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Australia’s Gillard makes historic apology for forced adoptions
AP

Irish Times, Thursday, March 21, 2013, 07:41


Australian prime minister Julia Gillard delivered a historic national apology in parliament to the thousands of unwed mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their babies for adoption over several decades.

More than 800 people, many of them in tears, heard the apology and responded with a standing ovation.

“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,” she told the audience.

“We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers and we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.

“We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children.”

Ms Gillard committed AU$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 impacts of the now-discredited policies.

Unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened into giving up their babies from the Second World War until the early 1970s so they could be adopted by married couples, which was perceived to be in the children’s best interests, the senate committee report found.

The committee began investigating the government’s role in forced adoption in 2010 after the Western Australian state parliament apologised to mothers and children for the flawed practices in that state from the 1940s until the 1980s. Roman Catholic hospitals in Australia apologised in 2011 for forcing unmarried mothers to give up babies for adoption and urged state governments to accept financial responsibility.

Separately, Ms Gillard will remain as Australia’s prime minister after she threw her job open to a leadership ballot but no one was willing to run against her.

Her predecessor Kevin Rudd, who she ousted in an internal party coup in 2010, had been expected to attempt to replace her. But at the last moment he announced he would not contest the ballot yesterday.

Senior minister Simon Crean had earlier brought leadership unrest to a head by calling on his government colleagues to sign a petition to force a ballot if Ms

Gillard refused to call one.

The Labour party faces the growing prospect of a sound election defeat on September 14th.

Ms Gillard announced the ballot for her job, and that of deputy prime minister and treasurer Wayne Swan, on the last day of parliament before a seven-week break. “I have determined that there will be a ballot for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labour Party,” she told parliament.

2013 irishtimes.com

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