02/03/2016 Maggie Wilkinson
Australia Senate Report re Forced Adoptions. A national framework: apologising for past wrongs 2010 – 2013
Apology to be published in all major newspapers so that it reaches as many adopted children as possible so that they might realise that they were loved by their natural mothers and that they were victims of a crime against humanity and that their human rights were abused by the system.
9.48 The committee received evidence from hundreds of women who gave birth in hospitals and other institutions between the late 1950s and the 1970s. Overwhelmingly, these women alleged that laws were broken or that there was unethical behaviour on the part of staff in those institutions. The common failings included applying pressure to women to sign consents, seeking consent earlier than permitted by the legislation, failing to get a consent signature or obtaining it by fraudulent means, and denial of reasonable requests, particularly for a mother to have access to her child. As explained in Chapter 7, certainly after new laws were enacted in the mid-1960s, actions of these types would in some cases have been illegal. Other experiences that reflected unethical practices included failure to provide information, and failure to take a professional approach to a woman’s care. It is time for governments and institutions involved to accept that such actions were wrong not merely by today’s values, but by the values and laws of the time. Formal apologies must acknowledge this and not equivocate.
Meanwhile in New Zealand…The continual wittering by the Anglican Trust for Women and Children and the Anglican Dioceses that, ‘that’s what happened then,’ is an attempt to deflect responsibility, it is also their condemnation of the people who represented the Church “at that time,” They are essentially saying that the Church representatives worked outside the law, exploited, ill-treated young women in their care and abducted/kidnapped children (no statute of limitations) and that’s what we did then.
‘quote’… Were they moral criminals? Yes. Did they abuse the law? Yes. Did they use unequal power to wreak paternalistic punishment in the name of their morality? Yes. Were their actions repugnant and unconscionable? Yes. Will they ever accept the depth of their crimes and their impacts? No. Do abusers/persecutors ever truly feel regret, sorrow, remorse over their terrible actions and the impact on their victims? No. Can you appeal to their better natures? No. They use this as a new opportunity to deflect blame back onto victims and revictimise them. Are victims then powerless? No, though many unwittingly give their power away, by asking for something that abusers know they have the power to withhold. Are they afraid of exposure? No, because it has been exposed already, and they evade the acceptance of responsibility with the time-honoured cop-outs – “that’s how things were then” “we weren’t the only ones, so why pick on us” “we are sorry you feel like that” “we were only trying to help”.
I do not have to justify why I did not cope with the inhumane treatment. I am not the one who needs to justify why my child was abducted from the delivery room. I am not the one who needs to justify why I have never been able to live with the fact that a church facilitated my child to be removed from me without my consent. I am not the one that needs to justify the taking my child immediately after birth was not abduction (that it was and is), that it was against my human rights and was not part of the Adoption legislation.
I do feel justified in holding the Anglican Organisation to account and for seeking repatriation for the crime of abduction/kidnap of my child, on 12th June 1964.
The response letter from the Anglican Trust implies that I was merely placed in St Marys as a boarder. St Marys Homes for Unwed Mothers was NOT a boarding house. The Anglican Church advertised their baby farm to medical practitioners (how else would our Doctor know of its ‘services’)? He did not look up a list of ‘Boarding Houses!’ The single mother qualified for a sickness benefit which was paid directly to the Homes, we, the young women were allowed a small amount of pocket money per week from that, enough for a packet of barley sugars and some wool. On the other hand we were worked hard; the single mums were the unpaid labour, working in the kitchens, orphanage and laundry (which was something out of ‘Dickens).’ We cleaned and wet mopped constantly, we bottled the produce from the harvest festivals. The work was relentless and only with very basic equipment and tools (and remember, we were in a lot of cases hugely pregnant). I cannot remember any moans about this; it was taken as part of our punishment. We literally ran the home and hospital; and woe betide if illness, or any pregnancy related issue got in the way. Again I am not the one who needs to justify what St Marys did to me and other young women.
(I did not realise that St Marys was a baby farm at the time of admittance).
I take great exception to the inference that it was perhaps the fact that I was a rather pathetic child and that was the reason I did not cope with the treatment at St Marys. St Marys in the time of Rhoda Gallagher could not be compared with a strict boarding school, in hind-sight I would go as far as saying my soul was raped.
The ‘letter’ also attempts to reduce the Matron’s part in HER betrayal; my Mother simply echoed the Matrons words. Up to that point I believed I had her (the Matron’s) support. This inference is an old attack of using ‘transference’ in an attempt to turn the Matron’s actions back on myself and my Mother.
The History of St Marys circa 1960s (to be entered into the Anglican Trust for Women and Children’s web site)
‘Only nice girls end up in here,’ these words were told to me by staff while I was ensconced in St Marys Home for Unwed Mothers. Was that a compliment or simply a reference to the myth that ‘bad’ girls knew how to ‘look after themselves,’ therefore would not “fall” pregnant.
Young women with more street credibility, strong young women with understanding and insight who dodged the institutions managed to keep their children during those dark days.
The young women who found themselves in the institutions like St Marys during the ‘baby scoop’ (1950 – 1970s) era were not ‘nice,’ they were naïve, unsupported, and deplete of options. And in most cases had not even heard of the word “adoption,” or its implications.
There was, of course, one or two who were more focused on their futures and saw their predicament as a bit of a hiccup, an inconvenience that needed to be confined to the past so that the planned white wedding could proceed as was their dream. Who went on to marry the Father of their child and progressed (legitimately) to parent full siblings of the inconvenient one.
But for the majority, the ‘home,’ was a prison for sad girls with no choices and no advocacy. It was a place of fear and punishment, St Marys was NOT the sanctuary it pretended to be. (See comments in regard that the home was a sanctuary circa 1950s see pg 186 ‘Mums the Word’ by Sue Kedgley).
St Marys was a convenient hiding place for a multitude of sins; it hid from public view the crimes that had taken place against women, crimes of rape, under age sex, incest and betrayal. Girls who were obviously under aged were told to say they were sixteen (if asked). Young women with intellectual disabilities arrived, bewildered and lost (how did they get pregnant)? Inseminated perhaps, by men within the faith? The pain and suffering lay on female shoulders. The theme was one that was repeated continually that, the woman/girl had ‘got herself into trouble.’
Institutionalisation was almost instant, inmates were dehumanised, Christian names were changed (privacy as the reason) surnames disappeared, communal clothes had to be worn (one’s own garments could only be worn on Sundays if a visitor was permitted. Rules fiercely enforced and an inflexible daily routine along with a controlled ‘one way (Matron’s way) only’ of carrying out every function and occupation one was assigned to. The fear of being caught (ie. not laying the fire with the rigid precision ordered etc). was overwhelming. And that fear accompanied every duty. Gallagher had the ability to arrive silently and scream recriminations if she spotted a variation. The regimented discipline was excessive, cruel and incapacitating, any personality one may have arrived with quickly dissipated.
Letters were vetted, the young women were isolated and controlled.
The Matron did not give/allow opportunity for information or advice from anyone. She accompanied the girls when their allotted doctor visited, which successfully stopped any communication. No information was given about pregnancy or birth. Food rations were small even though the women were worked hard. The daily hypocrisy of two chapel sessions, hypocrisy because the culture of St Marys was cruel, punishing and stigmatising, Compassion was a foreign land.
Keitha Weir (Social Worker and during 1992 A.T.W.C.s chairperson) along with Dr. Roger Bartley (former trustee) recollect that the Matron of the time welded total power and authority over staff and residents, and that outsiders were likely to observe only that which the Matron chose to have them see. Keitha herself fought to have her visiting time extended from five minutes with each resident to as long as was needed to conduct adoption related interviews. Social workers were given very little access ie Jack Luckock, who admitted he and others were scared of Matron and loathed entering the premises. He also apologised to a group of affected women (M.O.A. meeting 1994) saying he and other social workers were aware of the ongoing abuse at St Marys but chose to do nothing.
The young women were cowed and coerced, the language used featured the use of words such as ‘selfish,’ ‘no man will ever want you,’ ‘used,’ ‘tarnished,’ ‘illegitimate,’ ‘sullied.’ ‘the best for the baby was to give him/her to a better person, ‘you (the Mother) are not the best,’ Someone better than you wants your baby.’ ‘If you love your baby you will give her up,’ ‘you will not be a good mother,’ ‘there are lovely married couples just waiting to give baby a home.’
Elizabeth McCrae of Tauranga (1973) wrote that she gave birth to a child in the ‘public maternity annex’ of St Marys and observed that the Mothers from ‘the other side’ (unwed side) were treated as outcasts, were unworthy and were called ‘bad girls’ They (the married Mothers) were requested to keep away from the ‘bad girls.’
Baby was taken directly from the womb, while the Mother was recovering from the birth, while still in the ‘delivery room’ no consent was given for this abduction; this action had nothing to do with the Adoption Act 1955 or indeed ‘Human rights.’
Baby was not seen until permission was given to say goodbye (some days later and accompanied by Matron) ‘Look but don’t touch.’
The on-site orphanage was a dismal damp nightmare:
Quote…from letter written 1964 describing St Marys,”you should see the children they are put out to play every day in a small playing area enclosed by a wire fence. They look like little animals and when you walk past they all run to the fence. I can hardly bear it. I would never leave my child here and the wing they live in is dreadful, it’s a horrible old building & cots & bassinettes are everywhere they can possibly be put. And all the babies are lying there almost all day and the flies are terrible, crawling all over them it makes me sick to go in there.”
The ‘Adoption Act 1955’ was not explained, no rights, no advocacy, no support. No chance to reclaim one’s own child. Lies were told, betrayal was normal. The people who adopted my child were told by Matron that I was a teacher and the father was a farmer…it fitted the description they wanted (perfect fit).
Women were expected to sign the most important document of their lives while emotionally harmed, postpartum, grieving and uninformed. The ten day ‘cooling’ period unknown by the Mother and ignored by the institution.
It was not uncommon for a birth mother to be made, by the lawyer ‘middleman’, to swear on the bible that she would never attempt contact with her child. The Lawyers used by St Marys required the Mother to do this. This practice was not binding in any legal sense, but very effective emotional blackmail.
The lawyers that were used were Jackson, Russell Dignan Armstrong, they prepared the papers Miss Gallagher (Matron of the Home ) would take the papers and the girls to Brian Fitzpatrick, he, Brian acted as witness. Trustee of the ‘Home’ Mr Jenkins was chairman of the St Marys Trust, he was partner of Jackson & Russell.
This was a blatant conflict of interest.
And then we were discharged and told to get on with our lives….
The treatment at St Marys was bad enough, but to walk out with empty arms, baby gone forever was the most horrendous walk of my life, it was a heinous crime and it went unpunished, that is except for the victims. The victims were punished at the time and the punishment has continued through their lives.
Duty of care did not exist; Rhoda Gallagher (the Matron) was a power unto herself. The Diocese, the Trust gave her free range to practice her obsession of giving our children to those who were considered more entitled, more deserving. They could have stopped her but there must have been a conscious decision not to restrain the abusive regime
The church may have changed its practices but (with a complicit Crown) has never been charged with kidnap or abduction as it was guilty of. Their weasel words of ‘oh but that’s what happened then,’ don’t cut it.
The crime was done and has never been acknowledged. An apology is not enough.
The information below is copied from a copy of a small document received 10/9/73 from St Mary’s Homes, signed Pam
Ledger no. 2195 or 2105
Name…Margaret Anne Evington
Next of kin….Mrs T. & Mr W.G. Evington
Address…108 King St Whakatane Phone 566??… Mrs Lynds (sister)
Admitted… 16 -1 -64
Religion….Presbyterian …..Occupation …shop assistant
Date of birth ….28/5/1944
Application for S.S. …(ticked)
Date of Discharged…27/6/64
Baby born….12/6/64 daughter……adopted 20/6/64 *
*Note the date, where was the 10 day cooling period? The Adoption Act 1955 was not even adhered to.
The birth mother must be different, an aberration; for if it were true that she had the same degree of love for her child as all other mothers, the good of adoption would be overwhelmed by the tragedy of it. Adoptive parents are somewhat relieved of guilt if they can be assured that the birth parents truly did not want their child; for, under those circumstances, it is possible to feel entitled to claim the child of others. Neither society nor the mother who holds the child in her arms wants to confront the agony of the mother from whose arms that same child was taken. But that agony is real, as we have come to learn through our experience with reunions. “
The Anglican Trust has offered counselling…This is a further cop-out “We offered her counselling out of the goodness of our hearts”. Nonsense.
At this stage they see their power as being a well-resourced ‘respectable’ organisation against individuals with comparatively limited resources whose complaints they know they can dismiss as ‘historic’. (Because something is historic does not mean that time has justified it, of course not).
In the Hansard (governmental minutes) in NZ it was called (after W11) “filling the empty cots.” It (adoption) suited the crowns financial agenda and then the ‘baby farms’ swung into action. Paternalistic judgement came down on the young women. Who according to all ‘got themselves into trouble’ (lots of virgin marys eh? The baby farms hid the results of rape, incest and all sexual abuse under the guise of ‘we are doing this in your best interests’ Most of ‘what they did’ was against the law then, as it is now. But they, the church homes and other so called respectable organisations held the reigns of the institutionalized terror and society condoned them. Punishing the Jezebels became a nation pastime as the babies were gather up and given to the more deserving. And later the Jezebels (with a ring on their finger) were welcome back to society as Madonna’s …their grief silent