26 September 2023

Saying sorry not enough for forced adoption

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The State has pledged to address the traumatic and long-lasting impacts caused by past practices of forced adoption, acknowledging that formal apologies are not enough.

‘Forced adoption’ is a term that covers a range of traumatic experiences suffered by families prior to the implementation of the Adoption Act 1984 (Vic).

Releasing the State’s response to last year’s Parliamentary Inquiry into Historical Forced Adoption in Victoria, Premier, Daniel Andrews said women who had their children taken from them under the historical forced adoption practices would receive redress, counselling and formal apologies from the Victorian Government.

Mr Andrews committed $4 million in funding and announced a plan to design and establish Australia’s first redress scheme for people affected by forced adoption.

“The funding will immediately provide crisis counselling, as well as the option of integrated birth certificates, which include the names of both the adopted person’s natural parents and their adoptive parents,” he said.

“In 1984, Victoria was the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate for openness and properly informed consent in adoption – and continues to lead the way in making amends for these unacceptable historical policies and practices.

“In 2012, the Victorian Government issued a formal apology to those harmed by past adoption practices and pledged to provide practical assistance to them.”

In its response to the Inquiry, the State said despite the apology, little had changed for the mothers and adopted children who had been subjected to forced adoption, and much remained to be done.

“The Government accepts the view of the Inquiry that formal apologies alone, like the Victorian Government’s 2012 apology ‘to the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who were profoundly harmed by past adoption practices in Victoria’ are not enough,” the State said.

Mr Andrews said the Inquiry made 56 recommendations across broad themes such as redress, support services, operational changes and legislative amendments.

The Premier said that of those, 33 were supported or supported in principle and the remaining 23 were subject to further consideration.

“Several of the recommendations are either already implemented or in the process of being implemented, such as centralised adoption services, retention of birth certificates, management of adoption records and data publication,” he said.

“Over the past year, the Government has put in place sweeping reforms to adoption services, centralised decision making to ensure better oversight and consistency and, most importantly, provided a better experience for children whose best interests remain central to any decision making.”

The State’s 24-page Response can be accessed at this PS News link and the 427-page Inquiry report at this link.

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