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VIC to say sorry for forced adoptions

Victoria will apologise to families torn apart by forced adoptions even though it may leave the state open to compensation claims.

A Senate committee inquiry this year found forced adoptions were widespread in Australia during the 1950s to the 1970s, with up to 250,000 babies taken from their mostly young and single mothers.

Premier Ted Baillieu said on Monday the government would formally apologise to the women, children and families affected by past adoption practices.

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said tens of thousands of Victorians were affected by forced adoptions.

When pressed as to whether there were concerns the apology could pave the way for people affected to sue the state for compensation, Wooldridge said: "Issues arise from time to time, but we believe very strongly that it's the right thing to do to apologise and we will deal with other issues associated with it as part of it."

Jo Fraser was a young, single mother who had her son taken from her after he was born at the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1971.

Some two decades later, when he was 19 and she was 38, the pair were reunited and have an ongoing relationship.

"It was just accepted, I suppose, that my baby was going to be adopted out and that's all there was to it," she told AAP.

"It was not my choice but I was a young 17-year-old who basically did what she was told.

Years before reconnecting with her son, Fraser wrote several letters to the Department of Human Services, which she did not send, wanting to find out if he was okay.

"That's the worst part, really - you don't know if your child's dead or alive."

The West Australian and South Australian governments have already said sorry for adoption practices, and the federal and Tasmanian governments have also committed to apologies.

Fraser, who is Victorian secretary of the Association of Relinquishing Mothers, said the Victorian apology was a positive step as long as it was genuine.

"An apology is a really good thing to do as long as it's sincerely meant and there are no qualifications," she said.

She called for funding for counselling and support services for people affected by forced adoptions.

The Victorian apology will be made on October 25 in what is expected to be a joint sitting of the parliament.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the opposition would join with the government to offer a full apology to those touched by forced adoption.

"On issues like this it's important we can all put politics to one side and provide some measure of comfort to those impacted by the events of the past," he said.


Read NR’s coverage of the federal inquiry into the Commonwealth contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices here [[Story:03-060312]] Do you have an idea for a story?
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