‘I kept asking for my baby and they kept telling me ‘no’ ‘

Christine Cole will be in Parliament for the apology to women whose babies were taken. Photo: Wolter Peeters Christine Cole was 16 when, heavily drugged and in agonising pain, her daughter was pulled from her body in a labour ward in Crown Street Women’s Hospital.

The teenage mother lay there, waiting to hear the new baby cry, and when she could not, tried to sit up and see whether the infant was OK.

”Three nurses threw me back on the bed and held me down,” she recalls of that 1969 day, ”and one of the nurses said ‘this has got nothing to do with you’.”

Cole is one of an unknown number of mostly young, unmarried women in NSW between the 1950s and 1970s whose children were taken from them in what is commonly referred to as ”forced adoption”. She, and many others, call it kidnapping.

”I kept asking for my baby and they kept telling me ‘no, you’re too young, you’re not married’,” she said. ”After five days they came with papers and said you cannot leave this hospital until you sign these papers.”

Yesterday Premier Barry O’Farrell confirmed his government will apologise for the role the state played in forced adoptions. The practice was not only traumatising for the women and children involved, Mr O’Farrell told Parliament yesterday, but in many cases it was illegal.

”It’s time to face the past and reflect on those unlawful and unethical actions that took place,” he said. ”It’s time to try and ease the pain of those affected.”

Ms Cole was given a range of drugs against her will during her stay in hospital, including mind-altering barbiturates and Stilboestrol, to dry her milk. She was never told she had a right to revoke her consent to adoption in the weeks after the birth.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry in 2000 recognised treatment like this went on in NSW and recommended the government departments involved in the practice issue a formal apology but this did not take place.

A damning senate report, ”Commonwealth Contribution to Forced Adoption Policies and Practices”, released in February this year, called for a national apology, which is expected in 2013.

Ms Cole, who founded the advocacy group Apologies Alliance Australia was eventually reunited with her adult daughter but the experience was difficult.

”We have a relationship, it’s not an easy relationship, you’ll find that very few reunions are,” she said. She will be in Parliament next month for the apology.

”We need the apology not just to be hollow words but a very fulsome and sincere apology that acknowledges the wrongdoing by the government, identifies the crimes that were committed and provides money for mental health services,” she said.

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