According to the head of the healthcare arm of the Catholic Church, they are prepared to apologize to the victims of forced adoption practices dating back 50 years. The Catholic Health Australia admits that “a small number” of church-run hospitals and women's homes maintained unwanted adoption practices from the 1950s to the 1970s.
According to CEO Martin Laverty, he is prepared to front a Senate inquiry to make an expression of sorrow and regret if such an apology brought healing and comfort to the several women who had their new-born babies forcibly removed. He said in a submission to an upper house committee investigating the Commonwealth's contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices, “These practices of the past are no longer tolerated, nor by today's laws, and are deeply regrettable.”
Mr. Laverty said his organization only became aware of the women's experiences in June. He added in his submission, “We acknowledge the pain of separation and loss felt then and now for the mothers, fathers, children, families and others involved in the practices of the time… For the pain that arises from practices of the past, we are genuinely sorry.” In some cases, the adoption practices had “devastating and ongoing impacts” on families. “There are likely to be people in our community who continue to live with pain and grief as a result of adoption practices of the past,” Mr. Laverty said.
Catholic Health Australia is prepared to support the setting up of a framework that would allow the victims of forced adoption to get access to personal medical or social work records to help contact lost family members. It would also support a fund for “remedying established wrongs”. The framework would not be costly to government but political will would be needed to bring all the agencies involved together and co-ordinate the sharing of information, Laverty said.
At least 150,000 Australian unwed and teenage mothers reportedly had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies. The NSW parliament inquired into the practice in 2000 and last year the West Australian government issued an apology to victims.