Christine Cole of the Apology Alliance: “I was pushed back on to the bed by three nurses. The pillow was placed back on my chest and the midwife at the end of the bed said, ‘This has got nothing to do with you’. Now mind you, I had not signed any adoption consent. This was presuming that my baby was going to be taken for adoption, irrespective of what I wanted.”
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has apologised for the profession’s part in the forced adoption policy of the 1950s-70s that took newborn babies from their mothers.
The NSW state government yesterday apologised to the thousands of parents and children who were separated and had their lives devastated by the policy.
After the joint sitting in the lower house, Families Minister Pru Goward called on the hospitals and charities involved in forced adoptions to also say sorry.
Later on Thursday, the NSWNMA released a statement saying it “joins the NSW Parliament in unreservedly apologising, on behalf of the nursing and midwifery professions, to the mothers and fathers who had their sons and daughters taken from them. The NSWNMA also apologises for any nurse or midwife behaviour that increased the trauma experienced by any mother as a result of this unacceptable policy.”
The apology goes on: “Nurses and midwives pride themselves on being advocates for patients and clients and as a result of unjust practices such as this, there is today a strong awareness amongst nurses and midwives and the Association of the need to stand against such injustice. No government or employer should force a nurse or midwife to do something that violates the rights of people in such a way and no nurse or midwife should violate the rights of anyone in such a way. Thankfully, nurses and midwives now have the professional standing and recognition to refuse such directives.”
While it says it wasn’t involved in the practices of the policy, nor supported them, the union has apologised for not taking a “vigorous stand against it”.
Earlier in the day, a former midwife at St George Hospital called Diana rang ABC radio in Sydney to say that she wanted to assure women who’d had babies removed that the midwives had taken very good care of the babies and had really loved them – some of those babies had stayed in hospital nurseries for months.
Diana said they were all acting as was expected at that time. “We lived in that society where, you know, it was a terrible thing to have a child out of wedlock … The Church had a lot to do with it, the families had a lot to do with it, the parents were often absolutely disgusted with their daughters.”
In recent years, many women who had babies removed have told of how nurses and midwives were complicit in the removals.
“They put a pillow over my head or up here so I could not see her and she was taken away…” Cheryl McNeil told the federal Senate inquiry into the policy.
Robin Turner’s repeated pleas to be reunited with her baby were refused. She threatened to throw a chair through her first-storey window and climb out to go in search of her son. Her desperation was ignored. She was tied to a hospital bed for two days and repeatedly drugged. Eventually, staff said her baby had died.
One of those now grown-up babies contacted the NSWNMA to send a message to those who had cared for her as a newborn.
“You held me and spoke my name, for the first time. You wrapped me, fed me, and bathed me, for the first time … To the women working in the Womens Hospital, Oxford St Paddington during Dec, Jan, Feb in 1962/3 … a time when you had no rights, no voice & no choice in the direction our lives took. Thank you for saying sorry but as one of your babies, please also allow me … to say thank you.”
Image credit: Russell Lee, Wikimedia