Vic needs adoption redress scheme: inquiry

By Callum Godde
Almost all the adopted people a Victorian committee heard from had negative experiences. (AAP)

The Victorian government should immediately establish a redress scheme for mothers whose babies were forcibly removed under historical adoption policies, a landmark parliamentary inquiry says.

The Legislative Assembly legal and social issues committee has tabled a 245-page report in state parliament into responses to historical forced adoption, making 56 recommendations.

A redress scheme and the removal of the statute of limitations for historical forced adoption were chief among its suggestions and should be introduced "without delay".

The committee says the scheme should include monetary payments, counselling and psychological support, and a personal response from institutions and groups involved in the applicant's forced adoption.

The government has been encouraged to work with responsible bodies to get them to sign up to the redress scheme, and consider punishing those that fail to adhere to a set time frame.

Free and independent guidance should be provided to those seeking redress or civil litigation through a fully-funded legal advice and referral service.

"All organisations need to take responsibility for their policies and practices of the past," committee chair Natalie Suleyman wrote in her foreword to the report tabled on Wednesday.

Launched in November 2019, the inquiry received 114 submissions and heard from many mothers and adoptees across 11 days of public hearings in Melbourne and regional areas.

A law firm representing several women whose newborns were taken by the state between the 1950s and 1970s said the committee had listened to mothers' calls.

"We are relieved defendants will no longer be able to deny justice to victims by hiding behind the statute of limitations," Shine Lawyers' Cameron Tout said.

Ms Suleyman also said almost all the adopted people they heard from had negative experiences to share.

"Tragically, babies were taken from their mothers who were unfairly judged as unfit to raise them, yet many babies were placed with unsuitable and sometimes unsafe adoptive families," the Labor MP wrote.

"Understandably, this has adversely affected people's health and wellbeing."

A stand-alone inquiry has been proposed to explore the impacts of adoption on adopted people, along with the implementation of integrated birth certificates for those who request them.

Other recommended measures would help improve the operation and transparency of current adoption laws to "ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated", Ms Suleyman wrote.

To recognise the suffering of thousands stemming from being forcibly adopted in the state, the eight-member committee of Labor, Liberal and Nationals MPs also called for the Victorian government to designate an annual day.

October 25, the anniversary of former Victorian Liberal premier Ted Ballieu's 2012 apology in state parliament for past adoption practices, was put forward as an option.

The state government said it acknowledged the "immense grief and trauma" caused by historical forced adoption practices.

"We recognise the significant amount of work and public consultation that has gone into the preparation of the report and look forward to delivering a response," a government spokeswoman told AAP.

It has until early 2022 to formally respond.

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