Church apology over 'forced adoptions' in Australia


THE AUSTRALIAN Catholic Church issued an apology yesterday over what have been called “forced adoptions”.

It is thought more than 150,000 women had babies taken against their will in Australia between the 1950s and 1970s by churches and adoption agencies.

Psychiatrist Geoff Rickarby, who has treated many of the affected women, told ABC television it is a stain on Australia’s history.

“It sounds like some totalitarian country somewhere hundreds of years ago, but in fact it’s Australia only 35, 40 years ago,” Dr Rickarby said.

Martin Laverty, chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, says he is sorry for what happened and that the church is helping affected women get access to medical or social work records to help contact lost family members.

“It’s with a deep sense of regret, a deep sense of sorrow that practices of the past have caused ongoing pain, suffering and grief to these women, these brave women . . . around Australia,” Mr Laverty said.

The Sisters of Mercy also apologised for their role in such adoptions.

Juliette Clough is one of the women who says she was forced to give up her baby at a Catholic-run hospital in the New South Wales city of Newcastle in 1970, when she was 16-years-old.

“My ankles were strapped to the bed, they were in stirrups and I was gassed, I had plenty of gas and they just snatched away the baby,” Ms Clough said.

“You weren’t allowed to see him or touch him, anything like that, or hold him and it was just like a piece of my soul had died. And it’s still dead,” she said.

A woman called Margaret said her son was taken from her in 1975, when she was 17. “Straight away he was taken out of the labour ward. By the records it only took 13 minutes to transfer him from the labour ward to the nursery,” she said.

The women said they were alone and frightened and were not told about single parent benefits or their rights to revoke adoption consent. They said they were pressured to sign adoption papers before consent could legally be obtained. In some cases documents are said to have been forged.