“The Arc of History Bends Slowly Towards Justice “ The Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. (Feb 3, 2023).
|Dr. Christine Cole 3/21/23 Canberra|
|Kevin Rudd in his address to the nation in Canberra for the 15th Anniversary of the Stolen|
generation. February 2023, decided to politicise the event by attempting to wipe from the historical record any acknowledgment of a non-Indigenous or white stolen generation. In so doing he not only traumatised hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens impacted by government polices that led to the kidnapping of their babies/children, but diminished former PM Julia Gillard’s profound and world first apology to a stolen generation that was NOT to a First Nation Peoples.
The question I posed to the nation that day was a stark one. What if that which had happened to Indigenous Australians had happened to those of us who are white Australians? What if the children of white Australians had simply been ripped away from their parents without cause, without any case-specific evidence of maltreatment, but simply as a matter of general policy? Our reaction would have been outrage, anger and the deepest sense of injustice.
With the above statement you have denied and decided to “voluntary forget”, years of activism by white Australian mothers on behalf of their stolen babies, and the activism of their now adult children. Families illegally torn apart by past Governments’ eugenic policies. Put simply, you mislead the Australian public about a catastrophe that affected a not insignificant portion of our populace.
Your statement was not only offensive it has triggered great distress and re-traumatised many mothers as well as their now adult, stolen children and their siblings. To be clear, mothers and babies who have suffered the trauma of being separated at birth suffer from severe PTSD, pathological grief, anxiety, depression as well as many other physical and psychological problems.
On the 15th Anniversary (2023) of your apology to the Stolen Generations (2008) and only a few weeks before we are to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of our apology (2013) you made a painfully demoralising speech denying our history. You diminished Julia Guillard’s apology and you brought into question our lived experience. We ask the question: is this just a coincidence, or is there something else going on?
I represent a group: the Apology Alliance Australia, whose members consist of white Australian mothers; our stolen children; Intercountry adoptees; Late Discovery Adoptees, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, the latter brought up in non-Indigenous homes, by white Australian mothers, who found late in life that not only were they adopted, but they have Indigenous heritage.[i]. It must be said though there are still thousands of adoptees, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous who to this day are unaware of their adoptee status due to the lies, fake birth certificates, secrecy and unwillingness of governments and their agencies to act with transparency regarding this tragic period of our history. The Apology Alliance is an umbrella group whose members represent various other groups across Australia who collectively have fought for decades to gain recognition of the brutal practices that were perpetrated to provide babies for the adoption industry. We have been referred to as the ‘Other Stolen Generation’ by the Aboriginal organisation Link-Up at the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practises (1998); non-Indigenous[ii] or ‘White Stolen Generation’ by Dr. Geoff Rickarby[iii] and by Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison when he called on the Federal Government to:[iv]
apologise to the ‘White Stolen Generations’ to bring closure to all their suffering. As we
walk the same land
Breath the same air
Drink the same water
…it is an integral response when nations are brought face to face with traumatic events that reflect negatively on what is central to their collective identity and past and that belie their vision of themselves as moral communities. Denial and ‘voluntary forgetting’ are surely part of Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’.[v]
21 March, 2023
To Mr. Rudd,
This email is in response to your recent statement in Canberra, on the 15th Anniversary of the Federal Apology to the Indigenous Stolen Generations:
The question I posed to the nation that day was a stark one. What if that which had happened to Indigenous Australians had happened to those of us who are white Australians? What if the children of white Australians had simply been ripped away from their parents without cause, without any case-specific evidence of maltreatment, but simply as a matter of general policy? Our reaction would have been outrage, anger and the deepest sense of injustice. So too should it be today if we were to put ourselves in the shoes of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, our fellow Australians.[vi]
With the above statement you have denied and decided to ‘voluntary forget’, years of activism by white Australian mothers on behalf of their stolen babies, and the activism of their now adult children. Families illegally torn apart by past Governments’ eugenic policies. Put simply, you mislead the Australian public about a catastrophe that affected, a not insignificant portion, of our populace.
Over 200,000 children have been adopted since the first Australian Adoption Legislation was enacted in 1896, [vii] with the greatest number taken after World War II. So, if we add together, 200,000 mostly newborns, 400,000 mothers and fathers, plus subsequent siblings, grandparents, extended family members and all their descendants – I estimate there are more than two million plus white Australians whose lives have been touched by the policies and practices of forced removal/illegal adoption. According to Dr. Daryl Higgins one in thirteen precious Australian lives [1,733,333] were affected by barbaric and inhumane illegal adoption. He did not include the mother and father’s subsequent offspring nor their descendants in his calculation.[viii]
In this letter, in response to your statement, I will use the term you selected to describe us: white Australians. Even though we are made up of mothers who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds that may or may not consider themselves white. For example, some migrant women had their babies stolen. They may have recently arrived from Greece, Italy, South America or Czechoslovakia for example, speaking little English, but lacking any supportive family or social networks. Some married some not. Similarly, second or third generation women, from a range of ethnicities, who got caught up in the States’ voracious appetite for other people’s babies. What all these women did have in common though, was not colour or ethnicity, but that they were all preyed upon because they were unsupported, therefore vulnerable. The majority being young and unwed. However, we have used the term ‘white’ to describe ourselves, but it was not to depict race or colour, but to differentiate ourselves from the Indigenous Stolen Generation, who we believe are our fellow Australians who suffered the same fate as us when it came to children being stolen by State sanctioned eugenic policies and practices. As this letter will elucidate.
Your statement was not only offensive it has triggered great distress and re-traumatised many mothers as well as their now adult, stolen children and their siblings. To be clear, mothers and babies who have suffered the trauma of being separated at birth suffer from severe PTSD, pathological grief, anxiety, depression as well as many other physical and psychological problems.[ix] Including a high propensity to attempt suicide.[x] As well, adoptees attempt suicide 4 times more than their non-adopted peers.[xi] They suffer identity disorders and genetic bewilderment.[xii] Interpersonal loss can trigger suicide.[xiii]
Our subsequent children, a conveniently ignored group, are very negatively impacted by the loss of their brother or sister. They suffer from:
- Grief, depression and anxiety[xiv]
- Difficulty with attachment[xv]
- Unresolved grief[xvi]
- Being a receptor of intergenerational transmission of emotional problems.
- Greater risk of increased psychological problems in later childhood as a result of maternal unresolved grief.[xvii]
- Bonding issues because of mother’s trauma and grief[xviii]
Mothers, decades after their baby was stolen continue to suffer severe mental health problems.[xix] It does not necessarily get easier as time goes on in fact the pain can intensify.[xx]
Their grief was so profound that they could not concentrate … the pathological grief goes on for years … and sometimes gets worse in their
later life as they come up to some crisis, their child’s birthday or some stage of their own or the child’s development … the grief … decompensates at any time into psychiatric disorder … they were isolated … and had no person to support them … they were so shamed by the process and so humiliated that it was very difficult for them to recover or to communicate [xxi]
As well as your comments being a trigger for severe psychiatric sequelae, the consequences of your denial to recognise the existence of another stolen generation, or acknowledgment that we are suffering the trauma of separation, could result in the lack of provision of adequate mental health services and therefore lead to serious life and death outcomes for hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens.
I remember how many mothers, adoptees and their families were deeply hurt and traumatised by the political stunts that took place on the day of our apology ten years ago as the following explains:
Sadly, the day [then prime minister] Julia Gillard apologised on behalf of Federal Parliament became the day that a leadership spill was announced.
So, a short time after her moving speech finished, all eyes shifted to politics.
That moment was heartbreaking for many who hoped to gain greater community understanding from the apology[xxii]
On the 15th Anniversary (2023) of your apology to the Stolen Generations (2008) and only a few weeks before we are to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of our apology (2013) you made a painfully demoralising speech denying our history. You diminished Julia Gillard’s apology and you brought into question our lived experience. We ask the question: is this just a coincidence, or is there something else going on?
Who we are
I represent a group: the Apology Alliance Australia, whose members consist of white Australian mothers; our stolen children; Intercountry adoptees; Late Discovery Adoptees, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, the latter brought up in non-Indigenous homes, by white Australian mothers, who found late in life that not only were they adopted, but they have Indigenous heritage.[xxiii]. It must be said though there are still thousands of adoptees, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous who to this day are unaware of their adoptee status due to the lies, fake birth certificates, secrecy and unwillingness of governments and their agencies to act with transparency regarding this tragic period of our history. The Apology Alliance is an umbrella group whose members represent various other groups across Australia who collectively have fought for decades to gain recognition of the brutal practices that were perpetrated to provide babies for the adoption industry. We have been referred to as the ‘Other Stolen Generation’ by the Aboriginal organisation Link-Up at the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practises (1998) and as the ‘White Stolen Generation’[xxiv] by Dr. Geoff Rickarby[xxv] and by Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison when he called on the Federal Government to:[xxvi]
apologise to the ‘White Stolen Generations’ to bring closure to all their suffering. As we
walk the same land
Breath the same air
Drink the same water
The Politics of Race
To deny, as you have done, there were generations of stolen white Australian babies and children is not only divisive, but dismissive of the pain and trauma of the hundreds of thousands of stolen babies, their white Australian mothers and family members. Unlike you I have always acknowledged that the lived experience of this particular aspect of Aboriginal history, the Stolen Generations, as being a point of commonality. There are many that want to divide our nation along the lines of race.[xxvii] I do not.
When you apologised to the Stolen Generations on February 13th, 2008, you included in that apology the many Indigenous mothers whose babies were stolen by the same doctors, nurses,
hospital administrators, adoption social workers, who worked collaboratively to steal the babies of white Australian mothers. Unfortunately, your divisive apology did not extend to white Australian mothers, but if their partner happened to be Indigenous and their stolen children of Indigenous heritage they were included. So instead of using your apology to unite Australians, black and white you used it to divide and to relegate hundreds of thousands of white Australian mothers, fathers, children and their extended families to a “voluntary forgetting”. Now 15 years later you are adding further trauma to this injustice. Once again denying that we exist. As noted before a ‘White Stolen Generation’ has been acknowledged by Indigenous elders[xxviii] including Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison. Uncle Max wrote his support for us gaining an apology in a 2009 letter given to the author.[xxix] Why can’t you acknowledge our existence? We are flesh and blood people; we will not be made invisible.
Eugenic Removalist Policies
Removing children from white Australian families has been a part of welfare policies of both colonial and modern Australia. For instance, stolen were children of poor white Australians, now known as The Forgotten Australians, included in that grouping are British Migrants stolen from their parents and brought to Australia to be brutalised in Christian institutions. The newborns of convict women in the early 19th century[xxx] and from the late 19th and throughout the 20th century the newborns of unwed mothers. Many of the Survivors of the above inhumane policies of successive Australian Governments have been apologised to. As have we.
Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, March 21, 2013, apologised for the policies of forced removal of white babies from their white Australian mothers stating:
Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.
2. We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers.
3. And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.
4. We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children.
You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support.
5. To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise.
6. We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. You were given
false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.
Mr John Robertson, NSW Opposition leader, addressed the NSW Parliament issuing his apology stating:
Today is the day we as a Parliament finally acknowledge the truth. The day we look into the eyes of a mother. The face of a son or daughter. And see the ingrained hurt and pain. The profound grief at what has been lost. And then we look deep into ourselves – and ask: How would we feel, if what was done to you was done to us?…. thousands of mothers across Australia had their babies forcibly removed from them. Sadly, we will never know the exact number in NSW. But we do know the practice was widespread and sanctioned by Government policies. There can be no excuse. There can be no justification.
2 Today we must step forward and take responsibility. This single barbaric act – fraying the sacred bond between mother and child – changed lives. And in many cases destroyed them. On behalf of the NSW Labor Opposition, I rise to join with the Government and say clearly and unequivocally, To all those affected by the policy of forced adoption, We are sorry.[xxxi]
It has also been acknowledged by the Commonwealth Government that there are both Indigenous and non-Indigenous stolen generations.[xxxii]
forced adoption practices in the past leading to ‘the stolen generation’ for both Indigenous and non- Indigenous mothers and children
Mr. Rudd, why have you misled the Australian people? This was the case with the Child Welfare Department. They lied and gaslit the public during most of the 20th century. The Department promoted adoption by advertising, our much loved babies, as “unwanted” and in need of “saving”.[xxxiii] Whilst they knew this was untrue. Those working in the adoption industry were well aware that babies were being stolen. Kidnapped at birth whilst mothers were deeply traumatised and grieving.[xxxiv] The Department was additionally aware that Aboriginal mothers were subjected to this very same systemic abuse – to provide newborns to infertile couples.
The Child Welfare not only lied to the public about “unwanted” white babies, but about taking Aboriginal babies for adoption. For instance, the Minister for Child Welfare, A. D. Bridges, in response to an accusation that Indigenous children were being stolen for assimilation purposes, stated: ‘There is no truth in the suggestion that Aboriginal children can be forcibly removed from their parents.” [xxxv]
There are many parallels between white Australian and Indigenous mothers who had babies stolen for adoption.
To quote Sir Charles McKellar, white and Aboriginal mothers with white ancestry were considered part of the same sub-group: “racially inferior whites”.[xxxvi] Therefore deemed ‘unfit’ to rear their infants. When debating the Infant Mortality Bill (Later the Infant Mortality Act (NSW) 1904), Mackellar discussed the high mortality rate of ‘illegitimately’ born infants and blamed it on the neglect of their mothers. He proclaimed: “The Bill aims at placing the State Children Relief Board in loco parentis to any mother who bears an illegitimate child”[xxxvii]. The way Australia solved the problem of this “inferior” class was to remove their children and assimilate them amongst the ‘industrious’ classes’,[xxxviii] or as the government perceived it: a ‘class above their own’.[xxxix]
You have been in government a long time Mr. Rudd yet seem to be unaware of a very dark part of Australia’s history or are you intentionally misremembering it? In 1998, Link-Up gave evidence at the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices and put it on the record that many Aboriginal mothers had their babies stolen by the same people working within the adoption industry. It was explained how stealing Indigenous children “graduated over time”, so by the 1950s onwards these mothers were being funnelled through the hospital system enabling their babies to be stolen by the same doctors, nurses, welfare workers and social workers that stole non-Indigenous newborns.[xl]
According to Shurlee Swain, Indigenous adoptees who grew up in non-Indigenous homes have been marginalized both in the story of the Stolen Generations and in the history of adoption in Australia.[xli] I would add that is because the history of illegal adoption is one of deceptive editing and semantics, of marginalisation and othering and has been subsumed even obfuscated beneath a more powerful racial narrative. A more convenient narrative that appeals to the white ruling class.
Adults who had been adopted as children made up 35.5% of the witnesses who gave evidence before the Bringing Them Home Inquiry.[xlii] Christine Cheater states that nearly 17% of the Stolen Generation were adopted and that adoption “exemplifies the worst excesses of the forced separation of Aboriginal children from their families…to this very day [many] may not be aware of their Aboriginal identity”.[xliii] Link-up, the Aboriginal organisation used to facilitate reunions estimates there are “100,000 Australians unaware of their Indigeneity because they are the descendants of children removed and brought up in the non-Indigenous community.”[xliv]
The Banality of Evil
You cannot, in all honesty, say you are unaware of the scandal of the stolen white babies’ phenomenon[xlv]. I wrote to you via email and registered letter on September 20, 2008 and informed you that I represented a group of white Australian mothers and family members separated by illegal adoption and the post adoption resource centres that supported us. I described the many brutal and inhumane practices that led to the theft of our newborns. I described some of the horrific practices such as mothers being tied to beds, drugged, bullied, having pillows and sheets placed over their heads, denied access to their babies even whilst repeatedly asking for them, being brutalised by medical staff and used as specimens for trainee doctors, some being sexually assaulted. I also sent you a copy of my book: Releasing the Past: Mothers’ Stories of their Stolen Babies. A book that goes into detail of all of the above. When you read my letter and my book were you not filled with “outrage, anger and the deepest sense of injustice”. Apparently not, because you obviously have no recollection of my correspondence.
The Apology resulted from a bitterly contested fight by surviving mothers ‘speaking truth to power[xlvi]
Further, in your speech you stated:
But there was a further reason for the Apology as well. Aboriginal people themselves wanted it done. They wanted to hear the simple word “sorry”. Remember the long decade of the “sorry marches”.[xlvii]
Your statement could be understood to infer that the Stolen Generation wanted an apology whilst white Australians similarly placed did not. It also could be inferred from your words that white Australians never campaigned for an apology or wanted to “hear the simple word “sorry.”” Well allow me to refresh your memory. Survivors of ‘Illegal Adoption’ fought many, many campaigns to achieve justice. We spoke out, rallied and marched to hear the simple word “sorry”. I led the Women’s Day March, in Sydney, March 11, 1995, along with many mothers and members of our families. My sign read: Adoption Stole My Baby. Our picture appeared on p. 3 of the Sunday Telegraph, March 11, 1995. We held a rally outside of NSW Parliament House in 1997 calling for an Inquiry and an apology. I personally called for an apology during my testimony, in 1998, at the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices.[xlviii]
Excerpt from Stolen Babies Broken Hearts[xlix]:
- Mothers have spoken out about their mistreatment at the hands of clergy, nuns, doctors, nurses, social workers and welfare officers. They have mounted media campaigns, spoken on radio and television.
- Gave evidence at the Royal Commission on Human Relationships: 1977 & 1984
- NSW Law Reform Commission: 1991
- Provided testimony and evidence at 4 Inquiries
- The New South Wales Legislative Council (1998-2000) that published its findings in a major Report: Releasing the Past (2000);
- The Parliament of Tasmanian Inquiry that published its Report in (1999)
- The Senate Inquiry: The Forgotten Australians (2003)
- Senate Inquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Polices and Practices (2011-2012)
- Provided evidence on The impacts of Forced Adoption for the Australian Institute of Family Studies Inquiry (2010);[l] its Final Report published, August 2012[li]
Much of the above was built on the activism and concerted lobbying of the member groups of the Apology Alliance.
It is blatantly apparent that mothers have been fighting for decades to gain recognition that their babies were stolen. However, it has only been in the last fifty years that the suffering and the plight of white Australian mothers has grudgingly being recognised. Not as you suggested: “reaction would have been outrage, anger and the deepest sense of injustice,” if Australians were aware that white babies were stolen. In fact, as your own comments highlight it has been the opposite. You don’t even acknowledge our existence. And from most of main stream media there is mostly a deafening silence.
I would submit there has been a great reluctance from any part of white society: political, academic, media or the general public to acknowledge the barbarity of ripping a newborn baby away from its healthy mother to be given to strangers. Without the mother’s consent and without her ever being able to hold, nurse or even glimpse her own living baby. It has long been recognised, that for a mother to give birth to a healthy newborn, not be allowed to finish the birth by seeing her baby, then having that baby taken away forever, is worse than experiencing the death of a child. The only comparable comparison is to that of having a child kidnapped.[lii] Do you think that an Indigenous mother grieves for her stolen baby any more or less than her white sister? Or that a stolen Indigenous baby grieves any more or any less than his non-Indigenous brother or sister? I remember in 1994 addressing a National Adoption Conference held in Sydney after my presentation two Indigenous mothers looked at each other and one said quite loudly: “No wonder they did it to us, they did it to their own”.
Mothers have spoken out at all the National Adoption Conferences since the very First in 1976. Ms Judy McHutchison started ARMS in NSW in 1982 and lobbied for an Inquiry into the barbaric practices that mothers were subjected to within the medical system. For her trouble she got death threats. Mothers who spoke out were ridiculed, disbelieved and the adoption workers dismissed us by stating it was “the social mores of the time”. Well, if that was the case how is it that most Australians are unaware that mothers were tied to beds, heavily drugged and forced to sign a contract/consent form, usually as minors, before being allowed to leave the hospital. No mother was aware of her rights, so no informed consent could be given, which means every adoption during the 20th century was not forced, it was illegal. Omitting to inform mothers of their rights was gaining something of value, our newborns, by deceit. Fraud and force/coercion vitiates consent. In reality the term “Forced Adoption” is an oxymoron. If an adoption is forced it is no longer an adoption, but the theft of a child. To be clear, no-one was forced to adopt and mothers had nothing to do with the adoption process.
It was not social mores as Justice Richard Chisholm has stated. He said legislation and regulations were good indicators of what was considered legal and ethical at the time. However, none of the hospital or social work staff or those working in the unwed mothers’ Homes followed the legislation or their own regulations during the 20th century.[liii]
Dr Geoff Rickarby, eminent psychiatrist, stated under oath the high number of adoptions were attributed, not to mothers willingly giving away their babies, but “to baby taking measures such as those used in the hospital”. The Human Rights Commission (1984) [liv] and Joss Shawyer (1979) [lv] both concluded coercive counselling methods were utilised in order to facilitate the adoption process: coercion was illegal. Rickarby and Chisholm both testified at the NSW Inquiry that mothers were brutally traumatised by the use of mind altering barbiturates; the placing of pillows and sheets in front of their faces to interrupt bonding and not allow completion of the birthing process; injecting them with a carcinogenic drug, stilboestrol, so they could not nurse their babies. Cathleen Sherry stated that not allowing mothers to see or touch their baby was cruel and inhumane treatment and contributed to the high number of adoptions that took place during the 1950s-1970s. It also violated a number of human rights treaties to which Australia is signatory.[lvi]
The adoption industry has conveniently excused its illegal activities by deflecting blame away from itself and insisting it was the ‘social mores’ of the time. In other words, it was society’s fault we were brutalised, and some in society blame grandparents. This simplistic explanation of why our babies were stolen beggars belief. The truth is that many grandparents fought to keep their grandchildren. Many were hunted from the hospitals by security, or some grandmothers were threatened that their younger children would be taken if they tried to assist their daughters. Many mothers were state wards or immigrants who had no family. By law social workers were supposed to protect single mothers from any coercion including parental, instead they convinced frightened grandparents that they, “were doing the right thing,” as keeping the baby would “ruin their daughter and grandchild’s life”. Additionally, many poor working class grandparents, were never informed of any of the financial assistance that was available, and had been since 1927. By 1968 there were both state and Commonwealth benefits available, this information was intentionally withheld by adoption social workers, who by law were supposed to inform mothers of all available governmental assistance.
Struggling grandparents may have been more supportive if they had known there was financial assistance available. That being said it was never up to grandparents, legally they had NO say in the adoption process. No grandparent’s consent was ever required. It was mothers, and mothers alone, who after having all their rights explained, were to sign an informed consent. Instead, they were drugged and bullied into signing what amounted to be a worthless piece of paper. Mothers were the guardians of their infant by virtue of giving birth. Legally they had the same rights as married women. Unwed status did not automatically place mothers under an Adoption Act. They had every right to see, hold and nurse their infants and by law could have left the hospital with their child. This did not happen. They were kept in a drugged state and not allowed to leave until signing the consent to adopt. At
the largest maternity hospital in Sydney, Crown St Women’s Hospital, on obtaining the mother’s signature the words “Socially Cleared” were written on the bottom of her medical files.
Secrecy and Lies
Adoption is based on secrecy and lies. I was unaware of any “outrage or calls for justice” after the many barbaric practices were exposed during the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices, but I was aware that over 300 Submissions given to the NSW Social Issues Committee, that oversaw the Inquiry, were gagged. The Committee refused, as they had promised, to make them public. It has been nearly a quarter of a century since mothers made those Submissions yet they are still kept secret.
Mothers wrote Submissions and suffered the heartache of re-living the loss of their beloved babies on the premise they would be made public so the lies told by the Child Welfare and the adoption industry would be exposed. Most importantly they wanted their babies to know the truth, they were dearly loved and wanted. That the Australian community would be informed and made aware of how systematic and brutal were the abuses mothers suffered at the hands of the State. Fortunately, oral testimonies were recorded in the Inquiry’s Reports and the community was made aware that illegal practices had taken place to provide babies for adoption. Such as some babies were stolen and sold. The case of Mr. and Mrs Stubbings highlighted this atrocity.[lvii] Their first baby was stolen by the doctor that delivered him and according to the Stubbings’ testimony was sold to a Jewish couple as Jewish, even though they were both Christians.
Unfortunately, since the majority of the Submissions were never made public neither was the complete truth. For instance, how systematic and brutal was the treatment meted out to mothers behind closed hospital doors. A “well-oiled system” Dr. Rickarby explained it as in his testimony. The “well-oiled system would have been well and truly exposed if mother’s accounts had been made public and one after the other supported Dr. Rickarby’s claim. It would also have been revealed that some of our babies were used in medical experiments.[lviii] That babies were taken at birth, without permission. Without us ever having a chance to say hello or goodbye to our precious baby, our family. Justice Richard Chisholm gave evidence that taking a baby at birth was akin to the “crime of kidnap”.
So briefly, many mothers who went through the heartache of writing a submission, because they were promised it would be made public, died feeling a deep sense of betrayal by their government and thinking yet again, their pain was for naught.
Where is the outrage for all of the above? Where is the outcry for justice? No Mr Rudd, there was no outrage, we heard denials, deflection and minimisation. We have people in high places, such as yourself, and in the media doing their best to not only silence us, but to disappear us from the historical record.
Illegal Adoption: How far did they go?
In some cases, mothers were told their babies had died when they were still very much alive. [lix] Or a healthy baby was swapped for a married woman’s who was ill or had a deformity, such as a hare lip.[lx] The Sunday Herald June 28, 1953, p.12, discusses women coming from interstate and overseas, hidden in an unwed mothers’ Home, used for labour, and their newborns taken soon after the birth. The hospital where the mothers delivered was connected to the unwed mother’s home. One young woman managed to get married, but then the young couple were informed their formerly healthy baby had died.[lxi]
In the above cases, there were no adoption papers. Neither would there be any paper trail for the many newborns taken from hospital only a few hours after birth. This was labelled by the hospitals euphemistically as “rapid adoptions”. So, on becoming adults the victims of these practices would never get to know their biological kin or be able to fill out their ancestral tree. Their fraudulent birth certificates would state that strangers gave birth to them, as no adoption was ever registered. This is why many mothers and adoptees are now turning to DNA to locate their families.[lxii]
Even if there is a paper trail because of an illegally obtained consent, the stolen child’s real identity is still hidden via a deceptive birth certificate. An adoptee’s birth certificate is the only ‘legal’ document that is allowed to mispresent the truth and lie. It pretends the adoptive parents gave birth to a baby they never bore. And because the baby was stolen, did not legally belong to them in the first place.
Unwed Mothers’ Home were accused of being run like Magdalene Laundries, with mothers expected to work for their keep. Some of these Homes not only took payment from adoptive parents, but took government money allotted to mothers. One such Home was run by the
infamous Matron Ivy McGregor who charged fifty pounds for every baby she sold to ex-pats living in Papua New Guinea. They would fly in, pay the money and then take a baby and fly out – all totally illegal.[lxiii]
Conclusion: The Secret Government Policy
There were two competing policies: The internal secret policy that was punitive; illegal; denied mothers’ access to their babies and included all the abuses already discussed, was done with the intent to facilitate and increase the number of adoptions.[lxiv] The external policy, publicised by the Child Welfare Department and the adoption industry through propaganda placed in the media, claimed that mothers were given every assistance to keep their babies and only if they made an informed decision and insisted on adoption would it proceed. The most brutal lie however, was advertising our babies as unwanted. The public was duped, and the illegal and unethical treatment of mothers’ and their infants was consistent across Australia both in public and private hospitals as well as in religious and government institutions, unwed mother and infant Homes and was able to continue for decades.
In short, the Australian Government via its State Health and Child Welfare Departments had a social policy of removing the babies of unwed white and Indigenous mothers and making them available for adoption, or if they weren’t perfect enough, placing them in foster care or in an institution.[lxv] Many of those taken and placed in institutions make up some of ‘The Forgotten Australians’. This is another group, Mr. Rudd, of white Australian children, illegally taken from their mostly white parents, that you apologised to, but seem to have now forgotten.
So, for all the trauma and distress your words have caused the many hundreds of thousands of white Australian mothers, our stolen babies, extended families and Late Discovery Adoptees and their families we hope you apologise. We also want you to correct the public record and apologise to the Australian people, both black and white, for misleading them. We ask that you tell the truth, you cannot make what happened to a white stolen generation of babies, mothers and families disappear by denying our existence, or historical facts. Find some of that rage, that need for justice, you spoke so eloquently about.[lxvi]
JM: What do you say to the fact that some mothers say there is a ‘white stolen generation’?
GR: It’s true … there is a white stolen generation as well as a black one. And if you look at the white generation numbers, there is a lot more of the white generation that were stolen …
JM: Why then would it not be recognised?
GR: Oh, I think it is, but some people do not want to open the door … it is almost too big a problem to deal with … if people had of opened the door to somebody proving that illegal things were done, it would have opened up a
huge lot of problems for the Crown Law Department … to undo a whole lot of things that happened … they want it to go away … it is a complication they could do without.
JM: You mean it is an inconvenient truth?
GR: It is an inconvenient truth …[lxvii]
Dr. Christine A Cole
Apology Alliance Australia
PhD, BSc. (Psych & Sc.) & Law, Sc. Hon, Grad. Dip. LLB. Affill. MAPS
[i] Kerri Small, (2019). Cornerstone: One woman’s journey to find her roots, Facebook Group: Within These Walls. Australians Affected by Adoption Reconnecting by DNA www.australiandnahub.org.au email@example.com
[ii] A semantic construct – not based on skin colour or ethnicity, but referring to non-Indigenous as opposed to Indigenous Australians
[iii] Extract from an interview with Dr. Geoff Rickarby, 9 August, 2007 cited in Cole, C. Releasing the Past: Mothers’ Stories of their Stolen Babies, (2008) Sasko Veljanov, at p. 1.
[iv] Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison, Nov 2, 2009, Letter to Dr. Christine Cole – attached to this letter
[v] Haebich, A.(2001). ‘Between knowing and not knowing’ Public knowledge of the Stolen Generations. at pp. 86-87 https://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p72971/pdf/ch0548.pdf
[vi] Kevin Rudd: Speech delivered for the 15th Anniversary of the National Apology (Feb 3, 2023). “The Arc of History Bends Slowly Towards Justice “The Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. https://www.kevinrudd.com/media/Apol-2023
[vii] Marshall, A. & McDonald, M. (2001). The Manysided Triangle. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
[viii] Winkler et al. also estimated the number of people affected by adoption (including birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee) to be 1 in 15 – I do not include adoptive parents but I include, mother and father’s subsequent siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and all their subsequent children cited in Higgins: 2010, Impact of past adoption practices: Summary of key issues from Australian research, Final Report, A report to the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Australian Institute of Family Studies at p. 7
[ix] Dr. Geoff Rickarby, ‘Transcripts of evidence: Wednesday, 2 September 1998’, in Interim report on Inquiry into adoption practices: transcripts of evidence From 27 August to 19th October 1998 Report no. 17, Parliament of New South Wales Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues, 1998, pp. 62–73. http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/fhs/adoption/report.htm
[x] Gair, S. (2008). The psychic disequilibrium of adoption: Stories exploring links between adoption and suicidal thoughts and actions Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 7(3).
[xi] Keyes MA, Malone SM, Sharma A, Iacono WG, McGue M. Risk of suicide attempt in adopted and nonadopted offspring. Pediatrics. 2013 Oct;132(4):639-46. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3251. Epub 2013 Sep 9. PMID: 24019414; PMCID: PMC3784288; Slap, G., Goodman, E & Huang, B. (2001). ‘Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence’, Paediatrics, 108(2), August. Retrieved 25th March, 2009 from http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/108/2/e30 : von Borczyskowski A, Hjern A, Lindblad F, Vinnerljung B. Suicidal behaviour in national and international adult adoptees: a Swedish cohort study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2006 Feb;41(2):95-102. doi: 10.1007/s00127-005-0974-2. Epub 2006 Jan 1. PMID: 16372142.
[xii] Sorosky, A., Baran, A & Pannor, R. (1975). ‘Identity Conflicts in Adoptees’, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 45, pp. 18-27
[xiii] Greer S. (1964). ‘The Relationship Between Parental Loss and Attempted Suicide: A Control Study’, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 110, pp. 698-705.
Greer, S. (1966). ‘Parental Loss and Attempted Suicide: A Further Report’, British Journal of Psychiatry, 112, pp. 465-470.
[xiv] Hipple, L. & Haflich, B. (1993). ‘Adoption’s forgotten clients: Birth Siblings’, Child Adolescent Social Work Journal, 10(1) February
[xv] Nicol, M. (1991). Loss of a baby: understanding maternal grief, Bantam, Sydney.
[xvi] Brabin, P. (2011). A Hasty Conception After Perinatal Loss: The Salve for Maternal Grief or Perpetuation of Anxiety for Mother and Child, Retrieved Aug 26, 2011 from
http://www.sands.org.au/A%20HASTY%20CONCEPTION%20paper.pdf ; Giles PF. Reactions of women to perinatal death. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 1970 Nov;10(4):207-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828x.1970.tb00431.x. PMID: 5275570.
[xvii] Penny Brabin, (2011). A Hasty Conception After Perinatal Loss: The Salve For Maternal Grief Or Perpetuation Of Anxiety For Mother And Child? Monash University https://web.archive.org/web/20120317120316/http://www.sands.org.au/A%20HASTY%20CONCEPTION%20paper.pdf
[xviii] Wing, D. G., Burge-Callaway, K., Rose Clance, P., & Armistead, L. (2001). Understanding gender differences in bereavement following the death of an infant: Implications of or treatment. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(1), 60–73. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-322.214.171.124
[xix] Kenny, P., Higgins, D., Soloff, C. & Sweid, R. (2012). Past adoption experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices (Research Report No. 21). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies, Retrieved Aug 28, 2012 from http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport21/index.html Hassan, R. (1995). Suicide Explained: The Australian Experience, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
[xx] Condon, J. (1986). ‘Psychological disability in women who relinquish a baby for adoption’, The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 144.
[xxi] Rickarby, G. (1998). Transcripts of Evidence: Wednesday, 2 September 1998, In Interim Report on Inquiry into Adoption Practices: Transcripts of Evidence from 27 August 1998 to 19 October 1998, (17), pp. 62–73, Parliament of New South Wales Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues
[xxiii] Kerri Small, (2019). Cornerstone: One woman’s journey to find her roots, Facebook Group: Within These Walls. Australians Affected by Adoption Reconnecting by DNA www.australiandnahub.org.au firstname.lastname@example.org
[xxiv] A semantic construct – not based on skin colour or ethnicity, but referring to non-Indigenous as opposed to Indigenous Australians
[xxv] Extract from an interview with Dr. Geoff Rickarby, 9 August, 2007 cited in Cole, C. Releasing the Past: Mothers’ Stories of their Stolen Babies, (2008) Sasko Veljanov, at p. 1.
[xxvi] Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison, Nov 2, 2009, Letter to Dr. Christine Cole – attached to this letter
[xxvii] Michael Barnard, Opinion , Sunday Sydney Herald. March 14, 1999, ‘White children were stolen, too’.
[xxviii] Mick Dodson; Noel Pierson; A Night of Reconciliation, Revesby Workers’ Club Revesby, 11 December, 1997 – Speech given to Christine Cole as a gesture of support for our fight for recognition of the white stolen generation’s fight for an Inquiry and an apology.
[xxix] Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison, Nov 2, 2009, Letter to Dr. Christine Cole – attached to this letter
[xxx] Kippen: 2006, p. 4 cited in Cole, C. Stolen Babies Broken Hearts (2013). Vol I, Doctoral Thesis, University of Western Sydney, at p. 173.
[xxxi] Opposition Leader John Robertson Thursday September 20, 2012 Apology Speech
[xxxii] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Overseas adoption in Australia: report on the inquiry into adoption of children from overseas, p. 2: ‘forced adoption practices in the past leading to ‘the stolen generation’ (for both Indigenous and non- Indigenous mothers and children)’.
[xxxiii] ‘Caring for Unwanted Babies’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), Tuesday 5 February 1929, page 6; Australian Women’s Weekly: 1954, Sept 8, p. 28; Perkins: SMH 1967; Dupre: The Sun, 1973; Gilbert: Sunday Telegraph, 1968, p. 41; Cole: 2008; Mather: 1978, p. 108
[xxxiv] Mather, V. (1978). ‘The Rights of Relinquishing Parents’, Cliff Picton (Ed.) in Proceedings of the Second Australian Conference on Adoption, Melbourne: The Committee of the Second Australian Conference on Adoption; Kerr
[xxxv] Sunday Telegraph February 18, 1968
[xxxvi] Mackellar: 1913, pp. 86, 91; NSW SCRD: 1904, p. 24 cited in Cole: Stolen Babies Broken Hearts, Vol 1, Doctoral Thesis, Western Sydney University, 2013, at p. 43
[xxxvii] Ibid at p. 43 NSW SCRB: 1904, p. 24.
[xxxviii] Ibid at p. 43 NSW SCRD: 1902, p. 24, 1904, pp. 18, 24; NSW CWD: 1925, p. 5; Reekie: 1998, pp. 74-75
[xxxix] Ibid at p. 43 NSW SCRD: 1883, p. 4; 1894, p. 1, 1902, p. 24, 1904, pp. 18, 24; 1908, p. 19; NSW CWD: 1925, p. 5; Garton: 2008, 2012, p. 254
[xl] Wendy Ann Hermeston Submission Standing Committee on Social Issues Report on Adoption Practices Second Interim Report Transcripts of Evidence 16 June 1999 – 25 October 1999, p. 228
[xli] Swain, Shurlee. ‘Homes Are Sought for These Children Locating Adoption within the Australian Stolen Generations Narrative’ American Indian Quarterly
Vol. 37, No. 1-2, Special Issue: Native Adoption in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia (Winter/Spring 2013), pp. 203-217
[xliii] Cheater, C. (2009). ‘My brown skin baby they take him away’, in Other People’s Children: Adoption in Australia, Ceridwen Spark & Denise Cuthbert (Eds) pp.176-193, at p. 193
[xliv] Swaine, ibid
[xlv] Pat Rogan MP, East Hills, LA Hansard Articles 51st Parl / 513ga015 / 40. Legislative Assembly Article 11/12/97 – Stolen White Babies. “The coalition supports the inquiry by the Standing Committee on Social Issues into stolen white babies” (LA Hansard Articles 51st Parl/513pa031/11, 2/4/1998).
[xlvi] Philippa Boldiston, ‘The Disembodied Mother’ citing The Drum: Analysis and Opinion on Issues of the Day, Julia Gillard, (2013). ‘National Apology For Forced Adoptions’ accessed September 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4587876
[xlvii] Kevin Rudd: Speech delivered for the 15th Anniversary of the National Apology (Feb 3, 2023). “The Arc of History Bends Slowly Towards Justice “The Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. https://www.kevinrudd.com/media/Apol-2023
[xlviii] Christine Cole Submission Standing Committee on Social Issues, Interim Report on Inquiry into Adoption Practices: Transcripts of Evidence, From 27August 1998 to 19 October, 1998, Report Number 17, Issued Nov, 1998, pp. 103-105
[xlix] Cole, C. Stolen Babies Broken Hearts: Forced Adoption in Australia, 1881-1987 (2013). Vol II, Doctoral Thesis, University of Western Sydney P.
[l] Higgins, D. (2010). Impact of past adoption practices Summary of key issues from Australian research Final Report: A report to the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Retrieved 10 October, 2011 from http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/56e4e53dfa16a023ca256cfd002a63bc/$FILE/Report.PDF
[li] Kenny, P., Higgins, D., Soloff, C. & Sweid, R. (2012). Past adoption experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices (Research Report No. 21). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies, pp. xii-xviii Retrieved Aug 28, 2012 from http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport21/index.html
[lii] Victoria Mather, (1978). The Rights of Relinquishing Parents, in Proceedings of Second Australian Conference on Adoption, Melbourne, May, pp.107-110 at p. 108.
[liii] Chisholm, R. (2000). Transcript of Evidence 25th October 1999 (No. 21): Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues.
[liv] K MacDermott, ‘Rights of relinquishing mothers to access to information concerning their adopted children’, Human Rights Commission discussion paper no. 5, Human Rights Commission, Canberra, 1984, pp. 39–40.
[lv] J Shawyer, Death by adoption, Cicada, Auckland, 1979.
[lvi] Sherry, C, ‘Violations of women’s human rights: births and adoption’, unpublished paper, 1992.
[lvii] Mrs Diane Stebbings and Peter Stebbings, Stawnding Committee on Social Issues, aInterim Report on Iquiry into Adoption Practices: Transcripts of Evidence from 27 August 1998 to 19 October 1998, Report aNo 17, Nov 1998, at pp.150-158.
[lviii] The Age Oct 25 2004 http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/10/24/1098556293576.html?from=storylhs
[lix] Cunningham, A. (1996). Background Paper for the Minister for Community and Health Services On Issues relating to Historical Adoption. Tasmania.; Joint Select Committee. (1999). Adoption and Related Services 1950-1988, Parliament of Tasmania Retrieved 13th October, 2008 from http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/Ctee/reports/adopt.pdf
[lx] Cole, C. Stolen Babies Broken Hearts: Forced Adoption in Australia, 1881-1987 (2013). Vol II, Doctoral Thesis, University of Western Sydney P.233
[lxi] Staff Correspondent (1950). The Problem of the Unwed Mother, The Sunday Herald June 28, 1953, p.12, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18504211 ; The articles goes on to state: Mothers were expected to make a decision before entering the home and were never given the same access to their baby as married mothers.
[lxii] Kerri Small, (2019). Cornerstone: One woman’s journey to find her roots, Facebook Group: Within These Walls. Australians Affected by Adoption Reconnecting by DNA www.australiandnahub.org.au email@example.com
[lxiii] McCabe, B. (1997). ‘Ivy McGregor – Women with attitude’ In Janice Benson (Ed.) Separation Reunion Reconciliation: The Sixth Australian Conference on Adoption, Brisbane: Janice Benson ; McCabe, B. (2000). ‘The state, adoption, and Matron Ivy McGregor, Queensland Review, 7(2), Oct, pp. 85-98.
[lxiv] Emerson, D. (2010) Former Driver recalls heartbreak of baby lift The Western Australian, March 10, p. 17
[lxv] Child Welfare Training Manual: 1958, p.13; Crown St Archives c 1960, over 20% of infants annually were considered not fit to adopt and were kept in foster care or institutions until a paediatrician gave them the all clear – these were referred to deferred adoptions
[lxvi] Nov 16th, 2009, https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/national-apology-to-forgotten-australians-and-former-child-migrants
[lxvii] Extract from an interview with Dr. Geoff Rickarby, 9 August, 2007 cited in Cole, C. Releasing the Past: Mothers’ Stories of their Stolen Babies, (2008) Sasko Veljanov, at p. 1.