On Wednesday the 27th of November Post Adoption Support Queensland conducted a wonderful gathering to mark a significant event. The 7th anniversary of the Queensland Government Apology for past forced adoption policies and practices.
Benevolent Society – Post Adoption Services Queensland
My natural Mother and I had the honour of speaking at the event to share our story of reunion.
We would both like to thank all involved – PASQ in particular for thinking of us in the first place, giving us the opportunities to tell different parts of our stories.
Special mention for their support – Chris Mundy, Cathy Clancy, Katharine McLean
For forced adoption policies and practices
27 November 2012
Today this Legislative Assembly acknowledges the wrongs that have been inflicted by past forced adoption policies and practices in Queensland. We acknowledge those who were denied the choice of parenthood, especially the mothers, as well as the fathers and other generations of their families.
To the mothers whose babies were taken and hidden from them, and who were misled, deceived, threatened or forced to relinquish their babies, we say sorry. You were denied a voice, dignity and care and, in many cases, the fulfilment of your pregnancy was turned into anguish. We regret the untruths that were told to you and about you, and any illegal acts that were perpetrated upon you. Today we say that you need not suffer in silence any more.
To the sons and daughters taken from their mothers, we also say sorry and express our deep regret for the trauma that many of you have suffered. We acknowledge that you were denied the right to experience the bonds between you and your natural mother, father, siblings and other family members because of the practices that took place at the time of your birth. We know that for many of you this has caused immeasurable pain.
We acknowledge that this experience has impacted on the lives of fathers, siblings and other family members and to them we are sorry. We acknowledge also the partners, children and others who have supported their loved ones over the years in coping with the grief they endure.
This Legislative Assembly offers its unreserved and sincere apology to all those families forcibly and unlawfully broken apart by these past practices and we acknowledge that your pain and suffering continues. We acknowledge the shame, guilt and secrecy carried by many for too long in silence, and that when it was expressed often it has not been believed.
Today, in this Legislative Assembly, we place on the record for future generations and say to all those affected, you have been heard, you are believed and you are not to blame. We will continue to listen to, work with, and support you to heal and we are committed to ensuring these policies and practices are not forgotten and are never repeated.
To all those affected we say sorry.
Leading up to the event we were interviewed by Rebecca Levingston – ABC Radio Brisbane
And we were also interviewed for an article in the Courier-Mail
Courier Mail story published 23/11/19 …
Queenslanders are still feeling the pain of forced adoptions
Michael Madigan, The Courier-Mail
EVERY evening Lesley Mitchell relishes the chance to say “’good night son’’ to the little boy she was forced to give up for adoption 47 years ago.
“We chat almost every day, and at least reach out every night just to say good night,’’ Mitchell said this week as she prepared to mark the seventh anniversary of the Queensland Government’s Apology for Forced Adoption Policies and Practices.
“That’s something I never thought I’d have the privilege of doing. Just a simple ‘good night son’ makes all the difference to me.’’
The seventh anniversary will be marked this Wednesday with a special ceremony and morning tea event starting at 9.30am at the Forced Adoption Apology Memorial Site in the Roma Street Parkland.
Lesley Mitchell and son Shane who were forced apart by adoption but are now reunited.
The event is being co-ordinated by the Queensland Post Adoption Working Committee comprising of The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Support Queensland (PASQ), ALAS Adoption Loss Adult Support Inc, the Association for Adoptees Inc, Jigsaw Queensland, Origins Queensland and Adoption and Permanent Care Services Queensland.
It was on November 27, 2012 that the then Queensland premier, Campbell Newman, delivered a powerful apology to the mothers who suffered under forced adoption policies.
“To the mothers whose babies were taken and hidden from them, and who were misled, deceived, threatened or forced to relinquish their babies, we say sorry,’’ Newman told the Queensland Parliament.
“You were denied a voice, dignity and care and, in many cases, the fulfilment of your pregnancy was turned into anguish.
“We regret the untruths that were told to you and about you, and any illegal acts that were perpetrated upon you.
Lesley Mitchell, who was a victim of forced adoption.
“Today we say that you need not suffer in silence any more.’’
The silence may have ended but, for many, the suffering continues.
It is difficult for many in 2019 to believe, but until the Supporting Mother’s Benefit was introduced in Australia in 1973 it was common for unwed mothers to be forced to adopt out their child.
A 2010 report to the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs found forced adoption had lifelong consequences for women, their children and extended family members.
Yet, with national statistics only compiled from 1969-70 onwards, it is difficult to reliably calculate the total number of adoptions which have occurred across Australia.
Since 1969, rates of adoption of Australian-born children by non-related persons was highest in 1970-71 with a rapid decline through to the early 1990s before stabilising.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies now reports that one in 15 Australians are affected in some way by the past practices of closed adoption.
“We know that many past adoption policies and practices continue to impact people’s lives today,” said Katharine McLean, The Benevolent Society’s Team Leader of Child and Family Services Brisbane North.
Premier Campbell Newman signs the official apology at parliament house. Picture: Jono Searle
“Acknowledging these mothers, fathers, adopted people, and other family members is important.
“Our event offers them an opportunity to commemorate the State Government Apology and continue their journey towards wholeness and healing.”
Mitchell, who became pregnant in 1971 and gave birth to Shane in early 1972, had just turned 19 when she learnt she was to become a mother.
“I had just turned 19, and my mother was already struggling to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table,’’ she recalled.
Through her pregnancy there was never the slightest hint she could keep her baby but there was also no offer of assistance or support.
“Friends donated food, and literally on a regular basis another piece of furniture was sold including my mother’s beloved piano.’’
After her baby Shane was taken away she was told he was ill, leaving her to wonder if he had lived or died.
She preferred to believe he was living the “perfect life out there, with a mother and father who could provide him with so much more than I could.’’
“I never searched for Shane,’’ she said.
The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Support Queensland team leader Katharine McLean.
“Mothers had been told that we had no right to search for our children, and no right to upset their perfect lives.’’
Mitchell was ordered to sign “relinquishment papers’’ but not asked to read them, nor asked if she understood them.
She actually found out 70 days after the birth that she had 30 days to change her mind, but that was never properly explained.
“I never received copies of any of those papers, no lawyer was present, nor was I advised of my legal rights to sign or not to sign.
“I did not willingly ‘surrender’, ‘relinquish’ or ‘give away’ my son.
“I received no counselling, advocacy or alternative choices.’’
MISSING PUZZLE PIECE
Her son, Shane Bouel, contacted Jigsaw Queensland in 2016 in an attempt to find his mum.
“Once I had an address I wrote a letter and couldn’t wait for a posted letter to arrive so my partner Tracy and I hand-delivered it,’’ Bouel recalls.
“Lesley was not home at the time and she contacted me on messenger a day or two later. ‘’
It was an early morning Monday of a long weekend when the message came through and he was a “raging mess.’’
Report of the Forced Adoptions Inquiry press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.
“I couldn’t operate my device I was in such a state. Tracy read the message to me, there were tears everywhere followed by lots of jumping up and down on the bed.
“We met the next day – I couldn’t wait. We drove up to the Grand View Hotel in Cleveland after work.
“When we first made eye contact there were instant tears, we held each other without a word for probably 15 to 20 minutes before we
Bouel readily acknowledges reunions of those separated by adoption are not always plain sailing, and he and Mitchell must work actively on the relationship.
“Truthfully it was hard, but we made a pact early on to be open and discuss things through, helping each other heal is a priority.
“There is no preparation, no playbook for how to handle these situations.’’
Openness and determination for both parties is essential and Bouel suspects more troubled reunions might stem from a failure to “come together at the right time with the right mindset.’’
The pair now contact each other daily, and work through the grieving process.
“Society, in general, has no idea of the loss that is experienced from adoption,’’ says Bouel.
“When people lose their way in the process the ensuing psychological and emotional upheaval can be too much to bear, leaving people unprepared, unsupported and out in the cold once again.’’
PM Julia Gillard is mobbed as she leaves the Great Hall after delivering a National Apology on Forced Adoption at Parliament House in Canberra.
Organisations like The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Support Queensland are now a point of reference for those people who want to reconnect with those separated by adoption.
As the then-premier Campbell Newman said seven years ago, “you have been heard, you are believed and you are not to blame.’’
“We will continue to listen to, work with, and support you to heal and we are committed to ensuring these policies and practices are not forgotten and are never repeated.’’
Post Adoption Support Queensland can be contacted via 07 3170 4600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org