South Australia’s apology for the pain caused by forced adoptions brought tears to the eyes of people hurt by the past practice.
Premier Jay Weatherill’s government became the second in the nation to say sorry to the mothers, fathers, children and others affected by forced adoptions.
He told a special sitting of state parliament his government accepted with “profound sorrow” that many mothers did not give informed consent to the adoption of their children.
“To all those hurt we say sorry,” he said.
“We apologise for the lies, the fear, the silence, the deceptions.
“We hear you now, we acknowledge your pain and we offer you our unreserved, sincere regret and sorrow for those injustices.”
The recognition of the pain caused by the practice brought tears to the eyes of some of those present, and no doubt to many others listening to the apology that was broadcast live over the internet.
He said women were blamed for getting pregnant, blamed for wanting to keep their children and then blamed for succumbing to pressure to give them up.
“We seek to reconcile the South Australian community with these people who have suffered so much.”
Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond described what was done by governments, churches and other groups as inhumane at best and barbaric at worst.
“For me as a mother what is unimaginable is the pain and suffering for the mothers who were made to feel ashamed and often tricked or bullied into signing adoption papers,” she said.
More than 17,000 children in SA are believed to have been adopted before 1980 and some of these were forced adoptions.
Between the 1950s and the 1970s about 150,000 unmarried mothers across Australia had their babies taken against their will.
The West Australian government has already delivered an apology to people affected by the practice in that state and the federal government is also planning a similar move.
A national apology was one of the recommendations made by the Senate Community Affairs Committee following an inquiry into forced adoptions.
The Commonwealth has established a reference group to advise the government on the timing and nature of an apology.