A Rant (but true)

There was never any intention of acting on the 1997 review. It was just a sop to silence the voices of the time who were calling for reform. The reviewer I spoke with didn’t even know what the Adoption Act 1955 said, and was surprised when I told her. It was a stage show, to give the appearance of “doing something”. National has never done anything at all for people affected by adoption, other than past one act which specifically applied to a couple and their private circumstances. Their inaction for over half a century is shameful, and intentional. They see their interests aligned with the pro-adoption class (oh I forgot, we don’t officially have classes in egalitarian New Zealand). Most people still misrepresent what the 1955 Act did and didn’t say, and have never read it. They think it prevented things like open adoption (which it does not) or searching for family members (which it does not) or applying for identifying information (which it does not). Most journalists just assume what it says, as do politicians it seems.

The 1955 Act itself was extremely flawed, though the real evil was the way it was misrepresented to women by social workers of the state, private institutions, hospital social workers and staff and also by many lawyers. These misrepresentations were deliberate, calculated assaults on the vulnerable, intended to intimidate and pressure. I remember reading state files where children were placed with couples were the husband had been convicted of paedophile offences, and even with people suffering from terminal illness. These state social workers pretended to be working in the “best interests of the child” (which the Act doesn’t even mention) and some children were serially adopted after poor placements; I know of one man adopted three times, placed by the state each time. I met him after his suicide attempt. Where were his best interests? Some adopters returned infants and refused any further responsibility for them, despite being the “legal” parents. The state colluded with all of this. It is shameful.

The principle partner of the law firm (also a Trustee) for St Marys Otahuhu was either incompetent? could not read? or understood the Adoption Act 1955 very well, that is probably why I was required to swear on the bible that I would not try and find my child…emotional blackmail, which of course to a naive, distressed girl was very powerful. That would be why that piece of useless shite (swearing on a bible) was part of the ritual of the other piece of useless shite (their interpretation of Adoption Act 1955) in the law office, because they knew full well they had used the ACT in a manner to suit/fulfill their agenda of removing our children to give them to those with a marriage license…regardless of suitability. I have requested an inquiry not bound and ring fenced to suit bureaucracy. I request a full inquiry into past offenses which took place under an ACT which had nothing to do with protecting children…that robbed women of their children.

No Inquiry

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

4

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.”

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.”

Re the response from the church

From Anna 03/03/2016
I wish I could say something helpful, though nothing I think about this about these detestable people, this contemptible time and history and all they did would be new to you. 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, in my experience. 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 don’t want to increase your current pain and anger (which I understand). I don’t think that re-articulating what they did will be effective in terms of the outcome you want, it will use your energy and probably not bring about any positive outcome. So what can you do at this point? There are always possibilities, though the only one that immediately presents itself to me is perhaps to recount how they re-victimise complainants – because that is the current understory here, because re-victimising victims is an inherently shameful act, and the ploy of offering counselling is more often than not a ploy to relocate fault to, and re-silence, the victim and give themselves 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). That’s a significant power imbalance, and they know it; so I think possibly a more useful way to use your energy is to name what they do to silence people now and how they do it.

St Marys Otahuhu Auckland New Zealand, controlled by the Anglican Trust, an Adoption Farm, where the herd were young women forced to remain behind fences in confinement as broodmares to supply offspring to the adoption market, here the farmers were warders whose primary motive was to coerce the herd into powerless docility so the church could profit in a number of ways, promoting itself as a “helping” organisation while tearing families apart and inflicting harm on the inmates.

 

My Response to the Anglican Trust’s letter

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.[11]

Committee view

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.

Maggie Wilkinson

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

E.D.D….20/5/64

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. “

– See more at: http://adoptingback.com/coerced-surrender/the-demonized-birthmother/#sthash.b5jFwjKu.dpuf

 

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

REQUEST FOR ENQUIRY INTO PAST ADOPTION PRACTICES: request for Acknowledgement and Apology

Regarding the letters/answers received by Hon. Amy Adams 11/02/2015
Ms Adams, it seems is receiving advice from the Min of Justice advisory team.
Perhaps the team does not understand the awful history of adoption in NZ, after all it is history, in this case my history. I refer to the practices of ‘forced adoption.’ Adam’s response does not address the issues that I have raised. She does however give a ‘rundown’ of the Adoption Act 1955.
I make the following comments and I would like them to be read and taken with the seriousness that is intended.
Consent given under duress is not consent, consent given when no other option or support is offered is not consent. Consent given with only token legal support or advice given is not consent(at the time of signing with one hand on the bible promising not to try and find one’s own child). Consent given when the MOTHER was still incarcerated is not consent (even if I had known that there was a ten day period when I could have refused to allow anyone to take my child, who would I have gone to)?

Signing a paper when all the power is on one side, when one is in emotional turmoil, when one has been escorted to the legal office by the person who has facilitated the removal of one’s child, is not consent.

It is a legal axiom that consent not freely given in not consent at all, and the history of the adoption corruption in New Zealand relied upon invalid consents, obtained by political pressure, manipulation, threats, illegal practices, emotional blackmail and standover tactics. The state and its officials colluded with institutions and intending adopters in maintaining these abuses of power. These practices were systematic, not sporadic, events.
To say that the responsibility for that system lies with families, as Collins has done, is absurd, amounting to a monstrous distortion, which absolves the enablers, who relied on secrecy and political protection to conceal their actions from any public scrutiny. They supposed that status quo would last forever, and the passage of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 was a very severe shock to them and their abuses of power. It is extremely revealing that the adoption practices of the state’s social workers changed remarkably from that time, although there was no legislative requirement for this to occur when and how it did. (from ‘Apology is Not Enough by Anna Coffey-Noall and Maggie Wilkinson)

I made phone calls to that person (Matron of the home) continually in the weeks after, pleading to have my child back, only to receive a wall of repudiation…in retrospect I realise that I had given birth to the commodity, which had been wanted by someone else, I had done my duty of supply. I was not needed anymore.

IT IS NOT ABOUT NOW (except the grief is still as profound) IT IS HOW IT WAS THEN! Do not give platitudes about (what you have been advised to say) about how new practices have been snuck into the adoption ACT (without consultation) to appease me.

My rights as a New Zealand citizen were ignored by the State’ when the State actively supported the church home’s fevered obsession in removing the baby from its Mother, to supply the entitled market.

St Marys Anglican Home for unwed Mothers was a baby farm which carried out its practices with the full support of church and State.
After which, we (the Mothers), after months of servitude were turfed out and told to ‘get on with it.’ In my case bleeding physically and mentally. Fifty years later, I am given platitudes that ‘it is no longer like that?’

Below is an excerpt from a thesis by Gillian Palmer:
Birth mothers : adoption in New Zealand and the social control of women, 1881-1985.
Authors: Palmer, Gillian R.
Issue Date: 1991
Abstract: This thesis profiles the lives of women in New Zealand, comparing these generalised experiences to emerging adoption law from a feminist perspective. Although this thesis covers adoption’s legislative history from its inception, it concentrates on the era of closed adoptions, from 1955-1985. This period encompasses a period in adoption history in which women were forced to surrender their children and then silenced and forgotten. This thesis draws on secondary sources and interviews with birth mothers in Christchurch from as long ago as 1940 and from as recently as 1979. Women who gave up their children for adoption were given a ‘choice’ to adoption or to keep their child. However, the issue in not necessarily one of the birth mother’s ‘choice’, rather it is the conditions under which choices are made. Birth mothers were rendered powerless and invisible by the adoption process. The law’ and practice of adoption in New Zealand is examined as a form of social control over birth mothers, the women who gave up their children for adoption. This form of social control is, it is argued, a result of the patriarchal power relations. It is argued that adoption has formed part of population ideology and control, supporting the nuclear family and maintaining the patriarchal status quo.
Publisher: University of Canterbury. Department of History

I also consider that my treatment and that of many other young women was a breach of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which New Zealand is a sovereign state.

Julia Gillard’s “National Apology for Forced Adoptions” to Australian mothers does acutely reflect and speak to the same suffering of people trapped in New Zealand’s murky adoption past. It’s time for NZ to stop equivocating and demonstrate the same courage.

See: http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/national-apology-forced-adoptions

AN APOLOGY IS NOT ENOUGH – UNRAVELLING SECRETS AND LIES IN NEW ZEALAND ADOPTION

By Maggie Wilkinson and Anna Coffey-Noall

While ‘serving’ New Zealand as Minister of Justice, Judith Collins stated she was “not convinced” that a formal apology was the best way to address everyone’s concerns in regard to now discredited and harmful practices, which arose from the 1955 Adoption Act. Collins went on to say she had heard from “a number of people” who did not want an apology (though Collins, perhaps tellingly, did not mention the number who did). Her statements on the issue were noted with surprise by supporters of a formal apology. More had been hoped for from Collins, given her past hard work as a lawyer to gain compensation for a victim of adoption malpractice arising from the 1955 Adoption Act, during which she came to be well-informed on issues of adoption harm.

In an address given by Judith Collins at the AGM of M.O.A. (Movement out of Adoption) held at 7.30pm on 20th April 1994 at the Northcote Community Centre Auckland. Collins said ‘she feels that adoption is a huge con and an act of violence to mothers.’ She continued that ‘she believes that babies were not really given up, they were in fact kidnapped.’

This makes the recent statements all the more curious, a calculated attempt to present a plausible but distorted representation of historical adoption facts, particularly biased by omissions.

The three most extraordinary statements relative to her current dismissal of the need for an official apology regarding past adoption practices are:

• “At the end of the day this was a decision that was made by their family members;”

• “A government apology may not be what everyone affected would want, some may prefer to keep it a secret;”

• “The situation in New Zealand was different, the state had no official part in influencing mothers to give up their babies.”

First, these assertions have to be placed in a wider context. It comes as a surprise to many people, even now, to learn that secrecy was never a stated provision in the 1955 Act. Nothing prevented the state nor private agencies from arranging open adoptions, and some did occasionally occur, though not in any of the adoptions arranged by state social workers, because secrecy was a policy they pursued to the point of obsession, and was often presented by them – especially to vulnerable mothers – as a legal requirement of the Act, even though it was not.

Family members had no legal decision-making power whatsoever in the adoption process, unless they were applicants wanting to adopt a related child. There is no legal provision in the 1955 Act for families to be involved nor consulted at all.

The so-called protections of the 1955 Act were instead prisons for the parties subject to them (they did protect adoption enablers however). The “protections” functioned to confine truth behind the secrets and lies told by the parties involved in “making the child available for adoption”. The people and institutions involved, in a range of corrupt practices to provide adopters with a ready supply of children often portrayed themselves as paragons of selfless service and upholders of moral goodness. State collusion was an essential factor in allowing corrupt private agencies to operate as they did. The state itself did have a profound role in influencing mothers to “choose” adoption, by dismissing other choices, occasionally reinforced with threats, and by applying the routine emotional manipulation, which involved them portraying “the adoption choice” as proof of love for the child, so that mothers were placed in an isolated, no-win situation. This is why these adoptions are termed “forced”.

It is a legal axiom that consent not freely given in not consent at all, and the history of the adoption corruption in New Zealand relied upon invalid consents, obtained by political pressure, manipulation, threats, illegal practices, emotional blackmail and standover tactics. The state and its officials colluded with institutions and intending adopters in maintaining these abuses of power. These practices were systematic, not sporadic, events.
To say that the responsibility for that system lies with families, as Collins has done, is absurd, amounting to a monstrous distortion, which absolves the enablers, who relied on secrecy and political protection to conceal their actions from any public scrutiny. They supposed that status quo would last forever, and the passage of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 was a very severe shock to them and their abuses of power. It is extremely revealing that the adoption practices of the state’s social workers changed remarkably from that time, although there was no legislative requirement for this to occur when and how it did.

Until this is formally acknowledged at the highest level, the stain of this systematic corruption and the painful consequences for its victims remains. Collins is well placed to know this, and may yet elect to re-examine her earlier familiarity with what really happened.

Equally specious is the claim that “the situation in New Zealand was different” (from Australia’s). The statutes and practices were remarkably similar, and Australia followed New Zealand’s 1955 lead statute by passing very similar legislation in the 1960s. Unlike New Zealand, however, Australia revised its legislation in 1993, applying a “best interest of the child” principle which is still notably absent in New Zealand’s outdated statute. As in Australia, New Zealand’s practices had racist elements, and the placement of Maori children with Pakeha families was not uncommon, while the reverse situation was very rare. Many Maori children were subject to secret adoption in Pakeha families with no regard whatsoever for the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Adoption Act 1955 is a particularly “white” piece of legislation.

The last of Collins’ assertions – that some would prefer to “keep it a secret” – is particularly odd, as an official apology is not an identification exercise but an acknowledgment of harm done to those who were harmed; Julia Gillard’s apology is an exemplar in this respect. It is not a naming exercise, stripping privacy away from anyone. To pretend that it is seems to be mere scare mongering, and the insinuation that an apology is not warranted unless all past parties support the proposal is equally misleading: the issue is not a numbers game but the recognition of wrongs historically done under a statute which was never intended to function as it did.

The harm is so deep and so extensive that many in the adoption community regard attempts to explain away what happened to them as unconscionable revisionism, politically motivated, and a further attempt to evade moral and political responsibility for the very real wrongs done,

At the end of the day, it takes moral and political courage to do what must be done, not numbers, not specious appeals to populist sentiments, and Collins may yet find that courage, as Julia Gillard has done. Of all Ministers of Justice NZ has had, Collins is the most informed about the real underbelly of the politics of adoption, past and present, through her previous experience on which she worked with barrister Carol Curtis. Collins now has a unique opportunity to advocate for justice as Minister of Justice. Her reluctance and the lame reasons for not doing so suggest a conflict between principle and populism, though principle may yet overcome her diffidence without compromising her ambition for higher office. If numbers do count, it is pertinent that the many hundreds of thousands of victims in number far exceed the relatively few objectors. This parallels political posturing by Sir Robert Muldoon in the time leading up the passage of the Adult Adoption Information Act, when he made a series of statements grossly exaggerating opposition to its passage, claiming that few “birth mothers” wanted reunion with their lost children. It was simply false.

There is a further tension between supporting the extension of the 1955 Act to gay married couples while knowing that gays too will be little advantaged by the archaic provisions of an extremely flawed statute. The clamour for gays to have the “right” to adopt ignores the fact that adopting a child is not a right. Any potential adopter needs the genuine consent of the parent/s and the leave of the Court to obtain the status of adoptive parent. The “rights” perspective is one that suggests adult demand for a supply of children to meet adult needs, not the best interests of children. It must be noted, though, that New Zealand law has never required that the best interests of the child proposed for adoption be considered, and still does not. Nor are such children given separate legal representation despite the considerable and lifelong impact of an adoption order.

Rights cannot be built on a foundation of wrongs. Before we get carried away with the pro and cons of gay adoption, the righting of problems inherent in the 1955 Act must occur – otherwise the current problems will simply be compounded.

At this point in our history it is appropriate to acknowledge the women who took, or attempted to take, their own lives after losing their children, women who suffered the unending grief and psychological wounds from being systematically dispossessed of their children, who went on to realise that they could not just “get on with their lives and forget”, as they had been reassured by social workers. Disenfranchised and isolated, trivialised and discounted, in many instances their pain was overwhelming. Subsequent discoveries that their children had also suffered, from being placed with inappropriate adopters, and in some instances simply returned to the state as unwanted chattels and/or who suffered years of abuse, or were simply treated as second best, compounded the unending distress of these women. They have a right to feel betrayed and conned.

It is appropriate to think of the suffering of the children adopters returned, like defective goods, to often miserable lives as state wards, their original families never informed of their total alienation from any hope of a normal childhood, and of the suffering imposed by the withholding of personal information about themselves from all adopted people, many of whom grew up in a vacuum, different from their adopters and devalued for that difference, yet expected to be grateful however badly adopters had behaved toward them.

Surprisingly, Collins does know the real impacts of the1955 Act. She may have more to gain politically by supporting an apology, which would ensure her a place in the list of honourable social reformers who made a stand for legislation that was socially just, more like the late Ralph Hannan (Status of Children Act, National Minister of Justice) than Sir Robert Muldoon.
An apology is not enough, (very substantial legislative change is also urgently needed) but it would be a significant start, and until that step is taken, the failure to take it is a stain, an ominous complicity with the abuses of the past, supportive of the secrets and lies mentality and the culture of secrecy which meant that the state’s mistakes were easy to cover up, ignore, deny and perpetuate.

In September 2000 the Law Commission Report on Adoption and Its Alternatives Background to Reform, tellingly noted:

“During the course of this review we have received a number of
submissions stating that reform of current adoption law must be
accompanied by a review of past practices. Our terms of reference
directed us not to consider past or current social worker practice. In
devising our recommendations, however, we have been unable to
avoid taking into account the experiences of those affected by
adoption over the last 50 years, if only to ensure that our proposals
resolve inadequacies in the legal framework that have allowed the
occurrence of now discredited practices”.
.
Julia Gillard’s “National Apology for Forced Adoptions” to Australian mothers does acutely reflect and speak to the same suffering of people trapped in New Zealand’s murky adoption past. It’s time for Judith Collins to stop equivocating and demonstrate the same courage.

See: http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/national-apology-forced-adoptions
Deny, Divert, Diminish, and if all else fails, then Demonise those that reveal the truth.
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