26 Oct 2012

Australian state apologises for forced adoptions

8:15 pm on 26 October 2012

The Victorian government has formally apologised to people affected by forced adoption practices in the state between the 1950s and 1970s.

A landmark inquiry by the federal government found up to 250,000 babies were forcibly taken from their mothers, who were mostly young unmarried women, the ABC reports.

Victorian premier Ted Baillieu, opposition leader Daniel Andrews and National Party leader Peter Ryan addressed a joint sitting of Parliament, as about 400 invited guests watched.

Mr Baillieu described the practice as wrong, disgraceful, ill-conceived and, in some cases, illegal.

"As one, we say to you all we are sorry," he said. "What was done cannot now be undone, but we do hope this official recognition and apology lifts (a) burden of secrecy, brings peace and relief...

"We say sorry for the moral arrogance, the flawed justification and the heartless approach of authorities in institutions."

Outside, nearly 1000 children's shoes were laid on the steps of the parliament building to symbolise the children who were adopted.

A long time coming

Leigh Hubbard from the advocacy agency Vanish says the apology has been a long time coming, but more needs to be done.

"We want to of course hear that mothers and fathers who are looking for children can get rights under the Adoption Act to identifying information," he said. "Victoria is the only state where that's currently not occurring."

The secretary of the Association of Relinquishing Mothers, Jo Fraser, says the apology needs be followed up with a reparation in the form of counselling for mothers and fathers and the now adult adoptees.

"They've lived lives that were different from the lives that they could have lived and should have lived," she says.