Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Evelyn Robinson on West Australia's Apology to Mothers

Evelyn sent the following as a comment to yesterday's post on Origin's rejection of the WA government apology to mothers whose children were taken from for adoption during a social climate unsupportive to unmarried mothers.  I am grateful for the work Evelyn and others have put into this apology and grateful to know her. 

Her reply to my previous post was too good to be lost in comments and so I present it here:

The apology in Western Australia came about because a small group of mothers approached a member of the Western Australian parliament and explained to him how things were for them when they lost their children to adoption.

There is an informal group in Australia called the Apology Alliance, which is a collection of support groups, organisations and individuals who have been working towards a federal apology for some time. They are, of course, supportive of the Western Australian apology.

It is impossible to know how many people in Australia are happy about the apology and how many are not. Those who welcome the apology will benefit from it, those who do not can disregard it.

The first government apology in Australia was the federal apology to the Stolen Generations in February, 2008. This was a momentous event for all Australians and the country virtually came to a standstill, to allow everyone to view the apology live on television. I was not able to be present in parliament for that apology, but I was present for the apology to the Forgotten Australians and the Child Migrants, which took place in Canberra, our capital city, last year. I know from talking to the people who were there how moved they were that their issues were being recognised and that the government had decided to say ‘sorry’ for what had happened to them in the past. Both apologies included a recognition of the damage which had occurred and funding for services to address that damage.

Nothing that is said now can change what happened in the past for any of us, but these apologies have drawn the attention of the nation to the issues involved and they are an acknowledgement on the part of the government that past policies and practices were damaging.

I believe that the forthcoming apology in Western Australia will not only help many people with their individual healing, but will also increase community awareness of the issues that many of us have had to deal with since our children were taken from us to be adopted. I have heard from many, many mothers around the world who are heartened by news of the Western Australian apology. This comment is very typical: "I can't tell you how it soothes a damaged heart to hear that at last there is some recognition of the suffering of mothers, fathers and children involved in adoption. My ambition now is to live long enough to see an apology given in Gt. Britain."

We have been told that other states and territories are now also considering apologising and many of us have drawn the attention of our own state and territory governments to the fact that the apology is taking place in Western Australia. There have also been discussions with the federal government and they are currently considering what would need to happen before a federal apology could be given.

I believe that this apology is a very important step in increasing community understanding of adoption separation issues. The more we can educate people about what has already happened for those who have experienced adoption separation, the more likely it is that current and future policies and practices will be informed by that knowledge. There is so much ignorance in the community, not just in Australia, but around the world, of the long term outcomes of adoption separation and I think that anything we can do to educate and inform people is worthwhile.

I will be travelling to Western Australia next month for the apology, to share the experience with mothers from all around Australia.

Personally, I think it is a big step in the right direction to have a government say, ‘This is what happened. We are sorry that it happened and we’ll make sure it won’t happen again.’ I believe that Australia is setting an example and I hope that other countries will follow our lead.

1 comment:

Von said...

Thanks for reposting this comment of Evelyn's.As you know from my previous comment, I too feel it is an important step forward.Those mothers still alive and the adoptees directly affected are 'legitimately' the ones to have an opinion and speak about how it affects them.
I will be truly heartened by a Federal Apology and by the other States following suit.Those of us affected who have been lobbying, hope to see it come to fruition in due course.
Any action such as this can never have too much support, friends, families and relatives will hopefully be informed and supportive,part of the move to bring this to wider public attention.Many people do not as yet understand the issues or the need for apology, but in time perhaps they will.
It is a step forward, let's not be distracted from the task.

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