Contribute to PARC on the Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care’s survey Questions

Aug 8, 2022

Are you interested in contributing your thoughts to PARC, on the Committee On Adoption and Permanent Care's survey questions? There are only 3 questions. Any mother who gave birth in NSW is invited to answer a short survey to provide input into a planned NSW Memorial to be announced on the 10th anniversary of NSW apology - September 20th, 2022. Survey questions:1. Where would you like to see the place of remembrance? (For example: Where would you like to see it located and why? Where should it not be located? How should it appear? In what form could it take?)2. What key messages or themes should the remembrance reflect?3. What organisation do you represent? (if any)Reply


Mar 17, 2022

Please join us at our Taken Not Given memorial in St Andrew’s Reserve, Lansdowne St, East Melbourne to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions. Date: Sunday 20th March at 2.00pm RSVP: 442 701

Redress scheme. Link to The Age story

Mar 10, 2022

Redress Scheme Proposed forVictims of Forced Adoption

Sep 8, 2021

RIA ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ No images? Click here Redress scheme proposed for victims of forced adoption A major parliamentary inquiry has called for the Victorian Government to immediately establish a landmark redress scheme for mothers whose babies were forcibly removed from them because of historical adoption policies and practices. An amendment of the statute of limitations to exclude those affected by forced adoption is also among the 56 recommendations contained in an extensive report into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria. The Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee launched the inquiry in November 2019. “From the outset, the Committee was determined to hear from as many people as possible who were affected during this inexcusable time in Australia’s history,” Committee Chair Natalie Suleyman said. The inquiry received 114 submissions and heard from many mothers and adopted people who bravely shared their personal experiences at 11 days of public hearings in Melbourne and regional areas including Geelong, Wodonga and Kangaroo Flat. “We heard first-hand exactly what mothers have experienced and we witnessed their incredible strength as they spoke about justice, truth and recognition,” Ms Suleyman said. Community and social service organisations, advocacy and support groups, peak bodies and non-government organisations also provided evidence to the inquiry. “With recommendations to establish a comprehensive redress scheme and remove the statute of limitations, both without delay, the Committee hopes this report builds upon mothers’ efforts for justice,” Ms Suleyman said. The Committee believes the redress scheme should include: a monetary payment counselling and psychological support a direct personal response from the institution and/or organisation involved in the applicant’s forced adoption. The Government is being encouraged to work with responsible organisations to secure their involvement and consider sanctions for those that don’t comply within a set timeframe. A fully funded legal advice and referral service to ensure applicants receive free, independent guidance on redress and/or civil litigation has been suggested. Ongoing funding for state-based support service VANISH and further specific funding for the regular training of health professionals at the Melbourne-based entity has also been recommended. “If implemented by the Victorian Government, the recommendations will enhance the capacity of people to address the trauma of historical forced adoption,” Ms Suleyman said. “Particularly, through the provision of specialised and flexible mental health support services, and various measures to improve access to adoption records and make it easier for people to search and reconnect with their family.” The Committee has also proposed a stand-alone inquiry to explore the impacts of adoption on adopted people. “The Committee heard from many people who are adopted, nearly all of whom had negative adoption experiences,” Ms Suleyman said. The Government has been urged to instantly introduce integrated birth certificates for adopted people who request them and ensure they are regarded as legal proof of identity. “The Committee also recommends various measures to improve the operation and transparency of current adoption laws to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated,” Ms Suleyman said. A designated day each year to commemorate historical forced adoptions in Victoria has been put forward by the Committee. October 25, the anniversary of the Victorian Parliament’s apology for past adoption practices, has been nominated as a suitable date. To view all of the recommendations in full read the final report. Issued: 8 September 2021 Find us on Facebook More news Follow us on Twitter Share

NEW Email received from Legal and Social Issues Committee

Aug 24, 2021

We received this email yesterdaY Good afternoon   I have some good news – the final report for the Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoptions in Victoria will be tabled in the Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Assembly on Wednesday afternoon. It should occur soon after the sitting day commences at 2.30 pm. Once the report is tabled, you’ll be notified via email, with a link to the report. If you’ve requested a hard copy, it will be posted that day.   If you’re interested, parliamentary proceedings can be watched live here - - although the tabling of reports is a quick process where the Chair of the Committee simply hands the report to the Speaker.   Unfortunately, there’ll be no Members’ speeches on the report this week as the sitting days have been truncated due to COVID restrictions. The Committee Members intend to speak to the report at a future sitting day once they’re allowed to do so. I’ll keep you informed as to when this will be so you can watch the proceedings online if you like.   Thank you for your patience. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.   Kind regards   Yuki   Yuki Simmonds| Committee Manager Legal and Social Issues Committee Legislative Assembly | Parliament of Victoria Telephone: (03) 8682 2845 | Mobile: 0402 448 141 Mail: Parliament of Victoria | Spring Street | East Melbourne 3002 @VicParliament

Herald Sun article regarding the Victorian Inquiry

Aug 11, 2021

This is an online article in the Herald Sun about the Victorian Inquiry. Mothers and children separated through decades of horrific forced adoption practices could soon be offered compensation as the state weigh up an Australian-first redress scheme A parliamentary inquiry has spent 18 months hearing stories of mothers who were separated from their babies, often minutes after giving birth, and were never to see them again. In some cases, people were unable to track down their parents or children because records are incomplete or have been destroyed, while many say they are still grappling with the trauma of the experience. The Saturday Herald Sun can reveal a redress scheme to compensate those affected by the practice is among the key solutions being floated ahead of the highly-anticipated final report August 17. It could involve millions of dollars in charges to institutions historically linked to the practice, with expectations the committee will seek to replicate the impact of response to institutional child sex abuse and hold organisations to account. Victims and lawyers also want the government to remove the statute of limitations on the issue so that they can seek justice over forced adoptions from decades ago. A new centralised or improved source of birth records, to help people looking to find each other after decades of separation, has also been proposed. A redress scheme is being considered.Legal and Social Issues Committee chair Natalie Suleyman said she could not reveal what was in the report but said it would have strong recommendations. Charlotte Smith, manager of a not for profit service for people affected by adoption known as VANISH, said the inquiry’s results were monumental for those affected.The practice of forced adoption was shockingly common, particularly for unwed women, throughout the 1950s to the 1970s.It is estimated up to 250,000 children may have been taken from young and single mothers. “The period between the 1950s and 70s is often referred to as the baby scoop era which gives an indication of what was occurring,” Ms Smith said. “Over and over we hear people expressing their shock and saying they had no idea that these things happened.” She said VANISH had recommended a sensitive redress scheme that also removed the statute of limitations. “This is important because many of the institutions responsible committed illegal acts that had and still have devastating consequences,” Ms Smith said. This included removing the “significant injury” test which was difficult to prove for a traumatic event that happened a long time ago. Cameron Tout, of Shine Lawyers, said the firm was representing at least 15 people affected by forced adoption and had recommended law changes that would allow them to seek justice. “At the time that they were harmed they were effectively powerless,” he said. Association Representing Mothers Separated (ARMS) by adoption Victoria secretary, Jo Fraser, said the group had also called for free counselling to those affected. “That’s never been offered before,” she said. “We also need a large education or awareness campaign, including for psychologists and those who do the counselling. “If you don’t know anything about adoption you’re as good as useless. “But also because there needs to be awareness in the public. Every time this issue is in the media we are contacted by people who had no idea it was an issue or that there was even an apology.” In 2012, then Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu apologies on behalf of the government to those affected by forced adoption across the state.He described the practice as a “moral arrogance” and 1000 children’s shoes were laid out on the steps of parliament as a symbol for those who had been forcibly separated. This was followed by a national apology from then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2013. Advocates are wary of the upcoming parliamentary report, pointing to previous inquiries that have made recommendations and were never acted upon. Ms Fraser said ARMS Victoria had also urged that any mother whose child was adopted out be notified if they died.In the past, people have sought to reach out to their children only to learn that they had passed away. HEARTBREAKING STORIES TOLD TO THE INQUIRY– Isabell Collins, who spent the first six months of her life in an orphanage before being adopted out, said not all children were sent to loving families and lived with trauma their whole lives. “For many years governments espoused, or legislators espoused, that children must come first. In my view they come last,” she said. “A child being born is the most traumatic experience for the child … The only thing they know is their mother, the smell of her and her voice — and we take it away. “The research says that is an extremely traumatic thing for the child that they carry through for the rest of their lives.” – Elizabeth Edwards was engaged to be married at 18 and worked on a full wage right up until the day she had her first baby. While giving birth, she said the staff at her hospital had increased the amount of nitrous oxide she was receiving until she became unconscious. “When I awoke, I had delivered our baby. However, she had been removed from the labour ward,” she said. “I requested her, but the doctor replied that society would forgive one mistake. He then turned on his heel and left the room.” Ms Edwards said she had given consent to adopt under duress, while her fiance did not give consent at all. I’d resolved to get the baby back. I telephoned the matron but she told me it was too late,” she said. “We were both forever negatively impacted by the loss of our first child to people who were creating their own reality.” Advocates have spent decades urging governments to act to support those affected by forced adoptions. – As an 18-year-old, Hannah Spanswick was unexpectedly pregnant in 1964 and told by a social worker that if she loved her baby she would give it up for adoption. “The adoption papers were presented to me within three days of my child’s birth, instead of the legislative requirement of five days, and within 45 minutes of receiving a narcotic injection, which makes a complete mockery of any notion of informed consent. “ With tens of thousands of closed adoptions having occurred in Victoria, there are many mothers and their adult children who still experience the effects of this primal wound “The need for specialised counselling has never been greater.” --KIERAN ROONEYState Politics ReporterHerald Sun

Forced adoptions inquiry shifts focus to Mildura

Jun 24, 2021

PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  Forced adoptions inquiry shifts focus to Mildura A parliamentary inquiry into responses to historical forced adoptions is turning its attention to north-west Victoria. The Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee is holding a public hearing in Mildura on Tuesday 20 July. The Committee would like to hear from mothers, adopted people and other community members in the area who would be willing to share their experiences. “We know it is not just mothers and adopted people, there are fathers and other children across regional Victoria who live with the detrimental impacts of forced adoption and it’s vitally important we hear from all of them,” Committee Chair Natalie Suleyman said. “The evidence and insight people with lived experience can provide will be invaluable as the Committee considers findings and recommendations for government.” Community members who want to speak at the hearing should register their interest with the Committee by phoning 8682 2843 or emailing The Committee has so far heard from many mothers and adopted people who were victim to forced adoption policies and practices which predominantly took place between the 1940s and 1980s in Australia, but also occurred outside of this time period. Representatives of support services and government related agencies have also appeared before the Committee throughout the public hearing phase of its inquiry. Regional Victoria has been an important focus for the Committee, with several hearings already held across the state, including at Kangaroo Flat, Geelong and Wodonga. To view full transcripts and other information related to the inquiry visit the Committee’s website. Issued: 23 June 2021

Parliamentary Inquiry into Support Services and Responses to the Issues of Historical Forced Adoption

Jun 8, 2021

As you will be aware, on 28 May 2019, Victoria’s Attorney General announced that a new Parliamentary Inquiry into support services and responses to the issue of historical forced adoptions in Victoria had been referred to the Legal and Social Issues Committee in the Legislative Assembly – chaired by Natalie Suleyman MP. The Committee will be holding Public Hearings in Mildura on 16th June and would like to hear from anyone who has been affected by adoption. Please call Yuki Simmonds on 8682 2843 if you would like to find out more or would like to speak to the Committee. It is important that they hear from as many of us as possible and are made aware of the horrendous trauma these acts have inflicted on us. Hearings have already been held in Geelong, Bendigo and Wodonga. Of course contact ARMS(Vic) if you have any queries or concerns.

Short Films by Heather Waters .......urgent ticket sales close on Saturday 24th October 2020

Oct 22, 2020

This is a link to an event of Heather Waters' short films Lost souls and You Should Be Grateful.  

Victorian Government Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoptions in Victoria

May 28, 2020

The Victorian Government is conducting an inquiry to find out what our responses are to the measures made for Forced Adoption. PLEASE WRITE A RESPONSE TO THEM...........IT IS VERY IMPORTANT..........NO MATTER HOW SHORT They are wanting to know how every mother who lost their child feels about the measures so far taken.  Please write any kind of response you like and post it or email it to the Victorian Government for consideration.  They cannot read our minds and do not understand what we need if we do not inform them.  Tell them what we need....such as free counselling, increased understanding of the issues around finding your child as an adult, assistance with issues surrounding the loss of your child that have persisted into the rest of our lives.  what help do they need to provide? postal address for this is: LA Legal and Social Issues Committee, Parliament House, Spring Street, East Melbourne 3002 email address is: to read public submissions already sent go to  

Broken Bonds and Big Money: an International Conference on Surrogacy

Mar 22, 2019

Melbourne, 15 – 16 March, 2019 A “Relinquishing” Mother’s Perception of Surrogacy - Jo Fraser, Secretary of ARMS(Vic) Before I begin to discuss surrogacy, I would like to explain why the title of my paper has the word relinquishing in inverted commas. The organisation of which I am secretary was founded in 1982 and called Association of Relinquishing Mothers (Vic) because that was the language that was used and understood in those days. Since then we have come to realise and understand that few of us in fact actually relinquished our babies in the literal meaning of the word. Most of us had our babies taken from us, by brutal means, with at the very least lies, bullying and coercion and at its worst kidnapping and other illegal practices. We have called ourselves by our acronym ARMS(Vic) only for some years now, and are in the process of legally removing the word relinquishing from our name. However, as this conference is about surrogacy we assumed that many of the delegates, uninitiated in the modern language of adoption, would understand the traditional use of the word relinquishing and would know immediately what was meant by the title of this part of the program. Therefore “relinquishing”, as we did not relinquish. “There is no such thing as a baby..” Nancy Verrier opened her presentation to the American Adoption Congress International Convention in April 1991 with these words. “When(paediatrician and psychoanalyst) Donald Winnicot said those words, what he meant was that there is instead a mother/ baby – an emotional, psychological, spiritual unit, where knowing comes from intuition and where energy is exchanged. The baby and mother, although separated physiologically are psychologically one. Needless to say, for the child separated from his mother at birth or soon after, such an idea has tremendous importance. But has anyone been paying attention to this?” It has been more than 25 years since ARMS first called the community to recognise that surrogacy would produce the new generation of grieving women. Since then we have seen an explosion of prospective commissioning couples desperate to secure a child, especially as the pool of babies available to be adopted has dramatically reduced. Surrogacy is even more attractive than adoption because it offers the possibility of either one or both of the commissioning couple to be genetically connected to the child. It also enables the commissioning couple to negate any meaningful role that the carrying mother plays by dismissing it as the incubation of “their” child. While traditional surrogacy is not a recent phenomenon, fertility clinic assisted surrogacy is, and this brings serious policy ramifications. Since its inception, ARMS has been extremely concerned with the parallels between adoption and surrogacy. Both are made to appear normal and acceptable within society where one part of the community covets that which another part of the community has ie. a child. Surrogacy reduces children to being created specifically as a desired end product. ARMS women in the late 1980s had the privilege of meeting several of the first women to undertake to carry a child on behalf of a commissioning couple, without payment. Elizabeth Kane became the pin up woman of the prosurrogacy movement for several years, until she started living the consequences of her act of altruism – deep depression, her previous children suffering profound emotional disturbances and her marriage on the brink of disintegration. Elizabeth, Mary-Beth Whitehead and Lori-Jean are women ARMS members met who told of their experiences of being a so-called 'surrogate'. In truth, they were mothers – but, as I alluded to in my opening remarks about ARMS’ name, language is used to diminish status when society is doing something unconscionable. All three women spoke eloquently of the impact on their families of their decision to relinquish the child they carried to the commissioning couple. It had far reaching and ongoing negative consequences for their children and their marriages. Women who become birth mothers for a commissioning couple are in a nightmare predicament because of the contradictory views of society. Just as it has been for the mother who has apparently relinquished in adoption, on one hand the woman is applauded for giving her child to a 'deserving' couple, who can provide a two parent environment for the child, but on the other she is treated with suspicion because she has 'given away' her child. This irony and nightmare for women is best exemplified by a court case in the late 1980s where a woman who was carrying a child in a surrogacy arrangement, lost custody of her previous three children in a divorce proceedings because the Judge was convinced by her husband that she was, as a consequence of the surrogacy, an unfit mother because she was prepared to give away the unborn child. He was convinced by her husband that she was, as a consequence of the surrogacy, an unfit mother. The field of reproductive technology abounds with secrets, lies and myths. I want to address one of the current myths in this discussion – the idea that there is little to be learned from the past adoption model when considering surrogacy. The adoption experience is dismissed because babies were taken from mothers by a system that forced that outcome. Mothers in adoption generally didn’t choose to become pregnant, where women offering to carry for a commissioning couple do choose. The complex grief experienced by mothers in adoption was compounded by the secrecy, and surrogacy doesn’t occur in secret. The mothers in a surrogate arrangement aren’t carrying their own biological child, and that difference makes it an incomparable experience. It is convenient to focus on the forced nature of the loss because it diverts attention from the central connection between adoption and surrogacy. The unavoidable truth is that in both situations, a woman carries a child in her womb, creating it with every day that goes by, having her blood and her being flow in and out of her womb, resulting in a human being who is deeply connected and attached to that mother. The baby is unaware that it doesn’t share its mother’s genetic material. The mother has no less knowledge and engagement in her pregnancy, or with that growing foetus, whether or not they are her gametes – she is completely aware of and connected to her child. She gives birth – a seminal experience for both mother and child and one that is forgotten by neither. That knowledge sits in a conscious and unconscious place for both, for the rest of their lives. It is this separation from each other that is the core connection between the experience of the mothers whose child is either taken or given. Why did we ever think it was doable to give a child to another because its arrival wasn’t timely in our lives? Did we really believe that, or was it just a seduction, to achieve another end – that of a child for a married couple who deserved one. As Marian Quartly, Shurlee Swain and Denise Cuthbert laid bare in their book in 2013, there was truly a Market in Babies, shaped by supply and demand. I want to explore another connection. It is about how a social norm is constructed and how, through that construction, an act that is profoundly counter- cultural, becomes accepted. As a brief parallel, consider the situation where a couple is married and in the early years of that marriage. The wife becomes pregnant to another man. Society frowns on her. Her husband most typically insists she have a termination. In many cases he ends the marriage, believing that it was she who ended the marriage by her action. Generally, society agrees with him. In many cases, she may have the termination and the marriage falters anyway. Now, let’s put that situation in a different context. The husband is infertile. Hopefully, they BOTH want a child. Now a new social norm is being created. It is no longer explosive that his wife is carrying another man’s child. Both see this as the beginning of them becoming a family. What we know now about this situation is that even though it is socially ‘acceptable’, some men do feel resentful, experience the child as a reminder of their infertility and some women do feel they have betrayed something profound in their marriage. They didn’t expect to feel like that. They might not have even known it was a possibility that they would feel that way. Some marriages end because of the circumstances of the conception of that child. But how could they have known how they would respond? After all, this had the imprimatur of the state. It had been legislated for. There was money to support this public policy and there was a whole framework of doctors, nurses, scientists – and there was the protection of secrecy around it. How could it go wrong? And all that before we even begin to consider the experience of the child. As with donor conceptions, so also with adoption. In normal society a woman who ‘gave away her child’, claiming that she just walked away without a backward glance and got on with her life, didn’t ever really think about that child again, would be considered to be suffering some kind of pathology. We know from the last 100 years of adoption practice that this possibility was a social construct, created by legislation, doctors, adoption agencies and a society that wanted a ‘fix’ for infertile couples. It was also a handy way of punishing women who broke society’s rules about sexuality and ensured that marriage continued to protect men from the possibility that the progeny of the marriage might not be their offspring. The truth is that not raising a child of one’s own body causes lifelong complex grief and damages both mother and child. What we don’t know yet, is what impact is felt by the child who is the biological child of the commissioning couple. But there are certainly fewer of those children who are born with the support of the medical profession, the state and a mother who carries the child to term. The large majority have at least one donor involved. Either way, that child still experiences all the negative impact of being separated from his or her mother. What makes it possible for our community to think that there will be little or no impact on mother or child? It is several fold. It is a blind or thoughtless acceptance by the broader community that comes about because the science exists; the medical profession sees a way to make money; the government on our behalf, legislates for it, thus giving it legitimacy; and one wealthy sector of the community uses it power, influence and cash to bring about a social construction that meets their needs. In surrogacy we have the equivalent perfect storm. It started with commissioning couples who wanted a child. The medical profession sees the possibility for rivers of gold financially; the scientists love being able to push the boundaries and be financed to develop new technologies. And with all three pushing, a government, fearful of the implications of an unregulated new frontier, legislates, and in doing so, both protects and enables. And then the community comes on board – because it looks like it is okay with all those knowledgeable, important, powerful people saying so. And what was once unthinkable becomes a norm. And those women who are ensnared by the system believe it is possible to do the unthinkable without cost. What the years of adoption experience tells us – governments, medical profession, the community – is that it is not without cost: that the cost is measured in lifetimes – the mothers and the children and all the family members who are connected to the event. It is worthwhile noting that, as in adoption, some women walk away from the birth of their child without regret, but none that we have spoken to have looked back without pain and a true sense of loss. Knowing this it presses us to ask the question – what price the provision of a child to a commissioning couple? We can’t look back in 20 years and offer an apology based on claiming that we didn’t know the cost to the child, or the mother, or the community through the health budget. We have to face squarely the truth that we are saying we are prepared to do this to members of our society, knowing full well the impact. Will it become the next royal commission, the next round of reparation, because it is convenient to ignore the negative impact in the interests of meeting the requirements of commissioning couples? Are we willing to be as brazen at that? Are we saying that we are prepared to go ahead with creating the next generation of grieving women and disenfranchised, harmed children who become adults? What are the other lessons we can learn from the adoption experience? It is impossible to know how we will live any experience until we begin to live it. We were seduced into believing what we were told: that we are doing a good thing; that it will be alright; that we will have ‘a child of our own’ later. For the mother in a surrogate arrangement those lies are about the inherent goodness of altruism; or the familial obligation to the infertile one; or that it isn’t really your child (because it is donated gametes); or that you won’t bond with ‘it’ because you know you aren’t planning to raise the baby. In reality all the ways in which a woman can be convinced by mealymouthed words that this will not be an experience of loss; that the same connection she experienced in her previous pregnancies will not occur. The truth is that those assurances last until we have done the act, given over the child. Then we begin to live life without the child; and only then will we know the extent to which we experience it as a greater or lesser loss. What does being forced into something look like? Altruistic surrogacy is a classic example of feeling obligated to do something. Women are no longer being forced to place an ex nuptial child into adoption due to shame. The forces are now poverty, family dysfunction (however transitory) and in the case of altruistic surrogacy, helping a sister/ friend, cousin. There is something that is so utterly unique about the in utero experience and the mothering that attends that experience. Babies remember the timbre of the mother’s voice, the rhythm of her speech, the beating of her heart. The impact of the transfer of that baby to another “mother” is at best a psychological trauma, and at worst, an entirely unknown quantity that has been left to the future to manage. As Marie Meggitt, the founder of ARMS, pointed out in an article in The Age in July 1993, when the Kennett Government was set to legislate to allow surrogacy between sisters, cousins and close friends, there had been ten federal and state committees of inquiry in Australia into surrogacy, and nine of them recommended against it. Those who advocate for surrogacy fail to recognise the trauma of separation of mother and child. Australia’s Federal and State Governments have apologised for past wrongs with regard to adoption practices. It is important that we learn from the past and not repeat those mistakes. We can be dismissed because it looks like we were forced into it, but no-one undertakes the deeply personal task of carrying a child to full term and relinquishing the baby without lifelong impact. No amount of money can compensate for that loss. The truth is that at the centre of every surrogacy is a relinquishment and it is not a woman’s role to produce a baby because someone else wants one. Marie Meggitt founder of ARMS(Vic)Jo Fraser secretary of ARMS(Vic)

Marie Meggitt's speech from the Melbourne unveiling of Our Memorial for Forced Adoptions

Dec 7, 2018

On behalf of ARMS and Origins at the event of the unveiling of a memorial to the separation of families through adoption. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered and pay my respects to their Elders both past and present. I also want to acknowledge the many, many Aboriginal women who had their children taken from them. I acknowledge current and former Members of Parliament and the Mayor of the City of Melbourne. I particularly welcome our friends and colleagues in the adoption movement and our families for whom this day is so significant. This is a momentous occasion for ARMS and Origins in particular, who imagined this project into reality and for all the mothers, sons, daughters and those who experience the pain of being separated by adoption. It is momentous because it is a public testament to the profound loss and grief that is the lived experience of mothers. As important, it is an acknowledgement of our offspring who were taken from us. It is momentous because it has been provided by the government of the State of Victoria, which, in doing so, acknowledges publicly the role played by it, the Church and the community in taking our children from us and plunging us into unreconcilable grief. In this space being created, we have been given a place that tells the world we are believed. It is a space that holds both us and our sons and daughters IN the world and not just inside ourselves. It is real, it is tangible. It takes our internal journey and marks out a place for it. We all left those hospitals that held our children without a photo, or a lock of hair, or a birth certificate, nothing external to ourselves that confirmed that we had had a child. This place, with this piece of art, provides us with something more than the lock of hair. It confirms the truth of our experience and it holds that testimony out to the world. But to understand how extraordinary it is to be standing here today, I need to give you a snapshot of the journey that has led us here. The history of adoption is a dark one, punctuated by lies, manipulation, secrecy, cruel words and illegal actions. First legislated at the turn of the 20th century, adoption took flight in the 50s when the stain of illegitimacy provided a basis for shocking discrimination against us and our children. But it was the 1964 uniform Adoption Act, implemented across Australia that enshrined the concept of adoption secrecy and the ideal of a mother who ‘put it all behind her’ and in doing so, made a child who was unfettered by connection to its family of origin, available for an infertile married couple. The shame and silence that surrounded pregnancy out of wedlock meant that we were seen as “unfit” mothers. The practice of “closed adoption” was seen as the solution – where the birth identities of adopted children were erased to ensure that the child became the child of the adoptive couple, as if born to them. Shocking practices resulted from this ideal of expunging the unfit mother. A system was built that ensured girls and young women were actively punished for their immorality. The foremost authority on unmarried mothers in the post war period, Leontine Young, contended that ‘non-marital pregnancy expressed deep neuroses that could only be fixed by doing what the mother most deeply and unconsciously needed, which was to have her child taken from her’. The Chief Obstetrician at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Don Lawson, addressing the medical fraternity in the 1960s when presenting the Featherstone Lecture, stated that ‘as you walk through the nursery you can smell adultery. He went on to say ‘the rule of thumb is, when in doubt, don’t - but I say, when it comes to adoption – do. The last thing an obstetrician needs to concern himself with, is the law, when it comes to adoption.’ Given these attitudes it is not hard to see how punitive practices developed: withholding pain medication, medical neglect and malpractice; drugging mothers during the labour then telling them that their baby was still-born; signing Consent forms on behalf of mothers, and imposing a whole-sale denial of their rights prior to the signing of the consent. When in the unmarried mothers’ homes, the girls’ names were changed, they were denied visitors, they did the heavy work of a commercial laundry, servicing the hospitals. When we leap 20 years into the early 70s, society was changing, but adoption practices were not. In the 12-year period from 1968 to 1980, it is conservatively estimated that 35,000 Australian mothers, 90% of them under 20, had their child taken from them. I chose that time frame because my child was taken in 1972, the year of the highest number of adoptions, just under 10,000 in one year. It is still difficult to identify research that examines the issues of consent and the contested nature of what “voluntary relinquishment” might look like, given the social attitudes, historical social work and child welfare practices and the views held about single mothers, ex-nuptial children and illegitimacy, and the lack of financial support for single mothers. From my own experience and the many hundreds of mothers I have spoken to over my years in ARMS, and from what we now know from the research that has been done, these were not ‘voluntary relinquishments’. Let us picture it. My lovely niece has just three weeks ago gone to hospital and given birth to a lovely little boy. Imagine, the babe crowns, comes into the world in that last rush, he is cleaned and the umbilical cord cut, and suddenly he is whisked away, perhaps by a nurse, and was gone, not returned. The shock is devastating; the fear overtakes, a terrible trauma unfolds, one that mother and babe are likely not to recover from. If that had happened three weeks ago, it would be written up in the newspapers, the police would be notified, and a search undertaken. But that didn’t happen three weeks ago, it happened in 1972 to me. Over days, I asked to have my baby, I pleaded, cried, screamed, insisted. But someone had taken that baby and had no intention of giving him back. Some mothers say their child was kidnapped, some say abducted, and it is not hard to accept that that is how it feels. However, a kidnapping is generally a random event that happens to one desperately unfortunate family, like Madeline McCann, the little English girl who disappeared in Portugal. What WE know is that when my child was taken from me immediately after his birth, it was not random, and I was only one of another 9742 girls and young woman to whom it would happen in 1972, and only one of more than 100,000 in Australia to whom it had or would happen. Clearly, it was not a voluntary relinquishment. The crime of adoption is that it was systemic: a state operated, comprehensive, planned and controlled approach, set out by hospitals, adoption agencies and social workers, underpinned by government legislation and supported by the moral imperatives of the church. It was a social policy of great moral convenience, because by design, it enabled a properly married but infertile couple to become a ‘family’. And the fact that it was at the expense of MY family was irrelevant, because I was unfit to be a mother and I didn’t deserve to have my child. I, like so many mothers, was broken by this experience. Research tells us that there is a long term negative impact on mothers since the pregnancy, of morbid, unresolved grief, presenting as psychological trauma or "pathological grief reactions which have failed to resolve". What does that mean for our lived experience as mothers, who are not mothers in the eyes of the world? We know that morbid grief reactions differ only in intensity and duration from normal grief responses, but our reactions tend to be internalised. So sadness, anger, guilt, agonising self-reproach, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, numbness, depression are all ongoing aspects of our journey post adoption. There is a cluster of circumstances that research tells us are likely determinants of pathological grief – the loss being socially stigmatised and therefore accompanied by shame, guilt and loss of self-esteem; external events preventing the expression of feelings of loss; uncertainty about the reality of the loss – because my child was not dead; normal expected mourning being absent and unacknowledged; and mourning rituals lacking. Those determinants are precisely what were systemically implemented by adoption agencies and hospitals, on behalf of our government and supported by social workers, families and society. So, how did we get here, today, to this place of truth? It has been a long journey, contributed to by many, and it was led by the self-help movement in Victoria. In 1979 I joined the Council for the Single Mother and her Child, who had by then organised with Jigsaw, two national conferences on adoption in 1976 and 1978 and Victoria had produced the seminal Adoption Legislation Review Committee Report, members of whom were from Jigsaw and the single mothers’ council. I am ever grateful to the founding members of that organisation, Rosemary West and Tricia Harper, who helped me understand that to have truly chosen to have my son adopted I would have needed a choice – more than one option - and the truth was that not only was there no choice, it was intended that way. It was the 1982 adoption conference where our organisation the Association of Relinquishing Mothers came into being. Until that time, social workers and hospital and adoption agency staff spoke on our behalf, claiming that we had been promised secrecy and that we didn’t want our ‘secret’ to be revealed; that we certainly didn’t want our lives ‘disrupted’ by our sons and daughters contacting us, because we had ‘moved on’, ‘forgotten about that chapter in our lives’. Our voices were resounding in saying that was simply not true. We joined with the adoptee movement, who were rightly arguing that they were entitled to know their origins. The turning of the tide came in 1984 when, under the stewardship of Minister Pauline Toner, the Labour Government introduced ground-breaking legislation allowing adopted people access to identifying information about their family of origin, and mothers, access to non-identifying information and the opportunity to contact their offspring in a process mediated by adoption agencies. There was considerable work to be done in the years following that legislation – ensuring it was implemented fully and consistently; driving the momentum to ensure all states in Australia legislated for identifying information to be available; continuing to argue in Victorian that we mothers had a right to know the identity of our offspring and for it to be legislated; and of course, the ongoing task of educating the community and supporting women who were emerging from the secrecy that had been imposed upon them. In that time, another 20 odd years had passed and another first had been achieved – adoptees Pauline Ley and Margaret Campi and I established Vanish, the Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help, a state funded, self-help search and support organisation for the three parties to adoption, which is today, still doing essential work in finding and connecting families in the adoption community. In 1998 a new mothers group Origins was set up and it provided the impetus for the next major shift in social policy thinking. Of great assistance in those difficult years was their good friend Christine Campbell, who, as a member of Parliament and a Minister, made many efforts for our cause. Origins worked assiduously to achieve a Commonwealth Senate inquiry into the impact of forced adoption policy and practices and its report was delivered in February 2012. It, like the ALRC and the process leading up to the 1984 legislation, called for public submissions and held public hearings, critical factors in bringing public attention to the issue and in influencing opinion. That report recommended among other things, the need for full apologies to be offered to mothers and it named in stark terms the shocking impact of the practice of forced adoption, using the voices and stories provided by us, and in doing so, registered that we were believed. Concurrently, significant national research on past adoption practices was being undertaken and then reported on, by the Australian Institute of Family Studies under the directorship of Darryl Higgins. The Institute had previously sponsored the first Australian research on the experience of mothers, looking at their long-term adjustment, which was undertaken by Robin Winkler and Margaret van Keppel. The combination of this explosive Senate Inquiry backed by the research findings led to all states, the ACT and the Commonwealth to offer an apology to we mothers, and our sons and daughters for these past systemic practices. 2012 was a very big year for us and our offspring. The Victorian Liberal Government under Ted Baillieu apologised to us, our offspring and the fathers, for the policies that led to our separation and finally committed to giving us the right to identifying information about our adult offspring. It was such a relief after the many years of struggle. Victoria had been the first state in Australia to legislate these rights for adoptees and it was the last to give them to us. Sadly, it came with a huge sting in the tail, allowing for a veto to be placed by any adopted person who didn’t want us to know their identity. The insult was profound, as it reinforced a view that we weren’t to be trusted with this information and that it wasn’t truly a ‘right’, except where our offspring allowed it to be so. By 2015 we once again had a Labour government and that odious veto was repealed. In light of all of that work, more than 40 years of it, by so very many people who fought so tenaciously for their rights, 18 months ago ARMS and Origins approached Daniel Andrews requesting that he assist us to create a memorial to the separation of our families. Although we offered to raise money to contribute, he most generously offered to fund the whole project. He stepped back and allowed us, the mothers, to create this visual representation of the core of our experience. We worked closely with our sculptor Ann Ross to develop an image that spoke for our experience. Ann has taken this commission and our cause to heart and has worked very closely with us to create a beautiful piece of art, which she very graciously consented to us naming. This is for us, so much more than a gift from the government. It is a tangible recognition that our children were ‘untimely ripped’ from us, destroying our first family and leaving us with a lasting trauma. It confirms that governments of Victoria, on behalf of the community, allowed unjust, cruel and illegal practices to be undertaken on their behalf. It is an ongoing statement that our truth is believed and that we were not given a choice in what happened to our children. It acknowledges us, and it acknowledges our offspring and the lifetime impact of adoption on them and us. It is a healing gesture and we thank Daniel Andrews and his government for their humanity in providing us with this place that is another step in ameliorating the wrongs of the past. I conclude with a slice of a poem by Mary Oliver – Wild Ducks You do not have to be good.You do not have to walk on your kneesfor a hundred miles through the desert repenting.You only have to let the soft animal of your bodylove what it loves.Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.Meanwhile the world goes on.

Memorial for the Separation of Mothers and their Children Melbourne Video link

Dec 7, 2018

See this video of the wonderful event in October. The unveiling of our memorial in Melbourne 2018.

Big Fertility.. It’s all about the money. Exposing the horrors of Surrogacy

Nov 15, 2018

We were hopeing to put the link for this film on to this article. This is well worth watching. Will keep trying to give everyone a link 

Unveiling of the Memorial statue in Melbourne 26th October 2018

Oct 28, 2018

Yesterday saw the unveiling by Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos, of the beautiful sculpture Taken Not Given, a memorial to separation by adoption. There were close to 200 people in attendance, including Senator Claire Moore & Senator Ged Kearney from the Federal Government, Danielle Green, Lizzie Blandthorn & Sue Pennicuik from the Victorian Government, former Premier Ted Baillieu, former MPs Christine Campbell & Rob Hudson and Lord Mayor Sally Capp. Plus many many representatives from different organisations, supporters, friends and family, all celebrating the culmination of ARMS and Origins' vision. ARMS and Origins have worked very hard since we presented this vision to Daniel Andrews early last year, who took the idea and ran with it. We are so grateful to the Victorian Government for doing this for us, and to the artist Anne Ross for creating such a beautiful work of art. A wonderfully moving event which will live in our hearts forever. Thank you to everyone who came, particularly those coming from regional areas and interstate, who helped make it such an amazing event. And thank you to those who were with us in spirit. This is not a memorial for one moment in time. The young mother is standing with an empty arm, depicting the baby she has lost. Her other arm is reaching out. However it is not just a baby that was lost, but a whole childhood, indeed perhaps a whole lifetime. This is represented by the toddler and the young girl, reaching or looking back to their mother but not touching. The children were not forgotten by us - there is always a connection, albeit fractured. The ripple effect of adoption is represented by the elements at the mother's feet. The words on the first element are: mother father our child ...for the rest of our lives. The second and third elements show the ripple effect of adoption and who it touches: cousins brothers sisters aunties uncles Grandchildren future partners husbands grandparents We hope that this will be a space where all people can come and reflect in peace, hope and tranquillity.

Anniversary of the Federal Apology for Forced Adoptions

Jun 23, 2018

If you missed the Commemoration of the Apology for Forced Adoptions by the Federal Govenment you can view it here. click the link below...  

Adjunct Professor Hon Nahum Mushin ‘s keynote address

Apr 2, 2018

Why Won't My Mother Meet Me?

Jul 31, 2017

This is an article for adoptees but it may also be an interesting and insightful read for Mothers as well. Have you ever wondered why you have negative feelings around meeting or planning to visit your lost child? Are you perplexed as to why the joy of at last seeing your child is clouded with anxiety and frustration.       click the link below to read this article.

National Apology - 21st March 2013

May 15, 2017

Many of our members attended the Apology in Canberra, the Melbourne screening and others watched it at home….see below for personal accounts. Commemorative MaterialsVideo footage of the day will be used to create a commemorative DVD. If you would like to be sent a copy of the DVD, an apology parchment, a commemorative lapel pin or an mp3 version of Mia Dyson’s song Jesse, please email your name and postal address to or call (02) 6141 3030. The Australian Governments Response to the Community Affairs Reference Committee Report: For Official Photos: Forced Adoptions Apology Team | Access to Justice DivisionAustralian Government Attorney-General’s DepartmentRobert Garran Offices | National Circuit | Barton ACT 2600Tel +61 2 6141 3030 | Fax +61 2 6141 3248 We are wanting to make flags (yes more) to donate to Canberra as part of our commemorative memorial for the apology. Please come along to our flag making sessions before each support group meeting to help out. We want to make a valid presentation of new flags. These will also be seen in the future by those who do not understand our present. FEDERAL APOLOGY - 21 March 2013I was there – a simple statement but it was a profoundly moving occasion. Over 1000 people packed the Great Hall in Canberra. We received Julia Gillard’s comprehensive, perfectly crafted and compassionately delivered Apology and responded with a standing ovation. Just before the Apology, a member of ARMS, who had attended alone, was tapped on the shoulder by her estranged daughter. They clung together with smiles and tears right throughout the day. Below is Joy’s speech for the Melbourne veiwing…… We applaud the Federal Government for their National apology today. It has been a long time coming and unfortunately, for many, it has come too late. For the rest of us – nothing can give us back the lives we could have lived – nothing can change the past – so now is the time to focus on the future A National Apology will finally acknowledge the truth of the cruel, often illegal past adoption practices that forcibly removed children from their mothers. It will also acknowledge that these mothers were denied their rights and in many cases, given no option but to sign adoption papers. These mothers always loved and wanted their children. We hope that this Apology will educate and bring understanding and change to the community and particularly all those touched by adoption. Nothing can change the past, but our loss and grief does change when acknowledged. We are hopeful that this Apology will bring healing, reunion and peace to the hearts and minds of all those separated by past adoption practices. To all those who have worked so hard for the last 30 years to bring about this apology I offer my heartfelt thanks for your strength, courage and determination to expose the truth.Thank YouJoy O’Connor

Arms Submission To The Victorian Law Reform Commission

May 11, 2017

Submission to Victorian Law Reform Commission – review of adoption laws from ARMS(Vic)ARMS(Vic)’s position is that adoption should no longer exist: there is no need for it under any circumstances.The rights of the child as outlined under the UN Convention are paramount and are not served by the continuation of adoption. Adoption serves adopters, not adoptees, by giving them legal ‘ownership’ of children. No-one has the ‘right’ to another person’s child. The notion of entitlement to a baby has to stop. Even if protection of a child is paramount and that child needs an alternative family, guardianship or stewardship are preferable to adoption. Adoption has always been seen as a “prize” by those who are unable to give birth to their own children. Custody orders and guardianship orders should be seen like adoption – these orders should also be seen as the ‘prize’. People think of permanent care or foster care as second best or not secure enough, but an adoption order should never be preferred over a permanent care order.If we reframed permanency, the people wishing to provide this kind of care would see it in a different frame. We would look for people who can commit emotionally to caring for a child for the rest of their life while accepting that the child still has another family.Adoption is not a static concept. It follows a child throughout their lifetime and this needs to be considered in any legislative reforms.There needs to be a presumption of ongoing engagement in a meaningful way to support the families involved in an adoption.In the past 20 years, adoption has been talked about in a completely different way, but the status of adoption lasts for a lifetime. We have to think about how we ameliorate that position. How can we talk about being raised by people other than your natural family in a way that will make people feel a sense of comfort?Adoption severs the child’s connection to its family of origin which has been shown to have disastrous consequences for adoptees, and certainly for the mothers. It legally removes the child’s right to its family, culture and heritage; creates a new (false) identity and birth certificate for the child; declares the lie that the adopters are the parents as if the child were born to them. It has been widely acknowledged that many adopted people feel a disconnect and identity confusion. Adoption is a status that affects an adoptee when they are a child and at all stages of their life. This status stays with them and makes them different. Cultural norms will make a set of assumptions about a person who has been adopted as a result of that status. In an article in The Age in 1993 Louise Bellamy reported that Brother Alex McDonald, a Jesuit who has worked with homeless young people in St Kilda for 10 years, says of the 147 suicides of young people caused by drugs and abuse in the area over the past decade, 142 came from adoption backgrounds. In 1998 an adoptive mother, whose adopted son had committed suicide, wrote to Woman’s Day asking to hear from parents who had lost an adopted child to suicide. She received 186 letters.When ARMS Vic first articulated the idea of open adoption in the 1980s, the proposal we put forward was that instead of adoption, people could be appointed as a guardian and have a custody order that lasted a lifetime, not just until a child turns 18. However this was opposed by adoptive parents.ARMS Vic went back to the drawing board, and our fall-back position was open adoption. It took a long time to get adoption agencies on board. The agencies were in a difficult spot – they’d lined up babies for infertile couples and their clients were not prepared for open adoption. The education program was re-designed, but the social workers and people in the department didn’t always accept it.When the first open adoptions went through the County Court, the judges narrowed contact opportunities for the natural parents to 4 visits a year. This was never intended in the Act but the 4 visits per year arose out of judicial decisions and was later included in the Regulations.Open adoption is not working. Children can be manipulated not to see their natural parents, adoptive families can move interstate or overseas. There is no legal power for natural parents to insist that contact continue.ARMS (Vic) would argue strongly that adoptive parents are not well-prepared for placement of a child into an open adoption and that the picture often given to them is that this can be minimised: it’s only 4 times a year and if the child’s sick they don’t need to visit. They hear this from other adoptive parents.Once a child gets to an age when they’re asking the hard questions (around 4-6 years old) then all of a sudden the excuses are made by adoptive parents to miss contact dates: the child is too sick to see the natural mother; the child becomes upset after the contact; something else comes up; it’s a constant pattern. The openness starts closing. If we prepared adoptive parents for contact it would be very different. If there were more contact there would be more familiarity and less fear and insecurity.Adoption legislation needs to be changed to enable adoptions to create a new legal relationship while retaining recognition of the relationship with the family of origin. This principle is applied in adoption in countries such as France, Ethiopia and Thailand and called ‘simple adoption’.Any placement has to protect the natural and adoptive families’ relationship which needs to be supported by professionals.Best interests principles in the ActARMS (Vic) believe there should be guidance in the Adoption Act and the best interests of a child should be paramount. These principles should apply to the adoptee for their whole life and not just for the period of time concerned with the adoption arrangement.The best interests of the child should be weighted according to the following order:Extended family: if extended family is available then the wishes of parents and whether any kinship care is available is first priorityAlternatives: look at the alternatives to adoptionSiblings: siblings should always remain together.There should be principles in the Act that acknowledge the value of adoption, that it means permanency ‘these are your parents for life’. Principles should also acknowledge the value of meaningful contact between a child and their natural parents. IdentityEven if adoption were to continue there is no reason to change a child’s name. This takes away a child’s identity. Adoptive parents can obviously call the child by another name if that’s what they want to do, but if a child’s name is not changed legally, the child will still hold a sense of their identity in a meaningful way. It’s about identity and connection. Changing an adopted child’s name harks back to the ‘clean slate’ and ‘clean break’ theories. These have both been shown to be erroneous. Even if an adoptive parent has always wanted to name their first child after their grandmother, this child they have brought into their family already has a name (ironically perhaps even due to the same reason) which is part of that child’s identity. We respect the right of others to parent a child but they have no right to change that child’s identity.Birth certificatesBirth certificates are legal, identifying documents and as such need to be truthful. Current birth certificates for adopted people are not. They state that the child’s name is something other than that given to them when they were born; it names the adoptive parents as if the child were born to them. There is some debate about what adoptees’ birth certificates should look like. While keeping in mind that adopted people have more right to speak about birth certificates, the bottom line is that they need to be truthful. This truth needs to be told while considering the feelings and sensitivities of those involved. ARMS(Vic) believes that the original birth certificate should be used as the formal identification for the child with full legal status and a parenting or adoption certificate used by the adopters, as is done with guardianship. The problem with integrated birth certificates is that they would look completely different from the usual birth certificates and could therefore invite unwanted comment and scrutiny. It contains the adoptee’s personal information that not everyone needs to know. The fact that a person is adopted would in most cases be irrelevant to the reason for the birth certificate needing to be shown. We need to be sensitive to their feelings.As if born toThere is no need to say “as if born to” in legislation as that is obviously part of their parental rights, duties, obligations and liabilities. Adding “as if born to” is superfluous and creates a false impression in the minds of the adoptive parents. This is a legal and actual lie. The law should not support this lie. How we describe adoption is important. The reality is that they are parenting another family’s child and the relationship will never be “as if born to”.JurisdictionAdoptions should be under the jurisdiction of the Family Court, not the County Court as is currently the case. Adoption is a family matter, whether it is a new baby being adopted or a child coming through the Child Protection system. All parties need to have independent legal representation. Considering the fact that a woman would have legal representation if she were buying a house, it is ludicrous that this does not happen when she is giving her baby up for adoption. Currently the adopters may have legal representation but there is no mention of the mother even being there at the time of finalising the adoption, let alone having legal representation. The mother should have legal representation before giving consent right through to the legalisation of the adoption and final consent should be made in front of a judge. Currently the adoptive parents go to court, but there is no mention of the mother, who is not a party in proceedings. This assumes that a child’s interests are not in some way served by their natural family. ConsentIt is very hard to find a reason why we would dispense with consent.P.29 3.62 ‘the County Court decides to dispense with the need for…consent’. This opens the door to a new wave of forced adoptions. Troubled families must resolve their problems within 12 months or their in care children will be placed for adoption. There are often insufficient services (rehab, housing, anger management, etc.) available within the short time frame mandated.The consent revocation period needs to be longer. Currently the revocation period is up to 6 weeks after the birth. This is too short, in particular given the mother’s position of emotional distress. The person giving consent must have received counselling from an approved counsellor as well as receive independent legal advice. The approved counsellor should not be from the adoption agency and the legal representative needs to be someone with specific training in adoption, not just any lawyer. We would advocate that for infant adoption the consent period should be extended to 6 months and the baby placed in pre-adoptive foster care or with potential adoptive parents for that time. Consent should be given from the mother and father where possible/appropriate. The consent should be able to be withdrawn any time during the 6 months.A natural parent must be a party to the adoption order. This should be articulated in legislation: although they’re giving consent they’re still a party and can enact their right to contact. It shouldn’t come as a shock to the adoptive parents or the agency when a natural mother realises she no longer wants to put her child with a family who are not allowing contact.There should be legal support at the consent period when the natural mother can tell contact arrangements will not work due to the attitude of the prospective adoptive parents.Agencies often do not tell the natural mother that her wishes need to go in the adoption order for them to have any legal weight, so natural mothers often don’t know they need to go to court and are not represented. Therefore adoptive parents are completely within their legal rights to deny contact, albeit it morally wrong. This shows the necessity for legal representation for the natural mother.Consent should be required from both the mother and father if appropriate and possible (unless there is for example violence, incest, rape). Unless there are serious reasons why it shouldn’t happen, the father and/or his extended family should have the opportunity to keep the child.If it’s an infant adoption, currently the principal officer has up to within 2 days of consent being given to write to the father if he’s known. That is far too late. If we’re realistic that child’s interests are being best served when raised with the natural family, why wait two days after the child is placed in non-biological placement? He should be contacted as early as possible in the process, with the above exceptions.We allocate a status to the mother which is clearly different from the status of the father. The father should be involved from the moment the mother decides she wants to give up her baby. We know there are plenty of fathers (in past adoptions) who would have had a different response or weren’t allowed to be involved.Wishes of extended family should also be taken into consideration particularly if they are in a position to care for the child or to have an ongoing relationship with the child. There would be many instances of extended family members who would be willing to provide kinship care, which is placed above adoption in the 2015 reforms to the Victorian Child Protection laws. Adoption not only severs any legal relationship between the child and his/her parents, but also siblings, grandparents and other extended family.If a severely disabled woman is about to give birth and it will be difficult for her to care for the baby then the legal guardian should be consulted. If you have a special needs parent the legal guardian is in loco parentis and their consent should be sought. Additionally they could be asked if they would be prepared to care for the baby themselves. This would facilitate the child having meaningful ongoing contact with their father and family. Under the Hague Convention the child has the right to be raised in their natural familyQuestion 9 asks: Are the grounds for dispensing with consent appropriate in contemporary Victoria?The question is really: if consent needs to be dispensed with, why adoption rather than any other care option?Concerning the issue of a court being able to put conditions on an adoption in a broader range of circumstances if it is the best interests of the child (Question 10), the conditions should be broader than those in the question in that there should be a presumption of contact between the two families. It is always desirable for the child to have contact with the family. Adopters should not be asked to agree that an adoption order be made subject to certain conditions – it should be the mother’s right to include conditions. The issue of consent having been given but the adoptive parents and the mother giving consent have not agreed about contact or exchanging information about the child illustrate the importance of the need for legal representation for the mother, thus minimising the possibility of this occurring. Adoption agenciesNon-government agencies are usually religion-based which does not provide a neutral starting point. Often judgments are informed by unconscious values. There are common assumptions that two parents are always better than one and heterosexual couples are better. If an agency is of the view that contraception should not be allowed, these views impose a way of engagement that doesn’t necessarily meet the interests of a woman, making counselling and support options within the agency redundant.We’re in a modern era and this means same-sex couples, children across a range of families and donor gametes. The concept of ‘family’ is changing and religion-based agencies need to take this on board. It can be difficult for them to change their long-held beliefs and views, which is why there should be a neutral body such as an ethics committee overseeing these processes and delivering this kind of service. This would enable a different picture in a permanency environment. Permanency is a different language and has a different cultural history and environment than adoption.Of great concern to ARMS is the advertising of children for adoption on Barnardos NSW’s website and FaceBook page. This is commodification of children, even if they do use models and not the actual children they wish to place in adoption.Victoria needs to be very wary of going down the path of the NSW adoption model where adoption is seen as a quick fix for infertile couples and a financial saving to the Government when a child is moved from foster care (which is paid) to adoption.On the other hand, Queensland is trialling a guardianship model where they ask couples not to adopt, called “Open Homes”.FundingA major problem of the current system is the funding cuts and under staffing of Government agencies such as FIND and BDM resulting in long waiting time for interviews, searches, etc, There is currently a 6 month waiting list at FIND even though recent legislation mandated that searches should be resolved within 8 weeks. There were 860 applications for searches through FIND in 2015/16 compared with 400 – 500 in previous years. Funding must be improved as a major priority.Post placement supportSupport can make a significant difference to a placement – currently adoptive families are given a baby and are expected to get on with it. There needs to be a lot of support around a family for a long period, including when the child becomes an adolescent and other points in their life and on-going on a needs basis. There needs to be proactive and ongoing engagement with families. The agency needs to see it as their role to stay involved with a family.There are some circumstances where a natural family is unable to manage a child and we should respond to this not with something that results in a long-term catastrophic outcome for the mother,(ie. adoption) but rather by doing something that will allow the mother to have knowledge and access.Support should be provided at all stages and should not just be reactive, but proactive. There needs to be an ongoing commitment so that agencies remain involved. An agency’s role should be involvement with the whole family. There needs to be a presumption of ongoing engagement in a meaningful way to support the families.Adoptive parents may be hesitant to ask for support because they will worry that the agencies will not think they are good enough.The natural mother, her family and the father all need ongoing support.Also there would be a number of prospective adoptive parents who wouldn’t have come to the terms with the grief of not having their own babies. This could be an ongoing grief which plays a part in their parenting and they need to be helped with it.Agencies also need to stay involved to ensure that contact orders are meaningful and adhered to.SiblingsEvery effort must be made to place siblings together, particularly if they are placed at the same time. If a family can’t take the brother or sister then that family shouldn’t be given either sibling.If, down the track, the natural parents have another baby and the adoptive family can’t take it then there needs to be contact. This is critically important and should be established from the very beginning.If it is impossible to place them together they must have contact with each other and with their original family.If a woman receives an adopted baby it should be at least 12 months before she receives another. However if the adopted child is older and his/her sibling becomes available for adoption then the priority is sibling unification. Access to informationChildren under 18 should be entitled to information about their natural families. If we have open adoptions then a child must know their natural family. A child has a right to identifying information about their natural family at all stages of their life and should definitely NOT have to ask the adoptive parents’ agreement.If the child is in an open adoption there should never have been any secrecy, as was the case during the forced adoption period. Adoptive parents have no right to withhold information about a child’s original family nor to keep information about the child from the natural parents, except in cases of safety as outlined in Consent. Natural parents should be notified if the adult child of an adopted person is seeking to receive identifying information about them and it needs to be monitored very carefully.In summary:While ARMS (Vic) is open to the possibility that there are benefits in placing a child outside of their natural family, the question becomes: ‘do you make that placement an adoption placement?’ If adoption includes ‘guardianship’ decisions we would make (about schooling, religion etc) and ‘custody’ decisions, then those are responsibilities that flow out of the legislative underpinning we need to provide to a couple to take care of a child.If we no longer have secrecy as the baseline of adoption and support contact with the original family, it is still better for mental health and identity (even in the worst case scenario) not to have adoption. Having a law that provides for openness and contact is not a sufficient reason for putting this child in another family and saying the law is as if that the child was born to them..  

Dear Adoption I Thought I Knew You

May 11, 2017 Jessica Sun Lee grew up as the sole adoptee of a large white Ameerican family. This is her article.

Insight Show On Forgotten Fathers - SBS - June 2016

May 11, 2017

For those who missed the show here is a link:

ISS Develop Hand Book To Assist Those Coping With Illegal Inter-Country Adoptions

May 11, 2017

This link is interesting reading Unfortunately the link that we had to this handbook is no longer working. If anyone comes accross a new link please notify us .

A New Play - We Would Like To See It Showing

May 11, 2017

Stainless: A Cry from the Heart Multi award winning actor Maggie Millar is coming out of semi-retirement, where she has concentrated on her painting and occasional readings, to appear in a play specially written for her by her friend author Jane Hyde.The inspiration for the work comes from Millar’s own extraordinary life.The play entitled Stainless is a heart rending story of the ongoing repercussions of the premature and permanent separation of mother and child in the adoption process and the pitiless and cruel treatment of women who transgressed the strict sexual mores of what Hyde has called the age of shame. Hyde however is too good a writer to concentrate only on the tragic elements inherent in the story. In describing the first performance of the play she said “there was laughter among the tears, but overall the audience were deeply moved.”Millar will be known to theatre lovers for her appearances with the Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse and La Mama. She has also appeared in a number of Television Series including The Sullivans, Bellbird, All The Way, Prisoner and Neighbours.An award winning student and Honours Graduate of the prestigious royal Academy of Dramatic At in London, she has appeared with Vivien Leigh, Patrick Stewart, Meryl Streep, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jacki Weaver among many other well known performers.There will be a reading of Stainless on Sunday 23rd July at La Mama’s Courthouse Theatre in Carlton at 2pm. Theatre lovers, those affected by the adoption process, and those working as therapists among the adoption community should not miss this rare opportunity to see an award winning actor performing in a stunning and insightful piece of theatre

Obituary for Anne Sullivan

May 11, 2017  


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