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Thursday, 20 March 2014
Page: 2648

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:02): A year ago, the Australian parliament came together to face a hard truth to right an old wrong. I pay tribute to the leadership and compassion of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who delivered the national apology on forced adoption. I acknowledge the words of the then opposition leader, now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, too. It was an apology to thousands of young mothers who had their special, unique, beautiful, precious babies taken away from them. It did hurt fathers, too—largely women, but men, too, suffered. It was an apology to thousands of children who grew up deprived of their mother's love. It was an apology for decades of indifference—callous indifference—from governments, bureaucracies, churches, charities and hospitals.

As Prime Minister Gillard did a year ago, I, too, now pay my tribute to the strength and bravery of the thousands of Australians who came forward to tell their stories and make their difficult submissions to the Senate committee—the mothers, the fathers, the sons and the daughters who found the courage to publicly draw upon their strength to tell their difficult personal stories, who found the strength to demand the identity and the respect which they had been so long denied. It was this intensely individual, deeply personal determination that drew back a veil of shame and a veil of silence that has been cast over the lives of thousands of our fellow Australians.

Perhaps more inspiring still, they found it in themselves to accept the apology in the generous spirit that it was given. The 42nd and the 43rd parliaments delivered three national apologies—each one of them stands as a powerful reminder that there is nothing to fear or to lose in facing up to historical truth. Indeed, every time Australians come together to acknowledge the wrongs of our past, our country becomes a better and more decent place. Let all of us in this place recall that lesson again today. Let all of us in this place draw some inspiration from that well of the never-give-up spirit of those who were wrongly forcibly adopted. Let us all in this place declare that never again should any of our fellow Australians undergo pain and invisibility alone, as those affected by forced adoption endured.