Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a national apology yesterday to unwed mothers in the country who were forced to give up their babies over several decades.
Between the 1940s and 1980s tens of thousands of unmarried mothers had their babies taken away from them by government and state agencies, to be adopted by childless married couples.
Over 800 people – many of them in tears – heard the apology for forced adoption in parliament and responded with a standing ovation, according to The Guardian.
“Today this parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering”.
The Prime Minister added:
“We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children”.
The Australian government has committed A$5 million to support services for affected families, and to help biological families reunite.
A national apology was recommended a year ago by a Senate committee that investigated the effects of forced adoption. Western Australia was the first Australian state to apologise for the now discredited policy in October 2010.
A similar policy involved the Australian government and church missions forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families, between the 1900s and 1970s. These children have become known as the Stolen Generations.
Photo of Julia Gillard by Max Milne via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence