Australia forced adoption apology urged
Sydney - The Australian government was urged on Thursday to apologise and consider compensating tens of thousands of unwed mothers and the babies they were forced to give up for adoption between the 1950s and 70s.
A Senate inquiry into forced adoption - widespread in the post-war period and largely driven by religious organisations - called for a national apology and the establishment of "financial reparation schemes".
Inquiry chair, Senator Rachel Siewert, said it had been "heartbreaking" to hear from hundreds of mothers and babies scarred by forcible removal between 1951 and 1975 in Australia, then a conservative and quite Christian nation.
Young single women who fell pregnant were typically sent to stay with relatives or in group houses run by the church and other religious organisations due to the social stigma and economic pressure of unmarried pregnancies.
Babies were usually signed away for adoption long before they were born, and the inquiry found women were pressured to consent, signatures were fraudulently obtained, if at all, and adoption was presented as inevitable.
"There was evidence of consent not properly taken. There was evidence of coercion. All the pressure, practices and policies have had lifelong impacts on mothers, fathers, adoptees and family members," said Siewert, tabling the inquiry's report in parliament.
"It is undoubted that past policies and practices have caused great harm and hurt to mothers, fathers, adoptees and their family members. You cannot come to any other conclusion when you are listening to the evidence."
Strict rules governed access to information for both mothers and their children and adopted babies had birth certificates issued in their adoptive parents' names on the grounds that a "clean break" was best for all parties.
Siewert said one woman had told the inquiry that a mother "whose child has been stolen does not only remember in her mind, she remembers with every fibre of her being".
She called for the national, state and territory governments and the organisations involved to issue formal apologies for the harm suffered.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government needed to "consider the report prior to responding to the recommendations".