CANBERRA, Australia - A Senate inquiry called yesterday for the Australian government to apologize to and compensate thousands of unwed mothers who were forced to give up their babies for adoption in the mid-20th century.
About 100 mothers who gave up babies, and adults who had been adopted, sat in the Senate public gallery, applauding or weeping as the report was read.
Unwed mothers were pressured, deceived, and threatened into giving up their babies from World War II until the early 1970s so the infants could be adopted by married couples, which was perceived to be in the children’s best interests, the Senate committee report found.
“If it wasn’t illegal, it was unethical,’’ said the committee chairwoman, Senator Rachel Siewert. “The evidence . . . tells the accounts of mothers and fathers who were pressured into giving up their babies by their families, by institutions - both state and territory and private institutions - by social workers, doctors, nurses, and those who they rightly expected to have helped them.’’
Robin Turner, 61, one of the mothers in attendance, wanted only public recognition of the injustice she suffered in ’67 when her newborn son was taken from her at a hospital.
“Acknowledgment,’’ she said. “I want the Australian public to know what happened to us.’’
The seven-member Senate committee began investigating the federal government’s role in forced adoption in 2010 after the Western Australian state parliament apologized to mothers and children for the flawed practices in that state from the 1940s until the 1980s.