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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3421

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (18:01): I rise to speak on the national apology for forced adoptions. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both spoke on 21 March this year in relation to forced adoptions and removal policies and practices, and the member for Swan gave us a very personal insight into these practices. Today I join our nation in apologising, and in so doing I would like to put on record the story of my friend Sue, who did not find out that she was adopted until much later in life after both her adoptive parents had passed away. As I speak today I will use the words 'birth mother' and 'mother' because those are the words that Sue uses.

Shortly after Sue's mother passed away her brother told her that she was adopted. Hearing those words irrevocably changed Sue's life and she began questioning who she really was. Everything that she had known about her biological identity or thought she had known was now changed. It was different and it was false. Sue embarked on the task of finding out who her birth mother and father were—a long and arduous process that took many years. Eventually she did meet her birth mother but her father had passed away, so she did not meet him. She has also met one of her brothers and a cousin. She still knows very little about the circumstances of her birth but she does know that her birth mother was an Ipswich teenager who was sent to a home for single pregnant women in Brisbane, where she gave birth to Sue. Sue's birth mother signed the papers for her adoption and they were not to meet again for about 40 years.

In the time I have known Sue the circumstances of her birth and adoption have weighed heavily on her mind and I am not sure that she will ever be totally at peace. In her words, she carries the shame of her adoptive parents in not talking to her and telling her that she was adopted. When I have asked her what she meant by that, she said that she never had the opportunity to ask her parents why they adopted her, whether they were not able to have children. But she does know that they hid her adoption from her and she does not fully understand why.

After finding out that she was adopted Sue spoke to an aunt, as it turned out that most of the family knew that she was adopted. The aunt said that Sue's mother just turned up one day with a baby. When the aunt asked whose baby it was, Sue's mother said, 'Mine.' When the aunt asked Sue's father when he would tell Sue that she was adopted, her father replied, 'Never, she'll never know.'

Sue talks about the adoption triangle of the birth parent, the adoptive parent and the adoptive child. She makes the point that it is not just the pain of the relinquishing parent that needs to be acknowledged; it is also the pain of the adoptive child and adoptive parent. Sue has pushed the issues of her adoption to the side. But, again, in her words, 'There is a little scar in her heart.' Her wish is that her adoptive parents were still alive so that she could hug them and tell them that she loved them. To Sue, and everyone else affected by forced adoption, I say: sorry.