The Victorian Government has announced compensation payments for thousands of mothers impacted by the state’s historic forced adoption policies.
Eligible mothers will be entitled to a $30,000 remedy payment, which will include counselling and psychological support.
The adoption policies applied for most of the 20th century and often included the forcible removal of newborns from single or young mothers.
There were almost 40,000 adoptions in Victoria from 1958 to 1984. A 2021 Parliamentary inquiry heard many women were forcibly restrained during birth, drugged without consent, and separated from their newborn babies.
The inquiry also heard women were “coerced or forced” to consent to the adoption of their baby.
In 2012, then-Premier Ted Baillieu delivered a formal apology to those impacted by forced adoption.
Adoption laws during this time gave social workers powers to determine if a mother was “fit” or “unfit” to raise children.
According to a Government study on forced adoptions in 2014, many newborns were taken from their mothers “as a result of extreme pressure and coercion that they experienced from social workers and hospital staff”.
It also found that young, single mothers were denied any information about their child’s adoptive family.
Victorian remedy scheme
The 2021 inquiry recommended a redress scheme to support those impacted by Victoria’s historic adoption rules.
The scheme will be available to Victorian mothers who were involuntarily separated from children born before 1990.
Eligible mothers will be able to apply from February next year.
Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the scheme would advance recognition of those affected by the policies.
“While no amount of financial payment or counselling support can compensate mothers for the loss of their child, this scheme is a way to acknowledge the harm and injustices suffered due to these horrific practices.”
The non-profit Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self-Help will receive an extra $530,000 to support those affected by forced adoption policies.
Shadow Attorney-General Michael O’Brien told TDA he supported measures to support those impacted by forced adoptions.
“Eleven years [after Baillieu’s apology], it is appropriate that there be further support available for those who are still living with the trauma of forced adoption practices of the past.”
The 2021 Victorian inquiry heard that forced adoption policies had a “particularly adverse impact” on First Nations mothers and adoptees. Several links between Victoria’s forced adoption policies and the Stolen Generations were established during the inquiry.
From colonisation onwards, as many as one in three First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families and communities due to past Federal Government policies. These children are referred to as the Stolen Generations.
No specific measures for First Nations mothers were announced yesterday.
However, the Victorian Government does have a First Nations redress scheme. The Stolen Generations Reparations Package was launched in March 2022.
It’s aimed at “supporting Stolen Generations, their families and communities through a holistic reparations package”.