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Background to the national apology

On 29 February 2012, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee released its report into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. The report includes twenty recommendations, several of which relate to a national apology that identifies and acknowledges the experiences of those affected by forced adoption practices.

The report found that the policies and practices that resulted in forced adoptions and the removal of children were widespread throughout Australia, particularly during the mid-twentieth century. The senate committee inquiry received submissions from hundreds of individuals who had suffered from the effects of forced adoptions and found that there were many different ways in which forced adoptions occurred. The accounts provided in the report range from experiences of mothers being drugged and physically shackled to beds, to social workers failing to advise mothers of government payments that may have been available to support them to keep their child.

Forced adoption practices impacted a large number of Australians and caused significant ongoing effects for many people, particularly mothers, fathers and adoptees. The report estimated that there were 140 000 to
150 000 total adoptions in the period between 1951 and 1975, and potentially as many as 250 000 total adoptions in the period from 1940 to the present day. However, the report concluded that it is impossible to know the exact number of people affected by forced adoption practices.

On 23 June 2012, the former Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, announced that the government would formally apologise to those affected by forced adoption practices. While an apology cannot undo the suffering experienced by those affected by forced adoptions, the apology was offered in the hope that it would provide a significant step in the healing process for the mothers, fathers, adoptees and other family members who were adversely affected by these practices. The apology also helped in educating the broader public on the experiences of, and impact on, those affected by forced adoption policies and practices.

National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices

The former Australian Government, as well as the states and territories commissioned the largest ever study into past adoption practices. This joint national research study, undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, examined the experiences of people affected by past adoption practices, focusing on their current support and service needs. The aim of the research study is to utilise and build on existing research and evidence about the extent and impact of past adoption practices to strengthen the evidence available to governments to address the current needs of those affected by forced adoption practices. The study was published on 17 August 2012 and informed the government response to recommendations about specialised support services for those affected by forced adoption. This report can be accessed on the Australian Institute of Family Studies website.

Copies of the Senate Committee report

An electronic copy of the report is available on the Australian Parliament House website.

If you would like to order a hard copy of the report, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House

Phone: 02 6277 3515
Fax: 02 6277 5829