalists are hoping to receive apologies from all State and Federal
Governments. Look forward to meeting all you wonderful campaigners in Canberra for
the Federal Apology"

The link below will take you directly to the Senate site and provides all the details

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/clac_ctte/comm_contrib_former_forced_adoption/info.htm


At this point they are only taking written submissions. We haven't received much
else to guide us yet and they haven't set any dates for hearing evidence or
called for witnesses.

Submissions should be received by 28 February 2011. The reporting date is 30 April
2011.

The Committee is seeking written submissions from interested individuals and
organisations preferably in electronic form submitted online or sent by email to
community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au as an attached Adobe PDF or MS Word format
document. The email must include full postal address and contact details.
Alternatively, written submissions may be sent to:
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia
Below is a link to some useful information that will help anyone wishing to submit
to the inquiry

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/wit_sub/index.htm