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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3402

Ms KING (BallaratMinister for Road Safety, Minister for Regional Services and Local Communities and Territories) (16:17): I am very proud as the member for Ballarat and a member of this parliament, which has recognised and apologised on behalf of the Australian people for the shameful policies and practices of forced adoption. I have heard from a number of my constituents who have been affected by these practices. All were moved by the apology and particularly by the very heart-felt words of our Prime Minister.

For many, it provided a time to share their grief in the open without the stigma of the past and to begin a process of healing. Nothing will ever make up for the hurt, betrayal and loss caused by these practices. But, as a nation, this acknowledgment speaks to our common humanity and to our moral obligation. I do not think anything can be more powerful than the words of those mothers, particularly, who have been directly affected. So I would like to take the opportunity here to use most of my contribution to read to the chamber a letter handed to me by one of my constituents, Lyn Kinghorn, who details her own heartbreaking story, a story that is replicated many, many times across this country. I quote from Lyn's letter:

In 1963 I was single, 16 and pregnant. My parents bullied my child's father to stay away. My mother put pressure on me to have an abortion. They were willing to pay £400 for this. I refused and a place was found for me at Berry Street. I was happy to go to Berry Street and continually thought my boyfriend was coming with his Mum to rescue me, only to find out years later—he was threatened with jail if he came near me.

My beautiful daughter was born on 24/12/1963. I took care of her for the week that I was in hospital. I had free access to spend all of my time with her. On 31/12/1963 a nurse was sent from Berry Street to the Women's Hospital to collect me. I begged and screamed for help not to be separated from my daughter. I was told to go home and be a good girl.

When I got back to Berry Street distraught and screaming - the Matron came out and said in a cruel voice "I hope you have learnt your lesson." I certainly did, no way would I ever get into such a situation again.

I married and two members of the family I married into had been single mothers in the decades before me. I believed I had been weak and something was wrong with me that I had been unable to be a Mum like they both had …

I am shocked and distressed to learn the role the medical profession took to separate me from my child.

Between the mid-1950s to mid-1970s the policy was that the medical profession, in its bid to heal infertility forcibly — removed babies from single Mums. What became of Doctor/patient care and relationship?? The medical profession used me and other Mums like me as a cure for strangers. Why was their need more important than mine?? I have been profoundly injured by this policy that is now known as Forced Adoption. I strongly expose this as ABDUCTION for adoption. My human rights were abused.

I was forced to sign consent 8 days after separation, as I was told I would never see her again and if I refused to sign she would be raised in an orphanage. By this time I had turned 17. I was unable to vote, get a loan or a drivers licence, but without an advocate present - able to sign consent to lose my child.

My first child after I married was stillborn — another daughter. I was heartbroken - but was able to move on from that without the continued trauma of loss the abduction has caused throughout my life.

I am so blessed to have had 4 more children and 4 step-children. My next daughter recently said "Mum, this has consumed your life."

I do wonder how this abduction has directed my life as a wife and mother. Many years spent involved with numerous groups trying to understand and uncover this truth. So hard to believe in Australia, this crime was committed against more than 200,000 Mums and babies. Yet in the previous decades — care and protection was the usual outcome.

I thank you for the opportunity to tell a small part of my experience.

I do not think any of us can imagine the incredible hurt that Mrs Kinghorn must feel but, because of her strength, resilience and determination, and the determination of the many mothers like her not to let this go, we can be here today to have this apology. We can also ensure that we understand what happened, say sorry for what happened, acknowledge all of the people affected and never again preside over policies and practices that will cause such unbearable hurt to families. Whether it is the mothers, the fathers, the children who were taken or their siblings, they all were and continue to be deeply affected by what happened to them.

Hopefully some in later years have, at the very least, had the opportunity to find out what happened and to meet some of their family members. Many simply will just never know. For all of that heartbreak, it is fitting that we offer, as this parliament, the most heartfelt apology. We are sorry.