I live in Australia and, since my last blog post, our Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a national apology on behalf of the Australian Government to parents and children affected by forced adoption practices in Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s. At that point in Australia’s history, unmarried mothers were expected to relinquish their children, moments after birth, for adoption by married couples. According to the stories of affected parents detailed within the senate report, many mothers unwilling to relinquish their child were forcibly separated from their newborn baby through bullying and threats, by being tricked into signing the adoption form, by being drugged moments after birth, by being physically restrained and by being deceived into believing that their baby was stillborn. Bullying, threats and deceit were also used to separate babies from fathers and grandparents keen to provide the newborn with a loving home. Australian hospitals, charitable organisations and police were complicit in these practices. The apology received bipartisan support. As our Prime Minister herself said in her speech, the forced adoption practices were brutal, unethical, dishonest and, in many cases, they were also criminal. I cannot begin to understand the full repercussions of these acts for the parents, for their wider family and, of course, for the children themselves. Merely contemplating the scenario of having my child forcibly removed shakes me to the very core. It is no exaggeration to say that physical torture would be preferable. These were acts of unspeakable horror.
To the victims, the parents, children and families, I hope that you find peace and I hope that you receive the assistance and support that you need to do so.
There is a lesson in this for all parents. Consider this; how did such acts of horror come about in a liberal democracy such as Australia? Think for a moment about all the ordinary Australians who must have been involved, in one way or another, in enacting and supporting such practices. Many of those involved were likely good and decent people in many aspects of their lives — ordinary people — and here is the real horror — many of them must have been parents themselves. In her speech Julia Gillard spoke of “the bullying arrogance of a society that presumed to know what was best”. It is easy for us to understand that evil people do evil things but it is hard for us to truly appreciate that horrors may also be perpetrated by ordinary people who think that they are right. Yet we must. It is the only way to prevent such horrors occurring. I can see a “bullying arrogance” at times in our society today. If I am honest, there are times when I can see a “bullying arrogance” within myself. I find it in:
- the temptation to judge another parent on the basis of a momentary interaction without any knowledge of them, their unique situation or their child
- the smug voice that whispers in my head, “Oh I would never do that with my child”…
- the ludicrous assumption that all parents should share my own values and priorities
- the ridiculous instinct to blame parents without any consideration for differences in circumstances, fortune or children
- the self-satisfied mind chatter that pronounces the challenges that other parents face as easily solved (it is always easy to solve other people’s problems, isn’t it?)
- the false assumption that the concerns, pains and joys of childhood are trivial and unimportant
- the selfish tendency to dismiss the protests of a baby or young child because they are unable to clearly advocate for themselves and it is assumed that adults always know best
I want to recognise this insidious arrogance for what it is so that I am not tempted to act on it. Instead, I want to do what I can to contribute to a world in which:
- parents are supported
- the parent-child bond is valued and cherished
- the diversity of families, parents and children are celebrated
- all children live free of abuse and neglect, secure in loving bonds with family
- the needs of children, the genuine needs of children, come first
- the happiness of children is treasured
I want to stand, hand in hand, with other parents in defending not just my relationship with my child but also your relationship with your child, not just my child’s rights but your child’s rights. Because united we stand…
Apply it to your life:
Can you see a “bullying arrogance” within society today at times? Can you see it within yourself at times? How do you support other parents?
For more information on forced adoption in Australia: