Australia: Catholic Church stole 150,000 newborns - Moment Mal
Brisbane Times: Pamela O'Brien faced a "friendless, soulless and penniless" existence after her precious baby Angela was stolen from her and forcibly adopted out. Pam was one of about 150,000 unwed mothers who had their babies taken against their will at the hands of churches, hospitals and adoption agencies between the 1950s and 1970s.
A Senate committee which investigated the Commonwealth government's involvement in past forced adoption practices tabled its report in the upper house on Wednesday and made 20 recommendations. But its central recommendation is that Australian governments formally apologise to mothers and children who were victims of past forced adoption practices.
Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert, who chaired the inquiry, broke down as she tabled the report which took 18 months to assemble from hours of testimony. "It is undoubted that past policies and practices have caused great harm and hurt to mothers, fathers, adoptees and their family members," she told the chamber.
"It is time for governments and institutions involved to accept that such actions were wrong, not merely by today's standards but by the values and laws of the time."
But for Pam, 62, and her daughter Angela Barra, now 44, who both gave evidence to the senate community affairs inquiry, an apology is tokenistic and won't make up for the decades the pair lost. Pam was kicked out of home and humiliated by the shame she had brought on her family after falling pregnant at 18.
Her mother hit her across the face when she found out."She said `You piece of rubbish - you get out'," Pam told AAP at Parliament House in Canberra. "These days my mother, if she could turn the clock back, she'd cut her throat." She has foggy memories of Angela's birth at The Mater Hospital in Brisbane and believes she was heavily drugged, so her daughter could be removed. "How dare these holier than thou people in their ivory towers, think they've got the right to take peoples' children because they didn't fit the social mores of the day," she said.
Committee member and Labor senator Claire Moore said one of the most poignant moments of the inquiry was a woman telling the panel all she wanted was for her son to know she loved him and hadn't given him away. "To the people caught up in the horror of this history, we can now call it a horror and not pretend it didn't happen," Senator Moore said.
The report's other recommendations include setting up government-funded peer support groups to help victims, money for family tracing services and new birth certificates for adoptees. Committee member and Labor senator Carol Brown said women had been tricked into signing adoption papers and physically shackled to hospital beds. She said the pain of women affected was "unimaginable". "Doctors, nurses and midwives showed no respect to these women. "They were taunted about their unwed status."
Catholic Health Australia, admitted being involved in past forced adoptions, and apologised to victims in July last year. Chief executive Martin Laverty encouraged other organisations to apologise and supports the recommendations. "We think they are concrete steps that can help those affected by past adoption practices move towards healing," he said. While some adoptees had abusive upbringings in their new homes Angela was happy with her adoptive Italian parents.
"I know the truth now, it's taken all this time for me to know what happened to Pam, it's taken all this time for Pam to acknowledge what happened to her," Angela says. About 100 victims of past forced adoption practices were in the Senate public gallery when the report was tabled and many cried out and clapped during the ensuring speeches.