21 Mar 2013

Australian PM apologises to forced adoption victims

9:55 pm on 21 March 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered a national apology to victims of past forced adoption practices.

Ms Gillard made the long-awaited apology at a ceremony in Canberra attended by hundreds of people, AAP reports.

The Australian government is also providing more than $6 million to improve access to specialist support, records tracing and mental health care for those affected by forced adoption.

Between the 1950s and 1970s an estimated 150,000 unwed Australian mothers had their babies forcibly adopted under a practice sanctioned by governments, churches, hospitals, charities and bureaucrats.

Some women were tricked into signing adoption papers, drugged and physically shackled to hospital beds.

"We acknowledge your loss and grief," Ms Gillard said at the ceremony on Thursday.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will also make a speech.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will move motions of apology following the event.

All state and territory governments have apologised to victims apart from the Northern Territory, which will do so soon.