The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation including its State and Territory Branches joins the Parliament in unreservedly apologising, on behalf of the nursing and midwifery professions, to the mothers and fathers and their children, for the part played by nurses and midwives in giving effect to the unacceptable policy of forced adoptions.
During the period from the 1950s to the 1980s thousands of unmarried mothers were forced, pressured and coerced to relinquish their newborn babies. Midwives and nurses were central caregivers of women during labour and birth, and through such employment, were also involved in the intimate process of separating mothers and babies for the purpose of forced adoptions.
This policy and these practices were ethically and morally wrong, in many cases unlawful, regardless of the social mores of the time. While the ANMF was not actively involved in the policy at the time, however, we acknowledge the organisation did not take a critical view of the practice and did not advocate for policy changes that were in the best interests of the mother and the child.
The ANMF deeply regrets the incomprehensible harm done to everyone affected by forced adoption, and we call upon all other organisations, professions and governments to issue a public apology for the wrongs of the past.
We call on State and Federal Governments to commit resources and services such as free counselling, support, information and family-search services. The ANMF supports further legislative and regulatory reform, such as integrated birth certificates, to make amends for taking away identities and family ties.
We hope the symbolism of a formal apology and acknowledgement that what happened was wrong, together with practical measures to assist those affected, are the start of making amends.