King Edward Memorial Hospital removes 'offensive' forced adoption apology amid redress fight

King Edward Memorial Hospital removes ‘offensive’ forced adoption apology amid redress fight

Holding up the adoption certificate she reluctantly signed as a 15-year-old mother, Lisa Moore still struggles to contain her outrage over the events of 40 years ago.

She chokes up and wipes away tears as she recounts what happened after she fell pregnant to her 18-year-old boyfriend while growing up in the suburbs of Perth in 1981.

Even though her parents offered to look after the baby, Ms Moore says the family was manipulated and lied to by social workers who were hell-bent on adopting out her unborn child.

“You’re told you can give them nothing and the adoptive parents can give them everything so you’re made to feel like a loser in a way,” she says.

“I was told that if I loved him, I would give him up.”

Baby snatched away

Following the birth at Perth’s King Edward Memorial hospital, Ms Moore says her son was whisked away before she could hold him.

“He was born and the nurse went to give him to me and the doctor said ‘no you can’t do that, he’s up for adoption,’ she said.

The next day, she was handed a birth registration document to sign that already had a boy’s name on it.

Lisa Moore was just 15 when she was forced to give up her baby for adoption in 1981.(Supplied: Lisa Moore)

“They said the nurses named him after one of the doctors there,” she says.

“I didn’t get to name him. Even that right was taken from me.”

When her parents visited her in hospital and tried to see the baby, Ms Moore says they were escorted out by security.

And when she tried herself to see her newborn, she was taken back to her room and told if she did not calm down, she would be sedated.

Little action since apology

Ms Moore’s horrific story helped to spark a public apology by the West Australian parliament in 2010 to women forced to give up their babies.

But 12 years on, Ms Moore – like many survivors of the forced adoption era – is still plagued by unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises.

Gillard apologises for forced adoptions
In 2013 then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an historic apology to those affected by forced adoption of practices of the past.(AAP: Alan Porritt)

Despite the WA apology and a subsequent federal apology, as well as a senate inquiry, survivors say little has been done since to address the toll on both mothers and adoptees (the children, now adults, who were adopted out).

Ms Moore is backing calls for Western Australia to follow Victoria and hold a fresh inquiry.

This week, adoptees who and have been pushing for a WA inquiry, had a small but significant win.

A stork motif above the entrance to the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.
King Edward Memorial Hospital removed the apology from its website.(720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne )

After speaking out to the ABC, the group achieved some key concessions from King Edward Memorial Hospital.

On Wednesday, the hospital agreed to take down a controversial ‘formal apology’ from its website which had enraged survivors when it was posted in May.

They had labeled it “not truthful”, “offensive” and potentially triggering for both mothers and adoptees because it didn’t actually apologise for what the hospital had done, instead referring readers to the state and national apologies.

women standing in group on the steps of the WA
Mothers from the support group ARMS WA say there has been little done to support them since the 2010 state apology.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

They said the so-called apology breached mistakes recommendations from the senate report that said “formal apologies should always be accompanied by undertakings to take concrete actions that offer appropriate redress for the past.”

Women and Newborn Health Service acting executive director Diane Barr told the ABC she had met with an affected community member to hear their concerns and had reiterated her commitment to partner with the community to “improve the apology statement”.

Medical records access sought

Adoptee Jen McRae says the hospital had also pledged to investigate how survivors could be better assisted to get hold of their medical records, long a bone of contention for those trying to put together the missing pieces of their lives.

Lisa Moore tried in 2008 to get hold of her medical records but was told they had been mislaid.

Jen McRae standing in front of entrance to hospital
Jen McRae says there are many unanswered questions around forced adoptions in WA.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

“I think I’m entitled to those records,” she says.

“I think maybe more care should be taken with adoption records. This ‘can’t find them but that was the times back then’ — sorry, that’s just not good enough.

“I will never get back what was taken from me.”

Lasting trauma

Ms Moore had to wait 26 years before she finally met her son.

Although he lives in the United Kingdom, they now have a good, albeit long-distance relationship.

But she has had to pay for specialist counseling to cope with the complex trauma that both mothers and adoptees often face.

“You go through life thinking that you are a bad person because good people don’t give babies up,” she says.

Jen and Lynn sitting together looking at camera
Jen McRae is working with Lynne Devine of ARMS WA to push for a WA inquiry into forced adoptions.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

Free specialised counseling for all forced adoption survivors should be made available according to the group ARMS WA, a support group for mothers separated from their children by adoption.

In a statement, the Department of Communities said a Forced Adoption Support Service run by Relationships WA offered “referral and information services that include support and counseling for anyone who has been affected by forced adoption”.


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