Tuesday, July 24, 2012

South Australian Apology: Guest Blog

I have been honored to know Evelyn Robinson (see photo in newspaper article below) as a friend and colleague for many years. I first came to know of Evelyn as author of books I read and admired. Evelyn has authored several excellent books on adoption, loss and reunion... books that have helped untold numbers of people whose lives have been touched by adoption.  I was honored when someone I admired so was kind enough to write the Foreword to The Stork Market.

I am exceedingly proud to know THE person at the epicenter of this historic and monumental achievement: a governmental apology for forced adoptions...even as the U$ continues to promote and encourage more of these very same familial separations to redistribute children for profit; where tax benefits encourage adoption, where states continue to receive bonuses to remove children from their families, and where TV exploits the pain of loosing a child to adoption for entertainment.  

No one has worked harder or deserves more appreciation for this accomplishment than my friend, Evelyn Burns Robinson.  

The following is her report of just some of the history-making events that have taken place around this monumental achievement which we hope reverberates and changes the face of adoption practices world-wide:

On the 29th of March this year, the South Australian Parliament announced that they would apologise to all those whose lives had been adversely affected by past adoption policies and practices. They consulted extensively with the community and set up a working group to plan the apology event. I was appointed to the working group as the community representative. 


On Wednesday, the 18th of July, the apology took place. I was invited to a private meeting with the Premier on the day before the apology (you’ll hear him refer to our conversation in his speech when he says, “I was told yesterday”) and I found him to be very willing to listen, learn and understand. I explained to him that I had been involved with educating the community and increasing awareness of adoption separation issues for many years and that I was delighted to know that I had assisted in creating an environment in South Australia in which an event such as this could occur.

It was a great day, attended in South Australia by more than 200 people and shared by many more on-line. There were three venues at which the apology could be viewed live. Places had been booked in advance so that everyone had the opportunity to attend. Some people were seated in the Parliament, some were in another room in the Parliament building, some were at Post Adoption Support Services and some were at a hotel near Parliament House. 

Of course, many others around the world watched the apology live on the internet. I’m so glad that they took up my suggestion to have it streamed live. An information sheet was available to everyone who attended in person, outlining the events of the day ie the availability of counsellors, details of the lunch which was provided afterwards, courtesy of the state government, details for obtaining the DVD of the event, contact details for Post Adoption Support Services and the fact that a parchment copy of the motion, signed by the Premier and Minister Portolesi (see attached) as well as a specially made commemorative badge would be available to all who attended. I think the DVD is an excellent idea and I’m delighted that they have generously agreed to send it free of charge to anywhere in the world and apparently there is no time limit on that.

In my opinion, the speakers captured very well the feelings of those of us who have experienced adoption separation and it was wonderful to have our experiences validated publicly by our parliament. The lunch was excellent and provided an opportunity for people to socialise, share experiences and also talk to the politicians who had spoken in Parliament ie the Premier, the Hon Jay Weatherill, MP, the Minister for Education and Child Development, the Hon Grace Portolesi, MP, the Leader of the Opposition, Isobel Redmond, MP and the Shadow Minister for Families and Communities, the Hon John Gardner, MP. Quite a few media interviews took place during that time also. After the lunch, the Premier made a speech thanking those who had made a particular contribution to the success of the day’s proceedings and this was when he mentioned my assistance and presented me with my flowers. There was a great atmosphere throughout the whole event and everyone who has made contact with me has been very satisfied with the manner in which the apology was conducted and the content of the speeches. I know that there is some contention around the use of the term ‘forced adoption’. Personally I have never claimed that I was ‘forced’ to agree for Stephen to be adopted. The term covers coercion, pressure, lack of choice as well as outright force.

Overall the apology experience was very satisfying and I hope that many more people will share the experience by ordering a copy of the DVD from the Minister’s office  by e-mailing apology@sa.gov.au.

I’ve been asked if the South Australian parliament offered any practical support to accompany the apology. Since 2006, the state government has been funding a professional adoption support and counselling service through Relationships Australia, which is called Post Adoption Support Services (PASS). Because it is funded by the government, there is no cost to clients. We are also hoping that our state government will soon announce a review of our Adoption Act. This was one of the issues that I raised with the Premier at our meeting on Tuesday.

This is some of the radio and TV coverage.
ABC TV - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-18/forced-adoptions-parliamentary-apology-south-australia/4137836 (You can see me at the top left in the gallery, wearing my purple jacket. On my left is my friend, Carmel, who travelled all the way from Western Australia for the apology. Carmel was born in South Australia, as was her son who was adopted – her only child. When the politicians had finished speaking, Carmel stood and led the applause. She was quickly followed by many others.)
http://www.thewire.org.au/storyDetail.aspx?ID=9378 – If you have any trouble getting this to play, you can hear it by accessing the attached MP3 file.
This would have been a good interview as the interviewer seemed very interested. Unfortunately they had problems with the ‘phone line and so we weren’t able to complete the interview. He said he might call me back but he hasn’t as yet -https://radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/the-premiers-apology-for-forced-adoption/

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the parliamentary proceedings of the apology event at http://www.saapology.sa.gov.au(click ‘playback’).
There were lots of newspaper articles as well, both in Australia and in other countries. Stephen and I were interviewed on the apology day by a journalist from The Australian
If anyone spots her article, please let me know.

I should like to thank all those who have supported me around the world for all the years during which I have been working in this area. If anyone would like any further information about the apology, please contact me. I believe that South Australia has set a great example to the world and that our apology has been very effective.

Kind regards,

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