This Royal Commission has listened to the stories of those abused in church, state and charitable institutions, and through institutional processes of adoption and fostering. It has instigated further investigations, triggered criminal prosecutions, is reviewing mechanisms of redress for victims, and finally has the role of recommending how to establish child safe institutions. The Commission has done an excellent job of listening to people's stories. The current approach of the Royal Commission, however, focuses on legal mechanisms for making child institutions safer, rather than coming to terms with the cultural and social underpinnings of the exploitation of children and young people that has occurred.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Out of Home Care (2014)
This government inquiry is the most recent to launch its report on the problems facing children placed in out of home care in Australia, and the shortcomings of the state as it fails to deliver expected outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.
This inquiry uncovered the shame and oppression experienced by unmarried pregnant women at the hands of professionals in maternity homes and hospitals as well as the community at large. Submissions revealed differential and poor medical treatment, punishing interactions with authorities, coercion to sign adoption papers, refusal to honour reversals of decisions to consent to BFA (Baby For Adoption) classifications, pressure to psychologically disown their baby, and serious and long term consequences for mothers, their children and families. Children experienced continuing issues with identity, self-esteem and belonging.
From one submission:
We also have worked with a number of women whose children have been earmarked for removal at birth—women who themselves have grown up in foster care, often in very disruptive foster care arrangements. They have been in many, many foster placements, have themselves become pregnant and had their child earmarked for removal at birth, perpetuating that terrible disruption of attachment. That mother never has a good life, and the children similarly face a number of challenges.
Senator Rosemary Crowley, Chair of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, tabled the report, ‘Lost Innocents: Righting the Record’, as a tribute to child migrants and described the committee’s findings in these terms:
“The report highlights a very sorry chapter in Australia ’s history and exposes the role of both the British and Australian Governments in bringing child migrants to this country … While some child migrants have made positive comments about their time in institutional care, many others can only recall childhoods of loneliness, great hardship and privations. … The report notes the two dominant concerns of child migrant witnesses … [as] their loss of identity and their need to have the opportunity to tell their story, be heard and believed.”
The report of the Attorney General’s National Inquiry into the forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Implications of this report continue to reverberate through Australian discussions about reconciliation. The report also provides a backdrop for evaluating all initiatives that seek to redress the harm imposed on the Australian Indigenous population and efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on opportunity and well-being measures.