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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1263

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (16:54): I rise to pay tribute to all the people who have given evidence to this inquiry and to thank the committee for its work. This is not an inquiry that I have been able to participate in but it is an issue I have followed closely over many years, having reviewed the Western Australian Adoption Act in the early 2000s. One of the issues that came to light then, and which still causes me distress, is the continuing existence of contact vetoes that are legally enforceable and have criminal offences attached to them. The idea that, in this day and age, we continue to criminalise the desire to contact your kin seems quite extraordinary to me.

I would like to thank all the brave people who have given evidence to this inquiry. I am sorry you even had to ask for an apology because I think the evidence speaks for itself. I certainly apologise. I am truly sorry for your experiences. I would like to pay tribute to brave women like Sue Macdonald, who came to speak to me in my office in West Australia about her experiences and about the need for the Western Australian government to apologise. I am very proud of my home state for having moved that apology and having led the nation in that regard, and it is time for the federal parliament to follow suit.

People deserve to know about their origins, and we need to be very careful that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Frankly, we are still in danger of repeating many of those mistakes. Adoption acts are certainly much tighter today, and we do realise what an extraordinary thing it is to separate someone from their kin.

I know that there will be a great deal of visibility towards this report today. I had many friends who were adopted, and I know many of them will not yet have reconciled their origins. I would like the visibility of this report to be a cause for all of those people to think about perhaps making contact and using this as that opportunity. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: On behalf of the Senate, I thank those people who have come into the chamber this afternoon. Senator Pratt has been given leave to continue her remarks later. That simply means this report will stay on the Notice Paper so that other senators can talk to it in the days and weeks ahead. The report will stay on the Notice Paper as a reminder to us to pick it up, and other people might want to provide a contribution.