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Apology for Forced Adoptions

This content contains information about abuse that may be distressing.

On 21 March 2013 Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered an apology on behalf of the nation to Australians affected by forced adoption and removal practices between 1950 and 1975.

After the event in the Great Hall, motions of apology were moved in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

A copy of the Apology is on permanent display at Parliament House.

The Hon Julia Gillard AC (born 1961, signatory), Gemma Black (born 1956, calligrapher), National Apology for Forced Adoptions (facsimile), 2013. Facsimile courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. This original document is part of the National Archives of Australia Forced Adoptions National Apology Collection.

The apology was a recommendation of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into the Commonwealth's contribution to past forced adoption policies and practices.

Its 2012 report, Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices, found the policies and practices that resulted in forced adoptions and the removal of children of single mothers were widespread throughout Australia. The inquiry received 418 submissions from victims and survivors. While adoptions were common in the post war period to the 1970s, it was not possible to estimate the number of forced adoptions which took place. However, Committee concluded it to be ‘incontrovertible that forced adoption was common’:

It occurred when children were given up for adoption because their parents, particularly their mothers, were forced to relinquish them or faced circumstances in which they were left with no other choice. …

There were many different ways in which forced adoption occurred. … [A]ccounts ranged from experiences of being physically shackled to beds, to social workers failing to advise mothers of government payments that may have been available to support them to keep their child. Some people who were adopted as a result of forced adoption, and who gave evidence to this inquiry, reported painful childhoods living with their adopted families, sometimes including experiences of abuse.1

The Apology was offered as a significant step in the healing process for those affected and increased community understanding of the lifelong effects that many adoptees continue to live with.

We offer this apology in the hope that it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation’s history.
To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now. We acknowledge that many of you have suffered in silence for far too long.
The Hon Julia Gillard, 21 March 2013

1. Community Affairs References Committee, Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices, 2012, p. 4.

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Reproduction on display

Presiding Officers’ Exhibition Area, level 1

Watch the Apology ceremony
Read the full transcript of the Apology

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