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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3418


Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform) (17:21): I am very pleased to join all the speakers on this very important motion. Like many contributors to this discussion, I joined Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 21 March this year when she apologised on behalf of the Australian people for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies. As we have heard so much, these policies and practices did create a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering for the mothers, the fathers, the daughters and the sons. As a government, we recognised and acknowledged the profound effects of these policies and practices, and offered the apology in good faith and with very deep humility. I saw firsthand how moved people were to hear the Prime Minister's deeply held and deeply felt words, recognising the wrongs that happened in the past and committing to ensuring they do not happen again in the future.

To redress the shameful mistakes of the past, we are ensuring that all those affected get the help that they need, including access to specialist counselling services and support, the ability to find the truth in freely available records and assistance in reconnecting with lost family. Following the national apology, we tabled our response to the recommendations of the Senate inquiry and announced $11½ million in concrete measures and actions the government will be taking to assist those who have been affected. This includes $5 million so that mental health professionals can better assist in caring for those affected by forced adoption. It includes increased investment in the access to allied psychological services—a program in the Department of Health and Ageing—to make sure that people are connected to mental health professionals. To make sure that the survivors of forced adoptions can receive the support to cope with past pain and hurt, this increased availability to psychological services has already started and people can access this service through their general practitioner.

To support those affected towards healing and recovery, the government have also invested $5 million to improve access to specialist services and supported records tracing. We will also work closely with state and territory governments to consider how best to invest the government's support to complement and enhance services. It is vital that current and future generations are made aware of this terrible chapter in Australia's history. To address this matter, we have provided $1½ million for the National Archives of Australia to develop an exhibition and a website to share and raise awareness of the experiences of those affected by forced adoption. That way this chapter in our nation's history will not be marginalised or forgotten again.

We plan to launch the website on the first anniversary of the apology in 2014 and the exhibition on the second anniversary in 2015. The involvement of the people who have been most affected—the mothers, fathers and the now adult children—is critical in informing our approach to these measures. We are establishing a Past Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group to give advice to the government on rolling out these measures and also the other actions in response to the recommendations of the Senate inquiry. The government wants to develop these important support programs and so avenues will be made available for people to have a say about each of them.

Through the national apology we have acknowledged the shameful mistakes of the past and the importance of people speaking out about these past injustices. Through the strength and resolve of those affected, the time of neglect is over and we can now look forward to healing.