250,000 children were removed

Julia Gillard has apologized for Australia’s policy in the 1950s 60s and 70s of forcing unmarried mothers to give up their infants for adoption.

A senate inquiry found that about 250,000 children were removed from unmarried mothers in Australian hospitals shortly after their births in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and given to childless married couples.

Many women said they were coerced into signing away their children.

That doesn’t sound like a very humane policy.

Ms Gillard made the apology at Parliament House in Canberra in the presence of more than 800 people affected by the policy.

They cried and cheered as they listened to Ms Gillard and responded with a standing ovation when it was finished.

The prime minister told the audience that the policies had “created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering”.

“We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers and we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members,” she said.

“We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children,” she added.

This report is from RTE. Ireland has reasons to pay attention, as it goes on to say.

Meanwhile, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has told the Dáil that there is no legislation planned for a State inquiry into illegal adoptions in Ireland.

The matter was raised during the Order of Business by Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who claimed that it was an emerging issue as a result of reports into Magdalene Laundries.

Noting today’s apology in Australia to those affected by illegal adoptions there, Mr Ó Snodaigh asked if there were any plans to hold a similar inquiry in Ireland, which would look at the falsification of adoption records.

Mothers who lose their children, children who lose their mothers, siblings who lose each other…It’s a heartbreaking legacy.


  1. robscentury says

    @Ophelia, I’m pretty sure you did too… as I remember discussing it with someone and mentioning B&W.

    I wonder what they would have done with someone like me? My Dad died when I was 4 months old, and my Mom never remarried… would she (having been married when I was conceived) have been good enough to watch over me? (And what about my 4 older siblings…????) Granted that was ’72, supposedly ‘after’ women’s lib, but I remember people pushing her to get remarried for “his sake” (meaning me) well into my teens….

  2. says

    I wonder what they would have done with someone like me?


    I don’t think there was very much they could have done in taking your sibling or you away from your mother, as your parents were married before the demise of your father. It was more to do with unwed mothers, who would have been forced to sign over their rights either immediately after birth or within a short period in the aftermath. I know that in Ireland some babies would have been fostered out for a certain length of time whilst adoption procedures were in place.

  3. says

    Mothers who lose their children, children who lose their mothers, siblings who lose each other…It’s a heartbreaking legacy.

    Indeed, OB, I know from my own mother, the ‘heartbreaking legacy’, as she cried for forty years because of the loss of her child/ren. Siblings, who never knew each other existed, also lost out dreadfully on each others friendship and connectedness, because of either being quietly adopted, or sent into industrial schools.

    It’s terrific news that Australia has come clean on this murky adoption issue – which Ireland has yet to tackle.

    I sincerely hope there is a positive outcome apropos the ongoing child institutional abuse commission in Newcastle, Australia.

    I personally know that I would much rather have been adopted than to have lived a miserable childhood in a cold friendless institution, such as Goldenbridge. Nevertheless, I know some Goldenbridge inmates who were adopted, and then (allegedly) raped thereafter by one of those who adopted them. When they returned to Goldenbridge, and one of them subsequently complained about being raped, the plea for help went on deaf ears. She was seen as a pure crank. They were sent back to the same family.

    I hope the 800 people in Australia who were adopted, now feel somewhat validated for the suffering they endured in not knowing their parentage.

  4. Robscentury says

    @Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin, that is exactly my point. Why is taking an unwed mother with one child any less capable than a newly widowed one with 5?

    The premise is makes no sense, and its execution monstrous.

  5. says


    Would it not have been more to do with the shame attached to being not married? Society must be seen to get rid of its ills. And not about the capability per se of the unwed mother. After all, a widow with five children would have been deemed very respectable from where I’m coming, as opposed to a’ fallen woman’, who must be hidden away and punished for forevermore. Think Magdalen laundries. However, if the widow with five children was seen cavorting in a sexual way with a man, and subsequently had a child, then she would have come into the – no better than the ‘fallen woman’ category, and all her children would have been taken from her by the ‘cruelty men’ (SPCC) in Ireland. The only one in all probability who would have been adopted would have been the child born out of wedlock, and not the five siblings – whom the latter 5 would have spent the rest of their childhood locked away in an institution.

    Exactly. Grotesquely unfair indeed. But what else would one expect from a society that was dominated by the church.

  6. says

    Oops – should have read: ISPCC = The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They were euphemistically known as the ‘cruelty men’ in Ireland in the past. Invariably, they were men who officially rounded up children who were deemed by them to be at risk. They saved the priest a lot of energy from having to go to the houses with his blackthorn stick to wallop them for their dirty shenanigans.

  7. whysoskeptical says

    But, but, the sanctity of the family. We can’t have single moms bring shame upon their families and, perhaps, bring forth the collapse of our Western societies as well.

    Helpful reminder of how awful “teh West” could be in its recent past (and still can be, of course) and why certain “thought experiments” wrt the ahem betterment of society can bring “irrational” and “uncivil” reactions out of women and minorities.

  8. medivh says

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that most of the unwed mothers in this case were First Nations women who were living in circumstances that the Anglican church (dominant in Australia at the time) disapproved of. You know, mostly in tribal circumstances with the occasional kidnapping happening to a station worker who was still in contact with her tribe. Worse still, many children were taken at ages 5 and up, and were basically sold into slavery to white families in cities. Cities that were both isolating and overwhelming for a child from the bush.

    The policy that Julia Gillard is apologising for is basically Australia’s version of the Canadian Indian Act, AFAICT. And quite a bit more successful, it seems. It’s one of many skeletons we’ve got in our closet, unfortunately.

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