150,000 women still alive of the 300,000 women who had their babies kidnapped by Australian state and church authorities today call for an immediate National Inquiry into past adoption practices to obtain justice, accountability and compensation.
The call comes from Origins Incorporated Supporting Those Separated By Adoption on the eve of the showing of the SBS documentary, Gone to a Good Home:
Storyline Australia: “Gone to a Good Home” screened on Thursday 9 November at 8.30pm on SBS.
“Gone to a Good Home” tells the story of Lily McDonald, now Mrs Lily Arthur, who in 1967 was awoken in the middle of the night by police and taken into custody – because she was 6 weeks pregnant. Lily’s nightmare story and others equally terrible happened to a further 150,000 women alive in Australia today.
Now, Origins members are calling for accountability.
“We were fed into an illegal system – illegal at the time.” In evidence given to the NSW Adoption Inquiry “Releasing the Past” (2000) Justice Richard Chisholm described the practice of forbidding a mother from seeing the baby she had just given birth to as ‘technically kidnapping’. “In my case this theft was accomplished by tying me down, filling me full of cancer causing seditative drugs and by using pillows or sheets as a screen to hide my son from me,” Mrs Arthur says.
Mrs Arthur was kept drugged and was threatened by social workers until the 17 year old signed an adoption consent. She was discharged from hospital but returned to the ‘care’ of the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane. Lily was incarcerated there until the statutory 30 day period (during which she had a right to revoke her consent to the adoption) was over.
“It is important not to hide behind ‘the standards of the day’ argument,” Mrs Arthur says. “In 1965 at a national conference of social workers Mary Lewis of the Catholic Welfare Agency stated:
‘Many agencies in this country have illegal, punitive and harmful
practices when it comes to a mothers inalienable right to have
contact with her child’. The medical and social work professions knew full well that the practices that ‘they’ introduced not only would have the potential to cause mental heath damage but that they were also illegal.
“After a long struggle we ‘Stolen Mothers’ understand the legal breaches that occurred. They include, kidnapping, common assault, conspiracy and other criminal offences,” (a fuller list appears below) Mrs Arthur said.
Origins today calls for a National Inquiry to determine the extent of the crimes committed against mothers and children.
In addition Origins asks:
- That the States accept full accountability for their unlawful practices
- That the health service acknowledge, research and fund information of mental health affects of adoption separation
- That the health services fund conferences to promote awareness of mental health issues of both indigenous and non indigenous person affect by adoption separation and removal.
- That research should be conducted into the penal system and the over-representation of persons affected by adoption and removal.
- That the churches acknowledge their role in illegal practices, and accept full accountability
- That adequate compensation be provided both to ‘stolen mothers’ and ‘stolen children’ to enable them to manage health issues arising from the adoption experience.
The adoption survivors’ organisation is increasingly concerned with the health of the (now grown) adopted-out children. “Our children’s mental and physical suffering is the tip of a very nasty iceberg,” Mrs Arthur says. “Upon reunion we mothers have found an astounding level of emotional neglect, violence against, psychological and sexual abuse of our children from infancy and beyond.” The suicide rate amongst adoptees is high.
Origins welcomes yesterday’s statement by women’s advocate Melinda Tankard Reist that “those who relinquish their children for adoption suffer terrible grief. We cannot ‘disappear’ this central human experience.” (‘Motherhood deals risk deeper anguish’, SMH, 8 Nov. 2006). A list of clinical reactions appears below.
Mrs Arthur believes that Australians should be wary of calls for “the rights of the child”, “the stablility of the family and society” or “the child’s best interests” when it comes to adoption. “It was about ‘social clearing’ – eugenics,” Mrs Arthur says. “Unmarried mothers were classified as ‘retarded’ – to justify the theft of our children – who were then given to the infertile (but sexually active!) middle classes.
“My son and all of our sons and daughters – all ‘Gone to a Good Home’.”
A short list of crimes committed against Stolen Mothers and Children:
1. Denying mothers all knowledge of their legal rights and options.
Ultra Vires Law. Breach of Duty of Care. Unconscionable Behaviour. Breach of Statutory Law. Element of Conspiracy to Defraud.
2. Forbidding mothers to leave the hospital until their records were marked with the term “socially cleared” indicating that they could only leave the hospital after they had signed a consent.
Unconscionable Behaviour, Ultra Vires Law, Conspiracy, Duress, Fraudulent
3. Introducing the inhumane practice of forbidding mothers eye contact with her child to prevent bonding, resulting in violent trauma to both the psyche of mother and child.
Violation of Human Rights. Breach of Duty of Care. Unconscionable Behaviour.
4. Promoting adoption rather than warning mothers of the potential harm such a course of action may cause them.
Breach of Duty, Unconscionable Behaviour, Breach of Statutory Law.
5. Violently interfering in the primal act of birthing procedure, snatching infants from the mother’s wombs before birth was complete, whilst bound in stirrups and awaiting the expulsion of the placenta.
Unconscionable Behaviour. Ultra Vires Law. Element of Conspiracy to Defraud. Violation of Human Rights.
6. Preventing lactation by using the synthetic hormone Stilboestrol, known to be carcinogenic since 1971, or by the method of breast binding, all without written consent.
Common Assault. Trespass to the Person. Violation of Natural Law. Violation of Human Rights. Unconscionable Behaviour.
7. Sedating mothers during labour with what was known as lytic cocktails (used medically to obliterate feelings). These cocktails consisted of Phenobarbitone, Pethidine, Sparine, and Largactyl. Post-Hypnotic memory altering barbiturates such as Phenobarbitol, Sodium Amytil, Methadone, Heroin and Chloral Hydrate.
Criminal offence under s38 of the Crimes Act, Unconscionable Behaviour,
Conspiracy to Defraud.
8. Hiding child within the confines of the hospital and denying mothers free access to their babies although she was the sole Legal Guardian of their child.
Conspiracy to Defraud, Criminal offence under s91. Taking child with intent to steal. Violation of Statutory Law. Violation of Human Rights. Violation of
Natural Law. Breach of Duty. S.90A Kidnapping.
9. Transporting mothers by ambulance, whilst heavily sedated to different hospitals without their babies, and without their permission.
False Imprisonment (common law offence), Element of Conspiracy to Defraud.
10. Taking unenforceable (and therefore invalid) consent from a minor consent only becoming valid at the age of majority which was 21years of age, reducing in the early 1970s to 18 years.
Fraud. Unconscionable Behaviour. Ultra Vires Law.
11. Prevent mothers their legal right of revocation within her legally permitted time by advising them their child had already been adopted when it had only been placed in an interim placement that was not legally binding.
Element of Conspiracy to Defraud, Unconscionable Behaviour, Ultra Vires Law.
12. Marketing the healthy white newborn baby.
Ultra Vires Law, Unconscionable Behaviour.
Mental Health effects of forced adoptions
Psychiatric observations of the type of damage caused by adoption separation and its practices by Child Psychiatrist and adoption expert Dr Geoffrey Rickarby are as follows:
- Pathological Grief.
- Personality damage associated with the defences used against grief, against post traumatic stress phenomena and against depressive decompensation.
- Personality damage associated with the isolation of the birth experience and the loss of the baby, where this is a secret and there is no significant other to share the feelings and unresolved issues associated with the loss.
- Axis 1 Psychiatric Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Major Depression
- Dissociative Disorder
- Panic Disorder (and other anxiety disorders)
- Situational Stress Disorder (often associated with reunion)
- Alcohol Dependent Disorder
- Prescription Drug Dependent Disorder
- There are other drug dependent disorders which are uncommon among these mothers.
Rickarby includes personality damage associated with psychiatric illness as a sequel to loss of a baby to adoption, personality damage associated with long term Pathological Grief, aggravation and precipitation of a wide variety of physical illness which are related to stress, disorder and incapacity in human relationships, educational failure and poor employment status, failure of bonding to other babies, as being additional consequences to the experience of adoption practice and separation. 23
G.A.Rickarby MB BS FRANZCP Member.of the Faculty of Child Psychiatry RANZCP MANZAP
Consultant Psych The New South Wales Parliament, Standing Committee on Social Issues Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices, Interim Report.