Saturday, November 27, 2010

Demanding Justice.Christine Cole's daughter was taken in 1969

Demanding justice ... Christine Cole's daughter was taken in 1969.

Pellegrini Source: The Sunday Telegraph

MOTHERS who were bullied into forcibly giving up their newborns before many had even cradled or seen them are demanding an apology from the NSW Government.

Unethical and unlawful adoption practices were rife in Sydney hospitals, peaking between 1965 and 1975 when more than 36,000 children were taken from their single mothers under duress.

The women were heavily drugged and bullied into signing adoption papers by doctors, matrons and welfare officers.

Most mothers were refused the chance to see or touch their babies, the women's faces covered with pillows by nurses. Others were told incorrectly their babies had died.

The practices that inflicted lifelong trauma and mental illness for mother and child were endorsed by successive governments, and carried out by hospitals and church groups to stamp out illegitimacy by assimilating babies into middle-class society.

Christine Cole, whose daughter was taken from her in 1969, has been working with other mothers to get an apology from the NSW Government. "These practices were illegal and inherent in the system, that has already been established," Ms Cole said.

"The NSW Government has ignored the recommendations made by its own inquiry. They are hoping we [will] all die off."Last month, Western Australia became the first state to apologise to the women of the "white stolen generation", and last week the Senate agreed to hold an inquiry into the Commonwealth's role in forced adoptions.

However, despite a parliamentary inquiry a decade ago into past adoption practices recommending an apology be made, the NSW Government has still failed to say sorry.

"Mothers did not have a choice. If you are a victim of trauma, as we are, you cannot begin to heal unless your experience has been validated. An apology is long, long overdue," Ms Cole said.

More than 200 women from around the country travelled to Perth to hear WA's Parliament "unequivocally and sincerely apologise for fundamentally flawed government policies" on October 19.

Former MP Pat Rogan, who spearheaded the NSW inquiry, said he was "not just disappointed, but angry" that the Government had swept this under the carpet for so long.

"I was delighted to see the [federal] apology to the stolen Aboriginal children, and some Aboriginal mothers said to me it was only right and proper the white stolen babies and their mothers be given a similar apology. The time has come."

Psychiatrist Dr Geoffrey Rickarby, who has treated mothers whose babies were forcibly removed, said most Australians didn't realise the enormity of what happened.

"[The now-closed] Crown Street Women's Hospital [in Surry Hills] had a machine going to take these babies," Dr Rickarby said. "Such serious things were done to these girls by the thousands. They were drugged silly and, immediately after the birth, the baby was taken. The mothers had their faces covered so they could not form a bond with the child.

"At some hospitals the girls were tied to the bed. Most women never quite came to terms with what happened."

He said people working within the authorities often "ordered" babies for themselves and friends, and adoptive parents were poorly screened and rarely rejected.

"All sorts of people were adopting the babies, including mentally ill people, alcoholics and people with gross expectations about what the baby should be," Dr Rickarby said.

The Government had much to apologise for, he said.

"If these women get an apology, they will feel more socially included, and feel that people have compassion for them," he said. "Children will see the circumstances of their adoption, as many believe they were given up by somebody who did not want them, when that is incredibly untrue.

"The Government has a lot to apologise for."

Hospital staff lied and told Robin Turner, 60, her son had died days after his 1967 birth.

Her baby was taken to another hospital, without her permission, and she was told later he had passed away.

"In 1980, I fell pregnant again, and I high-tailed it straight to the pre-term clinic," Ms Turner said. "I could not go through it again. I never married because I am not worthwhile - it has affected every area of my life."

NSW Community Services Minister Linda Burney told The Sunday Telegraph: "The majority of the recommendations from the inquiry into adoption have been implemented.

One of those recommendations was that the NSW Government should 'issue a statement of public acknowledgement that past adoption practices were misguided and that, on occasions, unethical or unlawful practices may have occurred causing lasting suffering for many'.

Thanks to Apology Alliance for this article.

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