The apology that started a movement

President of ALAS Trish Large was among the small group who first approached RBWH.

President of ALAS Trish Large was among the small group who first approached RBWH.

It has been 15 years since Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) became the first hospital in Australia to apologise for the practice of forced adoption, triggering a movement that led all the way to Federal Parliament.

The process of forced adoption was widespread in Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s, with unwed and vulnerable women made to give up their babies.

In 2009, members of Adoption Loss Adult Support (ALAS) met with the RBWH Executive Director of Women’s and Newborns Services at the time, Professor Ian Jones, Midwifery Director Noelle Cridland and other members of the RBWH executive to share their adoption experiences.

That led to Professor Jones writing a letter of apology on behalf of the hospital to the ALAS members on 19 May 2009 for these historical practices.

In the same year, Professor Jones also met with adoptees from the White Australian Stolen Heritage Group (now known as the Association for Adoptees) and apologised on behalf of the hospital to WASH and any adoptees seeking an apology.

The apologies from RBWH acknowledged the trauma, abuse, pain and suffering that the practice of forced adoption had caused to those directly affected as well as their families.

Other hospitals followed suit, then state governments. Western Australia was the first state to formally apologise.

A Senate Inquiry into forced adoption in 2012 found the practice was accepted and widespread across the country, with approximately 150,000 forced adoptions occurring between 1951 and 1975.

On 21 March, 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologised on behalf of the Australian Government to people affected by forced adoption or removal policies and practices.

The national apology was delivered in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra and was attended by the members of ALAS who first approached RBWH. It concluded with:

“We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated. In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation. Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

“With profound sadness and remorse, we offer you all our unreserved apology.”

This week, a morning tea was held at the Royal to acknowledge the 15-year anniversary of that first apology, and the courage and persistence of those who campaigned over the years for their voices to be heard and suffering to be acknowledged.

It was attended by members of ALAS, Jigsaw, Origins and Post Adoption Support Queensland and other stakeholders, as well former Senator Clare Moore who drove the senate inquiry.

Speakers at the morning tea told their poignant stories of forced adoption and the numerous consequences that have impacted their lives.

2024-06-19T09:26:25+10:0019 June 2024|