Survivors of forced adoption require access to justice, redress and a truthtelling inquiry

Survivors of forced adoption require access to justice, redress and a truthtelling inquiry

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Jennifer McRae started this petition to Hon. Simone McGurk (Minister for Child Protection; Women's Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Viol)

During the forced adoption era (FAE) of the 1940's until the late 1980's, thousands of West Australian girls, teenagers and young women had their newborns forcibly removed from their care and 'given' to married couples within closed adoption. Many mothers were systematically subjected to coercive and draconian practices by those who were meant to protect them. Denigrated by society as fallen women, many mothers continue to believe that they did not have the right to be a parent, purely because they were unmarried.Their beloved and much wanted newborns were denied their basic human right to grow up with their mother, father, grandparents and the rest of their family. Many will never be reunited and those who do meet will not experience the fairytale reunion that is idealised within the media.

For adoptees, our adoption was not a singular event. As newborns we were denied our birth right to remain with the sole person who created, carried and birthed us. Research has long identified that the removal of newborn infants from their mother causes sustained pre-verbal trauma. For adoptees, this profound loss of our mother would lay the foundational psychological bedrock of our lived experience and has inflicted an entirely uncessary psychological burden upon us. Now adults, many adoptee's have lived a life that was not of their choosing, permanently living with disenfranchised grief and the debilitating legacy of pre-verbal trauma. When compared to their non-FAE counterparts, survivors of forced adoption are over represented in terms of chronic pain/inflammatory disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicide.

In 2010 the WA parliament apologised for the illegal removal of newborns from their unwed mothers. This act of contrition would be the catalyst for other states and territories to formally acknowledge the harms inflicted by forced adoption policy and practices. However, formal apologies are just the first step. Now, more than a decade later we as a society must afford survivors the right to truth telling via an inquiry, to uncover what actually happened to ensure history is never repeated. Redress mechanisms and the removal of the statute of limitations must also be afforded for survivors of forced adoption.

West Australia requires redress mechanisms AND a WA specific inquiry for the following reasons;

It must be publically recognised that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous West Australians experienced the policies and practices of forced adoption.

1. The WA experience of forced adoption policies and practices operated within its own unique circumstances, within the states cultural-social mores and significant geographical isolation.

2. When compared to other jurisdictions, WA took longer to move away from adoption policies and practices, despite the instigation of the single parent benefit in 1973. This lag effect observed in WA is reflected in annual, state by state adoption statistics.

3. Women from interstate traveled to WA to conceal their pregnancy, birth secretly and return home without their baby. How widespread was this practice and did WA's forced adoption institutions captialise on this growing need for interstate unwed mothers to disppear?

4. Explore the pivotal role of country WA and city GP's as the initial points of contact which procured babies for constituents of their personal religious denomination via Perth based maternity homes.

5. Examine the operational role of the welfare department, maternity homes, hospitals, their matrons, boards of governance, funding mechanisms and other staff in procuring adoptions.Investigate the adequacy of care given to unwed mothers by these facilities and the interactions experienced by mother's with their care givers.

6. Obtain testimonies from medical and nursing/midwifery professionals who were witness to the policies, practices and healthcare standards which survivors of FAE were subjected to. Reveal the extent to which the anti-lactation carginogenic drug diethylstilboestrol (DES) was administered to mothers and consider the creation of a screening clinic similar to the model of care provided at the Royal Women's Melbourne.

7. Review and repair the current service provision for survivors in terms of comprehensive specialised counselling, individualised mental, health care requirements and gerontology services, as many mothers and adoptee's are in their 60's and older. 

8. Address and remove the legislative and the legal constraints which prevent survivors from redress mechanisms, this MUST including the statute of limitations.

9. Allow adoptee's a clear and simplified pathway to revoke their adoption order, have their father's name (and other details) added to their first birth certificate or to obtain an integrated birth certificate. 

10. Instruct all former forced adoption institutions, hospitals, health services and the WA medical board to formally and publicly apologize to survivors. Ensure that all former forced adoption facilities (where newborns were removed from their mothers), install commemorative structures within their grounds, which incorporate direct invovlement with survivors. These now wealthy, influential and powerful institutions must cease creating a fairy tale narration of their involvement in forced adoption and own the widespread trauma they have inflicted upon thousands in this state.

11. Allocate appropriate funding and staffing to provide FREE services which conduct reconnections between adoptee's and their biological family. Survivors should not be paying the bill to find their kin. Ensure these providers have a code of conduct along with a clear and independant complaints proceedure.

12. WA survivors must have timely access to all of their adoption records, hospital, welfare and maternity home records without redaction or censorship. Numerous mothers report that their hospital records have been lost or are damaged, despite their son or daughter being able to access their own newborn records from the same time period.

13. Examine and identify the financial operational processes by which government, adoptive institutions, adoptive parents and mothers operated within. The issue of stolen wages from unwed mothers while residing in maternity 'homes' and the issue of comodification of newborns must be examined in detail. Who paid what to whom, for a newborn baby.

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