MPs wept along with scores of women in the public gallery as the NSW Parliament passed a historic motion of apology to tens of thousands of people traumatised by forced adoptions.
The ‘‘widespread’’ policy of forced adoption, parliament heard, was sanctioned by governments, churches, hospitals, charities and bureaucrats.
But to the mostly young and single mothers involved, they were like abductions or kidnappings.
In an echo of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 ‘‘sorry’’ to Aboriginal stolen generations, a day of pain, courage, healing and hope ended with a public apology for the estimated 150,000 Australian babies born between the 1950s and 1970s who were taken from their mothers.
As MPs stood to carry the motion with a minute’s silence, several dabbed at their eyes with tissues. One MP crossed himself. Many of the estimated 300 people in the public galleries at the joint sitting had wept throughout half an hour of emotional speeches.
They heard stories of young mothers who were tied to beds while their babies were induced, who never saw their babies before they were taken away, who were drugged, sedated and given lactation suppressants to dry up their milk, who were told lies that their babies had died, only to discover years later they were alive.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said some women felt the term adoption was ‘‘too sanitised; it was akin to abduction or kidnapping’’.
Following an emotional poem read by a country mother, Lyn, whose son was forcibly adopted, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said parliament acknowledged that ‘‘terrible’’ wrongs had been done.
‘‘And with profound sadness and remorse, we say to those living with ongoing grief and pain, we are sorry,’’ he said.
‘‘There can be no excuse, no justification,’’ he said, adding: ‘‘An apology without recompense does not go far enough.’’
Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said it was now up to the hospitals and charities involved in the forced adoptions to say sorry.