Newborns ripped out of their mothers’ arms

Katherine Fenech

September 7, 2010 – 12:52PM
The WA government will become the first in the country to apologise to unmarried women forced to give up their children to adoption between the 1940s and early 1980s.

The single mothers were stopped from seeing, touching or naming their children immediately after they were born. Women were also asked to sign adoption papers earlier than five days after they gave birth.

Although illegal under the Adoption of Children Act, the practices were widespread at public hospitals across the country.

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Premier Colin Barnett would move the apology in State Parliament on Ocotber 19, as a way of acknowledging the trauma and suffering of mothers who gave up their children between the 1940s and early 1980s, Health Minister Kim Hames said.

Dr Hames said he had spoken to mothers affected by the aggressive adoption practice, which affected thousands of unwed mothers who gave birth in public hospitals.

“They have told me an apology will go some way to assisting to overcome what has, for some, been lifelong trauma,” Dr Hames said.

“This apology will be made on behalf of the State Government institutions which engaged in these practices, prior to a child being placed for adoption into families.”

Dr Hames said the apology would recognise the profound and lasting effect the legal, health and welfare systems had on the mothers and their children.

“This apology is specifically to the mothers whose children who were adopted under past practices,” he said.

“At the time they were perhaps not given the opportunity to make an informed decision at a time of their life when they were particularly vulnerable.”

Consultation on a simple memorial to the mothers and their children were progressing, he said.

“I hope we will be able to create a memorial that will provide a safe place for mothers to reflect,” he said.