State Government unveils memorial to past forced adoptions

A memorial to parents, adoptees and families who suffered loss through forced adoptions will be unveiled by Premier Jay Weatherill today, four years after he apologised in State Parliament for policies that allowed the forced removal of children from their mothers.

The Past Forced Adoptions Commemorative Public Artwork – on the bank of the River Torrens near the Adelaide University footbridge – was created by the artists Deb Jones and Christine Cholewa. The project was directed by a steering committee that included community representation.

Named ‘The Space Between,’ the memorial consists of a large block of polished granite that has been separated, signifying the split of one part from the other, and a nearby boulder where people can sit and contemplate.

The dedication on the memorial reads: This artwork is for all those whose lives have been profoundly affected by adoption separation practices – for the loss suffered by many, for the ongoing grief and pain experienced by Mothers who lost their children, and for Adoptees who lost their identity, heritage and family.

Background

The memorial artwork was commissioned by Relationships Australia South Australia who consulted with community groups, and funded by the Department of Education and Child Development.

On 18 July 2012 in the South Australian Parliament, Premier Jay Weatherill apologised on behalf of all South Australians for past adoption policies and practices that saw the forced removal of many children from their mothers.

In the Australian Parliament on 21 March 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered the National Apology for forced adoptions.

These apologies followed the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. This inquiry confirmed the long-term negative effects of forced adoption practices, which happened between the 1950s and the late 1970s.

Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill

I am touched and honoured to open this memorial that literally sets in stone our apology and our awareness of the lifelong impact of forced adoption.

The mothers, fathers and those adopted as children were denied the opportunity to love and care for each other, and I recognise the profound and long-lasting traumatic impact of that loss.

I hope that this memorial, on the peaceful banks of the River Torrens, will provide a reflective space for those who suffered.

This Government will continue to support those affected and I reiterate my determination to do all I can to support families to stay together.

Quotes attributable to Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close

I hope this memorial can be a place of reflection and healing for those who suffered grief and loss due to the injustice of past adoption practices.

Adoption is no longer a taboo, and this memorial will help to break the silence that so many were forced to endure. I invite all South Australians to visit and view the work of art placed in this lovely setting.

This memorial stands as a reminder that we must not return to policies and practices of the past, that child welfare policies must respect the connections between children and their families and that we must do all that we can to support families to look after their children.

Quotes attributable to Relationships Australia South Australia CEO Judith Cross

This artwork is a place of public acknowledgement and of bringing out into the open that which for so many years was silenced.

These two pieces of granite, the sitting stone and the message stones, make a strong statement and their presence cannot be denied as they stand up against the shaming, ostracism and silencing of the past.

This is an art work that recognises the space between those who were separated by adoption, and of the importance of recognising their interconnectedness across the space.