Advocating for women whose babies were forcibly removed for adoption

1st Sep 2022

Many Victorian mothers who gave birth between 1958 and 1984 had their babies forcibly taken away after they gave birth.[i] This included mothers being forcibly restrained while giving birth, being pressured or coerced into signing adoption consent forms, and being immediately separated from their newborn child.

According to documents obtained by a Brave Legal client, 48,500 adoptions took place between 1950 and 1984, when adoption legislation was reformed.

In 2012 and 2013 the Victorian Premier at that time, the Hon Ted Baillieu AO, and former Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard AC, delivered formal apologies to those affected by forced adoption and past adoption policies and practices.

‘What was done cannot now be undone, but we do hope this official recognition and apology lifts the burden of secrecy, and brings peace and relief’, said the Hon Ted Baillieu.[ii]

It wasn’t until 2019 that the Parliamentary Inquiry Into Historical Forced Adoption in Victoria was commissioned by the Legislative Assembly. The Inquiry was completed in August 2021, delivering a report recommending that the Government create a redress scheme to provide affected women with:

  • a monetary payment;
  • counselling and psychological support; and
  • a direct personal response from the organisation or institution that was involved in the forced adoption of the mother’s child.

On 10 March 2022, the Andrews Labor Government announced that it will invest more than $4 million to design a redress scheme to provide support and compensation to women affected by forced adoption practices. A steering committee will be appointed with 12 months to prepare the proposed scheme.

Brave Legal supports and welcomes the Victorian Government’s plan to design a redress scheme. The redress scheme will provide those women whose children were taken with an avenue to receive compensation without needing to pursue a formal lawsuit, which can be economically and psychologically burdensome. Brave Legal is proud to advocate with and represent some of these women and we look forward to seeing the redress scheme in the next 12 months.

Bree Knoester and Jyoti Haikerwal are available to provide more information about the redress scheme and discuss how they may be able to help women who were affected by forced adoption policies to access compensation.

This is an edited version of an article first published by Brave Legal

The ALA thanks Jyoti Haikerwal for this contribution.

Brave Legal lawyer, Jyoti Haikerwal, was named as the 2022 winner of the Insurance Category for the 30 Under 30 Lawyers Weekly awards. She is also a volunteer with the Australasian Birth Trauma Association and is currently volunteering as Risk Officer and providing support to Board members with the aim of providing resources, mentoring and advocacy.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

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[i] Premier of Victoria: The Hon Daniel Andrews, Healing the harm of forced adoption (10 March 2022) < https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/healing-harm-forced-adoption>.

[ii] ABC News, Victoria apologies for forced adoptions (25 October 2012) .

Tags: Victoria adoption Jyoti Haikerwal historical forced adoption