Friday, March 22, 2013

Adoption apology

Once again a challenge finishes and I lose the impetus for blogging, but yesterday's apology to those affected by adoption in this country has me asking some questions in an open letter to all politicians.

As an older age  adoptee and ex state ward, I have worked hard throughout my life to overcome the stigma and void of adoption – to turn these early experiences into a positive base on which to build my life, family and career. I am pleased to say I succeeded in all areas until events beyond my control, by way of government enquiries etc forced me to relive my past on almost a daily basis.

In 1996, I wrote of my experience as an adoptee as a way of providing truth in history, after reading so many biased reports and skewed data from ex workers and government sources see  The Little Mongrel - free to a good home only to find, in my older age I have no choice in the reliving of the pain of my separation from mother, and my failed adoption and subsequent institutional care, from the almost constant barrage over the past ten or more years of enquiry after enquiry, apology after apology, via the print, radio and television media, social media and through my email account.

This is not something I have desired nor sought, but my needs and those of others like me who chose to live our lives without the burden of the past were given no say in the matter. Yesterday the Australian government made an apology to those affected by past adoption practices in this country, yet saw fit to exclude many (myself included) due to the time frame mentioned, 1950 – 1970s. Given all adoptions that took place between 1926 and 1968 did so under the same legislation, I am wondering why those that occurred pre-1950 are deemed to have been of lesser or in this instance of no importance.

On what advice was this determined?

Although it is touted that most Australian adoptions took place between the 1950s and the 1970s, there is no statistical evidence to support this assertion and this ‘fact’ appears to be a by-product of the age of recent activists – which does not include mothers of those born prior to 1950, who would now be in their 80s and 90s and therefore less inclined or able to have political involvement or influence in the matter.

But what of these mothers and their children?

Out of fairness to all parties touched by adoption, I suggest no period should be included in statements regarding adoption. In my adoptive family of six children, five were born pre 1950 and one in 1951. All were born under the same adoption law and in a similar immediate post war social climate of harsh judgement and punitive consequences for those who transgressed. So, in effect, our youngest sister and her mother are deemed worthy of apology, while the others are of no consequence.

I understand what drives the activism of those affected during the stated time period, even though I struggle to understand the equity in experience between the pre 1960 mother and those who had their children during a time of increased social enlightenment, government financial support for single mothers and relaxed moral judgements that followed the feminist movement and saw progressive changes for women in the 60s, 70s and beyond.

Of course I would prefer to have all the past wrongs laid to rest, to see out the rest of my life in some semblance of peace, unmolested by the outcome of actions of others who think an apology by those who were never involved – most of them not even born at the time – will somehow magically make everything okay. And for some it will, but only for a short time, because nothing can erase the past. Nothing can give back that which has been stolen and irreversibly lost forever, just as nothing can give a sense of worth to those excluded from this apology and I ask you to ensure inclusion for ALL who were affected by adoption in this country, not just a select, more vocal demographic.

1 comment:

  1. As you know Merlene, I finally got a hold of your book "The Little Mongrel - free to a good home" the other week. I was very happy to have time to finish reading the memoir last night. During the last 100-150 pages I couldn't wait to find out what happened to your character and I found myself turning the pages with such vigour I almost torn them from the spine!
    Your contribution to history of the Australian child welfare system is one you should be very proud of.
    Thanks for sharing your letter with us.


For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene