I am a mother of a stolen child and am part of Australia’s white stolen generation. I had my first baby stolen at birth in 1969 and given to a middle class, childless married couple. The policy of the day was to forcibly take the newborns of mothers if they were unwed. The experience has impacted on my life and that of my subsequent children and grandchildren. It is a trauma that you never get over and at best learn to live with.
I became a human rights activist in 1994. I believe the theft of my newborn was a gross violation of my human and civil rights and as yet no one has been made accountable. I joined a mothers’ political rights group: Mothers for Contact. The same year I presented at the National Australian Adoption Conference in Sydney. Due to the forceful and provocative presentations by mothers we received our first ever apology from Murray Ryburn, UK academic and social worker. I also wrote and published a booklet: The Injustice of Adoption. In 1995 with the implosion of that group I set up another group: Origins. I was its first Chairperson. I was part of that years committee organising the Women’s Day March in Sydney. I secured a front place in the march, the first ever, for mothers of Forced Adoption. This led to a page 3 picture of mothers holding up signs. Mine read: ‘Adoption stole my baby’. I had a 2nd paper published in the Proceedings of the 1997 National Adoption Conference held in Brisbane on the brain washing regime inherent in adoption practice.
I spearheaded the group in a campaign that resulted in the NSW Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices (1998-2000). Between 1994-1998 I appeared in numerous media, on prime time television and was interviewed by a number of Sydney’s leading broadcasters, such as Mike Carlton, Allan Jones and Graham Richardson. I organised a rally and press conference at NSW Parliament House. I organised media to be present every time a MP got up and gave a Private Member’s Statement calling for an Inquiry into the past illegal adoption trade.
Unfortunately this group also imploded and I retired from activism in 1999, or so I thought. Origins is still operating, but I have no association with it nor does it represent the group I and other mothers set up in 1995. However I remained as a mother representative, on the Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care, for an informal organisation I formed: Action for the Rights of Mothers and Children (1999-2009). Now disbanded.
In 2000 I entered University for the first time and completed a combined degree: Bachelor of Social Sciences and Law. I graduated in 2004 with majors in Sociology, Psychology and Law. In 2006 I graduated with First Class Honours in Sociology and a Graduate Diploma in Law. In 2006 I began a scholarship and completed my PhD with the University of Western Sydney, School of Social Sciences and Psychology in 2013. Whilst doing my studies I set up a web page in 2000, another in 2005, and formed an activist umbrella group: Apology Alliance Australia in 2008. During this time I gave numerous presentations at my University educating students on the white stolen generation. I was interviewed on radio by Rev. Bill Crews, I completed the book, Releasing the Past: Mothers’ Stories of their Stolen Babies which was launched at the 9th National Adoption Conference held in in Sydney in 2008 where I again presented. I was part of the organising committee for that conference and was able to secure a keynote address for one of Australia’s leading activists. I also competed a chapter in the book, Other People’s Children (2009) titled: ‘The Hidden Tragedy of the White Stolen Generation’ and had a number of articles published in the Australian Journal of Adoption and on the net. I worked with an intercountry adoptee organisation to get a representative for original families on the Committee Advising the Federal Government on matters concerning intercountry adoption. I spoke with and sent copious amounts of research to the Federal and State Attorney’s-General in an attempt to educate them on the corruption and trafficking of children in overseas adoptions.
I successfully spearheaded the campaign to gain a Senate Inquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution into Forced Adoption (2011-2012) and to achieve apologies from all Australian States and Territories and the Federal Government for the trauma and damage caused by illegal adoptions so labelled: Past Forced Adoption. Once again I was engaged with extensive media and appeared on popular programs such as ABC’s Lateline, with former MP Pat Rogan, who I had worked with previously to gain the NSW Inquiry. On Channel 10’s The Project, on a number of news broadcasts and was extensively interviewed on radio in NSW, SA, WA and Victoria.
I provided reams of research to the prestigious investigative program: Four Corners, as I did to various politicians, media and journalists. I supplied research that implicated the Commonwealth in the policy of Forced Adoption to David Templeman MP, who was then able to state as much during his speech at the WA Apology to survivors of Forced Adoption (2010). Senator Rachel Siewert (Greens WA) was then able to use Templeman’s admission to call for a Federal apology and Inquiry.
I won an Australia Human Rights Commission Award for the best submission submitted to an Inquiry (the Senate Inquiry) utilising human rights principles for the academic year 2012, awarded in 2013. I sat on a committee that worked with the Federal Government constructing the formal part of the Prime Minister’s Apology to survivors of Forced Adoption (2013, March 21). I presently sit on the Implementation Working Group advising the Federal Government on the most efficacious way of implementing mental health services for survivors of Forced Adoption.
In 2013 I met with staff of the National Archives of Australia Forced Adoption History Project and provided them with research and an historical overview of mothers’ activism in this country. Their website will go on line in March 2014 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the National Apology given by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
I was nominated for Australian of the Year Award in 2012 and 2013 for my services in activism and achieving justice for survivors of illegal Forced Adoption.
Dr. Christine A. Cole
Apology Alliance Australia
PhD, BSc. (Psych & Sc.) & Law, Sc. Hon, Grad. Dip. LLB.
Stolen Babies Broken Hearts, Doctoral Thesis, available at http://arrow.uws.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/uws:17555