No Inquiry

Baby-snatching claims may require a petition after call for inquiry fails

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Coromandel mother Maggie Wilkinson, 72, wants justice for unwed mothers who claim their babies were snatched from them …
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Coromandel mother Maggie Wilkinson, 72, wants justice for unwed mothers who claim their babies were snatched from them in the “baby scoop era” of the 1950s-70s.

A bid to raise political will for an inquiry into historical baby snatching has stumbled at its first hurdle.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern requested an inquiry into allegations of State and Church-sanctioned forced adoptions at a justice select committee on Thursday.

However, it failed to attract majority support and Ardern has suggested supporters consider making a petition to Parliament.
Labour Party MP Jacinda Ardern asked a justice select committee to consider recommending an inquiry into historical …
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Labour Party MP Jacinda Ardern asked a justice select committee to consider recommending an inquiry into historical forced adoptions.

Last week, Maggie Wilkinson and Sue Atkinson revealed their stories of decades spent hunting for their lost daughters taken from them at birth because they were unmarried and pregnant in the 1960s.

READ MORE:

* Ardern takes up call for inquiry into forced adoptions after baby scoop era claims
* NZ’s hidden ‘baby scoop’ shame – unmarried women had their babies taken from them
* Mothers call for forced adoption and inquiry – ‘if Australia can do it, we can’
Both pursued private legal action – Wilkinson against the Anglican Church, Atkinson is still engaged in it against the State – over their allegations of breaches of duty of care and coercive tactics to gain their consent to their babies’ adoption.

Wilkinson last year dropped her case alleging her daughter was adopted out illegally early after spending $10,000 in legal fees – only to find a vital record had been lost.

The Archbishop of New Zealand last week said the Anglican Church would open its unwed mothers’ homes’ and orphanages’ records if an inquiry was held.

However, Justice Minister Amy Adams said the Government did not seek to deny or diminish their claims, but it would not open an inquiry as it was focused on Child, Youth and Family reform.
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An Australian Senate investigation estimated 250,000 forced adoptions occurred there between the 1940s and 1970s, hearing evidence of pregnant women drugged and abused in unwed mothers’ homes, similar to the Auckland one Wilkinson was placed in.

Then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologised to Australians in 2013.

An attempt to hold a New Zealand inquiry was shelved in 1997 due to failure to achieve agreement from both sides of the House on a draft report.

It instead publicly acknowledged “coercive” adoptions did occur between the 1940s and 1970s.

The phenomenon was not exclusive to New Zealand – the practice was particularly widespread in Ireland Catholic communities, and widely-documented in literature and film, such as in 2013’s Philomena.

Ardern said the select committee could not reach agreement on holding an inquiry and she recommended the women petition Parliament.

“While everyone was concerned by the issue of forced adoption, the majority didn’t support an inquiry, based on the other pressing issues that officials are undertaking around vulnerable children. I, of course, hold a different view, but I do think there was genuine recognition of the harm that’s been done.”

Wilkinson, 72, said she has received “countless” messages from women with similar stories since going public, and planned to seek advice on petitioning Parliament.

She was “bitterly disappointed” there was still no inquiry.

“It would have exposed the despicable crime of taking children from their mothers. We would have got to learn from our mistakes – they are putting together legislation for vulnerable children [currently] yet they are not prepared to learn from the past.”

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