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Horrifying reality of Australia’s ‘forced adoption’ scandal

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Karen Whiteley
WVoN co-editor 

An Australian government inquiry into ‘forced adoptions’ heard testimony from one of the doctors who witnessed new mothers having their babies taken away from them against their will in a Sydney hospital.

Whilst working as a medical student at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, Brian Hoolahan watched repeatedly as unwed teenaged mothers had their babies forcibly taken from them immediately after giving birth while they were held down by staff.

He described the scenes as ‘the cruellest thing I’ve ever seen’.

Hoolahan described how the babies were taken: ‘‘The baby was whisked away while she was being held down so the mothers never got to see or touch their child.

‘I remember the girls calling out “I just want to touch my baby, please let me see my baby”, and they were crying and howling and it was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

‘As far as trying to do anything about it, I was absolutely powerless … I was a young student and I expressed my opinion but nobody really listened.’

The Senate inquiry into how tens of thousands of young mothers between the 1940s and the 1970s were effectively forced to hand over their children for adoption began last year, following years of pressure from some of the women affected by the practice.

It heard heart-breaking evidence from some of the mothers themselves last September.

The inquiry has looked at what role, if any, the government played in contributing to the scandal through its policies and practices. It has also looked at what can be done to address the consequences of the practice for both the mothers and the children involved.

The inquiry will give its findings today, but the government of the state of Western Australia has already issued a formal apology to the women involved.

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