Inquiry into NZ’s past adoption practices

Call for inquiry into forced adoptions

Maggie Wilkinson has been fighting a 30-year battle for the government to investigate the forced adoption of babies born to unwed mothers from the late 1950s to the mid 1970s.

St Mary's home for unwed mothers. Photo by Bruce Madgwick

St Mary’s home for unwed mothers – in Ōtāhuhu, Auckland. Photo: Bruce Madgwick Photo: Otahuhu Historical Society

Her own daughter was taken from her in 1964 when she gave birth at St Mary’s home for unwed mothers, which was run by the Anglican Church in Ōtāhuhu.

Maggie, who lives in Waihi, told Afternoons she wanted the government to hold an inquiry into forced adoptions.

Australia had a senate inquiry and made a formal apology to those similarly affected there.

The Anglican Church in New Zealand has offered to open its books for any inquiry that might be held – but the government has said no, and appears to believe it’s a case of water under the bridge.

Maggie was 19 when she gave birth.

“I was in the home for approximately six months. It wasn’t a kind place. When you speak to young women about this now they say ‘oh that happened in Ireland didn’t it?

“It was actually happening here in New Zealand and I feel it’s a dark history, and it’s women’s history that has gone uninvestigated – it just disappeared.”

Before she gave birth, Maggie told the matron at the home she wanted to keep her child but was betrayed, she said, when the institution deemed her as being unable to cope. After that she “went slightly mad”, she said.

Her pregnancy was then brought on; she said she remembered being given medication.

“I was given drops in my nostrils, I’m not quite sure what the medication was. And I had my child, I pleaded with them not to take her away, this was in the delivery room… My child was taken directly from the womb really.”

Maggie, who has since been reunited with her lost daughter, said she was determined to fight on for other young mothers – many of whose stories ended less happily.

“There are women I know who didn’t cope and committed suicide. The grief is enormous and what I’m doing now is for those women.”

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