APOLOGY FOR PAST FORCED ADOPTIONS

 It is with a profound sense of sorrow and the importance of the occasion that I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the apology for past forced adoptions. The day of the apology was one of the most moving and important days I have spent in this place.

When I heard the extraordinary stories of trauma that thousands of mothers in particular, but also fathers, endured as a result of this heinous practice — the impact at the time of the removal and the ongoing devastation that has haunted them throughout their lives — I found it, as previous speakers have noted, almost impossible to fathom the mindset of the community at the time, not so very long ago, when this was a widely accepted practice.

When the member for Pascoe Vale made her extremely moving contribution — and as we know, she has worked tirelessly on this issue — she spoke profoundly about the concept of the mother and the child in the delivery room and asked whether there is anything more vulnerable or precious than that. For someone who was in a delivery room with her third child this year, the horrific stories of those who have suffered under the practice were all the more acute.

Those of us who have been in a delivery suite with a baby know that overwhelming sense of love through every fibre of their being — that fierce need to protect the child and know they are safe and for that child to know with every fibre of its being that it is loved. It is certainly the strongest emotion I have ever experienced.

The wrench to the hearts and lives of young, vulnerable women — women who held their children or never got to hold them, women who were drugged while their children were forcibly removed from them and women who never saw their children or never knew what became of them — and the black hole that has haunted them is difficult for me to contemplate, and when I do it is with a heavy heart, as I said.

I commend the Minister for Community Services for the apology that was made that day.

Hearing the cries from the gallery when some of those announcements were made about giving such women access to identifying information about the children who had been ripped from them will stay with as all. Hearing those stories, we are aware that on that day in this house an important part was played in recognising past wrongs and hopefully — and we pray that this is so — in healing for those women who were so profoundly affected.

I endorse the comments made by the member for Ivanhoe regarding the other matter this house has before it this year — that is, the important issue of allowing donor-conceived children access to identifying information about their genetic heritage. I have spoken to many of those who gave evidence and many affected children who sat in this house or listened to the adoption apology and also made those cries. This is similar to my journey.

I again ask the government during its contemplation of this matter to hear the cries of these children as it has heard the cries of those affected by forced adoption practices and to respond to them with the respect they deserve by giving those children part of the healing and recognition they so desperately crave.