admits to forced adoption
by: Miles Kemp
From: The Advertiser
November 30, 2011 12:00AM
THE Uniting Church in South Australia has accepted responsibility for
the past practice of forced adoptions.
It has urged other welfare and church groups to prepare for a wave of
victims seeking help for decades of suffering.
Church groups have previously denied the practice occurred but
UnitingCare Wesley chief executive Simon Schrapel told The Advertiser
yesterday the church now accepted it was "highly likely" that
it did, so it was issuing an apology and asking victims to come forward.
Tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women were sent to care
facilities in Adelaide, particularly before single mothers could claim
federal government welfare in 1973.
Mr Schrapel said that as the issue of forced adoptions emerged, there
would be strong similarities with the crises which had affected the
welfare sector in recent decades, such as the Aboriginal Stolen
Generations and Forgotten Australians.
He said while the mothers and children were well cared for, suffering as
a result of the forced separation continued.
"I'm surprised more organisations have not acknowledged this
(forced adoption) was something they were 1involved in and made some
sort of statement," Mr Schrapel said.
He said the decision to accept responsibility came after church leaders
had read moving accounts to a current Senate inquiry into forced
adoptions, which many victims said occurred at the Kate Cocks Memorial
Babies Home at Brighton.
"Knowing what the practices and attitudes of the time were
elsewhere, we have to say they are highly likely to have happened,"
Mr Schrapel said.
"I don't think you could have that many people telling these
heart-rending stories for it not to be true.
"We weren't on our own in this in SA but I think it is the first
"I have no doubt that this will be the case for other organisations
which were helping mothers at the time and hospitals it was the
prevailing way the business was done."
SA-based National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children chief
executive Terese Edwards said she was "ecstatic" with the
acknowledgement by the Uniting Church and called on other groups to
follow the example.
"We are ecstatic because it gives a precedent and sets the bar to
start correcting the wrongs," she said.
"Records have not been kept, or they have been lost, people were
told their babies had died sometimes; so this sort of validation and
acknowledgement are the first important things that can happen."
Kangaroo Island resident Mireille Dreimanis said she was forced to give
up her son for adoption through the Catholic Church in 1970 and after
the birth was even refused access to him in the Manly Hospital nursery.
Ms Dreimanis, who was not reunited with her son for decades, welcomed
the Uniting Church decision.
"I was drugged and I protested, but it was all the authorities
against us," she said.
Since the 1920s, when church groups set up adoption services at homes to
care for pregnant single mothers, around 300,000 Australian babies were
adopted the vast majority before single-mothers' welfare support became
available in 1973.
In SA, around 29,000 adoptions occurred but with churches denying women
were pressured to give up their babies, there are no records of how many
were forced adoptions.
Mr Schrapel said fire had destroyed all records at the Kate Cocks home,
which was opened by the Methodist Church in 1937 and closed in 1976
because of a social trend for single mothers to keep their children and
accept welfare payments until they could return to work.
The Uniting Church is the first SA group to accept responsibility for
the problem, but in NSW the Benevolent Society has accepted
responsibility, Catholic Health Australia and the Western Australian
government have apologised.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church could not provide details of
adoption services provided in Adelaide and the Anglican Church said it
could not find any examples of it practising forced adoption.
UnitingCare Wesley wants women who suffered because of past adoption
practices to contact them at 10 Pitt St Adelaide, or on 8202 5886.
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