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Mar 22, 2013

The Doctor told the Nuns to take my baby away

A story about forced adoptions. What can anyone really say? Sorry is a start.



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77 thoughts on “The Doctor told the Nuns to take my baby away

  1. zut alors

    Fine commentary, Mr Dog.

    Those Brides of Chr1st would be in heaven now enjoying the rewards of their earthly calling. How godly to be a sanctimonious fence for stolen babies to be placed with nice respectable Christian folk.

  2. paddy

    Amberj was right. Real tears from this one.
    Thanks FD. You’ve defined the *really* important thing that happened in Canberra yesterday.

    P.S. Crikey, this one needs to be unleashed from the paywall.

  3. SusieQ

    Excellent and sad at the same time.

  4. Freja

    Thank you first dog.

  5. Mike Smith

    FD might get an(other) award from this one.

  6. David Meiklejohn

    Another Walkley coming up.

  7. mikehilliard

    FD thank you, your toon is a sanctuary of reason. I read this & followed with Angela Barra’s story of forced adoption, recommended it. Also can I recommend the film Oranges & Sunshine to anyone touched by this issue.

  8. moi aussie

    Thank you.
    moi aussie

  9. Patricia Kenny

    Beautifully told first dog on the moon.

  10. ernmalleyscat

    Good one dog. Worthy of the apology and the report that informed it. No jokes here but we can feel some cheer that the wrong is acknowledged and should not be made again. Unfortunately, as Jon Kudelka pointed out yesterday, we can look forward to another apology in 20 years to the children of refugees.

  11. Sandshoe

    That would have been difficult to draw and colouring it something like a slow bleed surely. Reading it was a storm of emotion.

  12. Venise Alstergren

    FDOTM: Who makes in a cartoon what is said in twenty million words of newsprint.

  13. drmick

    They even altered the details of the medical records to suit themselves Dog. Disgraceful.

  14. rhwombat

    A palpable hit, FD. There are things which drain the joy from the world – but they can be plugged.

  15. Plonkoclock

    God (smack) is (slap) LOVE. (whack)

  16. TheFamousEccles

    What Venise said. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it is odd to me that a cartoon should describe things more eloquently than many trees worth of newsprint.

  17. Julia Gollan

    I love you more everyday most honorable dog

  18. drovers cat

    Thank you for ignoring all the leadership crap and making valid comment on an important story. These are interesting times when the most significant news of the day is most ably captured by a dog who writes cartoons.

  19. Matt

    Such eloquence, it breaks the heart.

  20. Andrew L

    Beautifully beautiful

  21. Sean

    Simple, beautiful, awful.

  22. botanista

    Many thanks FD. Angela Barra’s story, followed by your succinct and heart-wrenching portrayal of just one story from this national sorrow moved me immensely.

  23. Venise Alstergren

    THE FAMOUS ECCLES: I think that is the special genius of a great cartoonist. To put all the agony, despair and sadness of thousands of people and millions of words of newsprint into one single cartoon, that is greatness.

    (Even if he only mentions me in order to sink the boot in.)

  24. Bill Hilliger

    Question; would god or jesus feel at home in the RC organisation? Given the track record of the RC organisation dating back to the inquisition, I don’t think so.

  25. CML

    How many of you, including FDOTM, were actually there when all this was going on? I was, as a midwifery student and staff midwife at Crown Street Hospital in the first half of the 1960’s.
    All these stories, and what happened at the time, is completely foreign to me. How come I missed such trauma? Mainly because it didn’t happen as most of these stories would have you believe.
    Everyone seems to forget that it was a different era, a different society, and what happened to these young girls is now being judged in hindsight. A wonderful thing, but in most cases, simply not true. I have to tell you that there were many “adoptions” which were well accepted by these girls, because they knew there was no adequate system in place at the time to enable them to care for their babies. How responsible would it have been, on the part of hospital authorities (and others), to allow teenage mothers to keep their babies, when so many of them had been deserted by the father of the child, kicked out of home, had nowhere to live and no visible means of support? As far as I’m aware there was no “pension” in those days, so most of you are comparing apples with oranges. Does that mean that as midwives/nurses we were all without empathy for these children who were having babies from the age of twelve? Of course not. But a little knowledge of the times wouldn’t go astray.
    If you want to blame someone (heaven knows why) perhaps you should look at the parents and families of these young girls. They were the people who abandoned them in droves, NOT the hospital staff who in most cases did the very best they could for them. But it is convenient in this, the twenty-first century, to blame those who had to pick up the pieces fifty or sixty years ago in a completely different society.
    Shame on you Crikey and FDOTM for telling only one side of this tragic story.

  26. klewso

    The abuse of power, plus the self-delusion of infallibility and omnipotence, multiplied by a lack of accountability.

  27. Mike Smith

    Trust someone to drag the utter red herring of abortion into this. And yes, it really is a red herring.

  28. Mike Smith

    Hmm, did that comment I responded to get censored? I saw it in my mail from this forum…

  29. drovers cat

    Mike, the Dogonaut Lounge is a place of respect, decorum and tact. Those not meeting said respect/decorum/tact are politely asked to leave by the faceless dogs. We like it that way, I’m sure all will agree: no pooping in the lounge, thanks.

  30. fred

    the indelible pain… we as a society know this, so why are we taking away the freedom of over 1000 children in immigration detention?

    They too will never forget the pain and injustice done to them, to their mothers and fathers…

  31. First Dog On The Moon

    Hi CML – Your argument is with everyone who was at Parliament House yesterday being apologised to. I just based this on their stories. And I’m not here to provide balance, just dog pictures.

  32. First Dog On The Moon

    And Venise, you know you’re my favourite – that is why i hold you to a higher standard.

  33. Recalcitrant.Rick

    And yet, to many people, these were the “good old days”. For all it’s faults we now live in a more honest, upfront, less hypocritical world. Sad one F D. Thanks.

  34. Social Media Spy

    Hi CML.

    Work in one of those unmarried mother homes, did you, or in the hospitals that birthed their babies?

    Why don’t you come out publicly and share your story, if you didn;t see any of what was reported happening?

    Dare you.

  35. Rodger Davies

    Great cartoon FD.
    Also thanks to CML for another view.
    Life is not that simple.

  36. Steve Irons

    The pope played an important role in this widespread catholic nuns practice for the junta!

  37. CML

    @ SMS – I could write a book on this subject, mate. Don’t start telling me all about something you know nothing about!
    I worked at Crown Street Hospital in Sydney (not in unmarried mother homes), where hundreds of these girls came to have their babies. If you think all of these girls came from these “homes”, you are very much mistaken.
    At Crown Street, we had a “living-in” section, where around thirty pregnant (mostly teenage country) girls, at any one time, came to stay during their entire pregnancy. They were all treated with respect and cared for to the best of our ability. As student and staff midwives, we had a lot of contact with these young expectant mothers. Many, many of them were distressed, mainly because their parents/families had literally deserted them, and because they had almost all been made to feel guilty, dirty etc. because of the circumstances they found themselves in. Hospital staff didn’t do that to them, those who should have been supporting them did.
    Our main aim was to prepare them for the birth with as little post traumatic problems as possible. While many of the practices which occurred during the birth are now seen as cruel or unkind, everyone genuinely thought they were in the best interests of the mother and the baby at that time. I absolutely refute the charge that hospital staff were “trying to be cruel” just because these girls were unmarried mothers. I saw NOTHING to indicate that this was the case. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen in other places, other cities. But to tar everyone with the same brush is a bit rich.
    As far as the apology of the PM is concerned, she didn’t apologise on my behalf. I, and my colleagues, did everything we could to help these girls. As I said previously, if our current society wants to apportion blame, then take a good long look at their parents/families. I don’t want to do that, because I believe that the parents/families were also part of the social mores of the times, and in many cases, could not live with the “shame”. Perhaps many of you young ones don’t understand that today.

  38. CML

    Thank you, First Dog on the Moon. I take your point, and apologise for my final comment which was a little unkind!

  39. drmick

    I worked in a public hospital and got a call late one night from a woman in America. She had just found out she was adopted. Her “mother” told her on her death bed. She rang the Hospital where her “Mother” told her she was born and where she might get some information. Next day, the Medical Records Administrator and I set about (illegally as it was then in 1983), uncovering the mystery for this poor person.

    I kid you not; the collusion between staff and government to change the sex of the child in the medical record, after birth, and to totally ignore the birth mothers wishes to keep the child, was not only recorded, but used by the hospital to justify taking the baby and “organising” the adoption. As I said in my earlier post; disgusting. There are many more sides to this story; and for those solely blaming the church…. you can think again. The potential to make money in this disaster is obvious, and another ugly side of this caper. It was the other stolen generation.

  40. Red Bob

    I was born in 1966 in New Zealand and adopted out.  I have an adopted younger brother and sister.  What did we all have in common?  Our real mothers were Catholic.  The Catholic Church has EVERYTHING to answer for.  My mother may not have been ‘forced’ into giving up her baby, but Catholic and societal pressure was coercion enough.  She never told my father that she was pregnant.  I was born in a town away from her family, under a mountain in Winter.  She didn’t remember the date, but remembered the cold.  She peeked out of the curtains at the hospital and saw my adoptive parents walking across the car park, dressed in their best clothes, to come and take me away.  She thought, “oh thank god they look nice”.

    When I met my mother for the first time she said, “I always wondered if this would ever happen”.  Can you imagine living with this thought for 31 years?
    The day after my 40th birthday, I met my father for the first time.  He arrived from NZ to Darwin airport.  He hugged me for a long time, and said, “it is always the most special thing to hug your child for the first time”.

    Yes, it may have been ‘different times’, but the secrecy and lies and pain and longing for everyone affected by these events is not something that is less because of that.

    Thanks FDOTM.

  41. CML

    @ drmick – All I can say is that when I was working in Labour Ward, all births were recorded accurately very shortly after the birth. The details were checked by two people. If changes were made after that time, I have no knowledge of this. Surely that must have been a very unusual event, because all the medical records and birth register details would have had to be altered. A very involved undertaking.

  42. burninglog

    More evidence of why I subscribe

  43. drmick

    My ex partner followed the same tragic sequale described accurately in the dogs story. She was a cadet nurse at the time. They would not even tell her the sex of the baby nor let her hold the bub lest she become too attached or bond.
    A lot of people were complicit in these sorts of things. Might have been different in city hospitals but 30 miles and beyond from the city centres & big hospitals, Hospital maternity units became arbiters of what was “right” & that is never a good thing. 16,000 people at least will tell you that it was not an unusual event.

  44. rhwombat

    CML & drmick. The forced adoption practice was in the recent past when I delivered my required 5+ babies as a medical student at King George V in the late seventies, but the attitudes of some of the senior obstetric staff & midwives was still one of vicarious & defensive shame & guilt. I was shocked by the overt contempt expressed by the Senior Registrar and some midwifes when I asked for help with the difficult delivery of a 17 year old single mum with no family support. It was only later that another midwife explained how recently the practice had changed (post Whitlam), and how scarred the people who had been involved in the practice and mechanisms of “illegitimate birth” remained.

    Much that was “acceptable” was obviously wrong at the time – that’s why it changed. The “truth & reconciliation” process is not a blame game CML, and FD’s visual poem is not an accusation. Many of us carry guilt not of our own personal making: it is what we do with that energy which changes our society, usually for the better. Our discomfort was (and is) a lot less that the unwilling victims (mother and child) of the pre-OC-pill era. There are approximately 3 billions reasons why the condom didn’t change the world, like the pill did. Most of them have a y chromosome, but not all.

  45. drmick

    Amen rhwombat
    When I enquired about training as a midwife in Qld. in the late 70`s there were only three Hospitals that had male registered staff, and one that trained midwives in the whole state. Maybe they didnt want someone who would say no; this is wrong.

    Things have changed a bit in the last 30 odd years but the guilt associated within the coven of some midwives & their complicity probably explains a lot of the unexplainable.

    My ex is looking for something she will never find, & our 3 children carry that on for another generation. They have a half sister or brother out there somewhere.

  46. Ray Lawson

    Dogs never lie.

  47. CML

    @ rhwombat – I did write another comment yesterday, but it is still awaiting publication. Guess what I am trying to say is that not all doctors and midwives, even in the 60’s, acted the way you found them a decade later.
    Interestingly, after I left Crown Street, I worked at King George V in Labour Ward for another couple of years before leaving Sydney. That would have been 1965-66. The only negative attitude I remember was directed towards the flood of new immigrant women (mostly Greek), who couldn’t speak a word of English, and their hygiene left a lot to be desired. However, a few of us (midwives) went off to learn conversational Greek, and received some verbal abuse from others for our trouble. But it worked well and helped these women, so we put up with the ridicule. I honestly did not see or hear any of the bad attitude you describe being directed at unmarried mothers. Mind you, the young midwives tended to stick together, so I can’t vouch for some of the older members of my profession! Also, I think many of us weren’t much older than a lot of these unmarried mothers, and there was a feeling of, “under different circumstances, that could be me in that bed”!!
    For all that, I wondered then as I do now – how could the parents just abandon their daughters in such numbers? My recollection is of young girls calling out for their absent mothers during labour and delivery. Very, very distressing for everyone who was present – the young mothers, the midwives and the doctors.
    drmick – I feel your pain – it must be very difficult on a personal level. I also take your point about the difference between the city and the bush (hospitals). Have worked in some of the latter over the years – very strange behaviour and attitudes present in some of these places.

  48. Milanion20

    It wasn’t enough that there babies were kidnapped, but their special day on Friday was stolen by politicians.

    Simple Simon did it.

  49. Katrina Hynes

    To CML,

    re: your comment posted 22 March 2012.

    I sense you are under-informed.
    Please view this ABC 4 Corners story (or read the script) to learn what happened:


  50. Katrina Hynes

    * Correction: CML’s post dated 22 March 2013

  51. Innocent Until

    I think exacerbation of long term pain is due to it not being an “approved” loss; not being a loss on society’s unofficial list of acknowledged tragedies, where grieving is expected and approved, and support and sympathy are readily available to assist the healing process insofar as it is possible to do so.

  52. GF50

    Dog as venice commented the pictures worth a thousand words
    the pathos and the hurt!
    Drmick +++ Get stuck into them!
    CML a lot of the hospitals that were “the enforcers” in Sydney were “Saints” and Crown St. KGV at RPAH was to my knowledge was not an enforcer although I am aware a very small (perhaps 2?) Had this policy as their own, and perhaps 1 or 2 of their “personal” personel were “enforcers”
    Always RPAH taught that nurses were the patients advocates!!
    and our first duty of care was to the patients.
    Nurses had their job, Drs had theirs and we were not subservient to Drs in anyway and MUST think for ourselves and question medication and or treatment we believed was not in the best interest of patients in our care and were totally duty bound NOT to administer drugs or treatments that compromised that duty. (and run to higher authority to countermand those orders! 🙂
    We were highly unionised and Matron Nelson was for many, many, years President of the International Federation of Nursing.

  53. CML

    @ Katrina Hynes. I take it you were there when these births were taking place? If not, please do not tell me to view programs made in this century, criticising what happened to these young women 50 years ago. I WAS THERE! I may now be a senior citizen, but I do remember what happened in the 1960’s.
    That is exactly the problem. People viewing what happened back then, using 21st century standards. Are you aware that ALL women were sedated after giving birth back then? It was NOT only unmarried mothers. I could go on and explain every one of the so-called “cruel” treatments which these women now claim as discrimination.
    It seems to me that there are two groups of people with very different memories of those times – the care givers and those cared for. In the case of the latter, they blame the former, when actually, as I’ve said before the problems were much closer to home. Guilt does strange things to some people’s memories.

  54. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    CML, I know a person born at Crown Street around 1960, so a bit before your time. The hospital record shows in some detail the unexceptional way the nursing staff must have treated the patient and her new baby over a few days. The record also shows that the hospital (if not the nurses) knew that this was the third child of this woman, all by the same father, but the first two born in Brisbane. They were all taken at birth and adopted. It took these kids almost 40 years to find each other – their mother already gone with nothing left in her life to connect them, their father named but never located.
    What you can’t possibly have known, as a nursing staff person, was the actual true stories of these women and the ‘families’ they came from. You can’t say for sure that they were all failed by their parents. Plenty of them might have stuffed up, as plenty of us do today. The hospitals, the state system that funded them and the social mores of the day, all conspired to create a situation which we now recognise and admit, demonised many of those women and stigmatised their children. Spare a thought for the ones who were definitely ‘forcibly removed’ from their mothers, even if, as you say, that never took place on your watch and was unknown to you in the institution/s where you worked. Others, who were also there, at those same places, have agreed that these things took place under their watch and have endorsed the apology for a disgraceful period in our history.

  55. Katrina Hynes

    Well done Crikey and First Dog for illuminating the damaging effects of forced adoptions. It’s too bad we can’t read more comments like “We did this in a time of different social values with the best of intentions… but we can now see fom all the hurt that was caused, we got it wrong”.

  56. Katrina Hynes

    correction: from all the hurt that was caused…

  57. ernmalleyscat

    Three cheers for the Dogonaut Lounge and all in it. This is one of the few forums where good will and good humour allow actual discussion and sharing of experience.

  58. Mike Smith

    @RHwombat: Buying condoms in that era, at that age, wasn’t something chemists made kids comfortable with.

  59. rhwombat

    Mike Smith. Ah, yes. Male embarrassment. Such a com-Pell-ing argument for irresponsibility. Please note the current Roman Catholic doctrine on contraception – you’re standing in it.

  60. Mike Smith

    Hmm, but did you try buying condoms at 13 or so odd yo in the 60-70’s? Were you that age then? BT, DT. (meh, I forget just what age it was, exactly)

  61. rhwombat

    Mike: At least you tried. By the time I needed them (mid 70’s), condoms (& the OCP) were an integral part of the zeitgeist.

  62. Venise Alstergren

    FDOTM: Flattery will get you everywhere!

  63. klewso

    Venise – that “flattery” – it can even get rabbits posted – to almost anywhere?

  64. Venise Alstergren

    KLEWSO: The thought of the man who would be king Rabbott as PM makes me wish he could be posted to a very deep hole in the coldest part of Siberia…..with a hand grenade strapped to him.

  65. jan stewart

    CML seems to have a very selective memory…many hundreds of babies were removed from Crown St…..it is on record as being one of the most prolific hospitals of its times……and one of the cruelest….my child was removed from me at Hornsby District Hospital…in 1977…..no nuns there…..just cruel nursing staff ……things hadnt changed much from 1966….

  66. ann sullivan

    I was at Crown Street in 1966, I know what happened because I have records to prove it. Hypnotic drugs everyday for 5 days, then I guess papers were pushed under my nose. My son was used for research when he was 3 days old and I guess that was Ok with you or did you think we were never find out about Burnard and his cronies. They called this hospital the baby factory because adopters knew if they lined up her old Matron Shaw would get them a baby. We have letters to prove this as well. Mothers are not making up stories, we don’t need to the records speak for themselves. My parents did not put me in there nor was I in an unmarried mothers home but they still took my baby.

  67. drmick

    I believe the real perpetrators of this will never be brought to account. I can also see the way Health is going at the moment, I fear it will return.
    Isn’t it ironic that a universal health system stopped this rubbish while the old public/private system not only created and condoned it, but made it flourish.
    There is far more accountability in a Public System. If the free market wants to be really free,then pi$$ off and rot and die or flourish without the 30% rebate from people who cannot afford to be in your system, without publicly trained Doctors and Nurses and without “marketing” a lack of humanity.

    This last “option”, the total lack of humanity, is what is destroying the Public System and what allows selling babies to be an option. They used a “moral” compass to hide behind last time; this new mob will use “economically responsible” as the excuse for removing babies this time. Just watch Costello in Queensland and the rest of them in NSW and Victoria. Once you remove emotion and humanity from your hospital, you get people having babies in car parks, on the side of the road and at home. “Suk it up princess” it is already happening.

  68. la souris qui rugit

    CML I think you protest too much. Take a look at the Senate Inquiry report on Forced Adoptions (February 2012). here you will find the results of an exhaustive investigation in all states and territories of Australia on past practices used to remove newborns from their mothers, that First Dog captures so brilliantly. In tabling the report Senator Rachel Siewart emphasised that the crimes could not be excused by the ‘social mores’ argument that you keep using here.

  69. Mike Smith

    @La souris: they can’t be excused, neither can they be prosecuted. (or compensated) Basic rule of law is you can’t make a law in 2013 (or whenever) and apply it to 1977. Retrospectivity is just not on, no matter how cruel the act.

  70. J S

    CML: You’re right, many of the commenters here would not have been around during those times and therefore do not know the full story. More’s the pity.

    But I was. At Crown Street Women’s Hospital. And in the first half of the 60s. 1964 to be precise. Right within the time frame you quote. So I do know the full story and I am fully within my rights to tell you categorically, here and now, that you are a liar!

    For 48 years I’ve longed to be in a position to confront a person like you, one of the people who was instrumental in the taking of my baby directly from the delivery table, while I was so much under the influence of strong barbiturate drugs like pentobarbitone and pethidine that I was incapable of participating in the birth process and my baby had to be delivered by forceps.

    The only memory I have is regaining consciousness at the moment my baby left my body. I say the only memory because that’s all I was permitted by medical staff like you.

    I was flanked by members of the ‘caring profession’ who stood at each side of the delivery table in case I should try to remove the pillow, placed on my chest while I was unconscious, that prevented any view of the baby I had just delivered.

    I asked to see my baby, but before the words were out of my mouth, it was too late, my child had been whisked away, not to be seen for the next 44 years.

    I asked after my baby’s condition and was answered with silence accompanied by a look of sneering disdain.

    I inquired as to the sex of my baby and was told, brutally, that it was none of my business.

    I was immediately injected with a lactation suppressant and within eight hours of the birth, had been removed from the hospital to an annexe, miles away, to ensure I would never see my baby.

    And all these measures were carried out with the utmost contempt and most complete lack of compassion it would be possible to imagine.

    You state that “it didn’t happen”, you say there was “no adequate system in place”, you state that “there was no “pension”. All these statements are blatant lies.

    You then ask “How responsible would it have been, on the part of hospital authorities (and others), to allow teenage mothers to keep their babies”. My question to you would be: who on earth made you responsible in the matter of which mother was entitled to keep her baby and which baby was entitled to keep his/her mother?

    You speak of “empathy” and would have us believe that “the hospital staff …did the very best they could” and were the ones who were there to “pick up the pieces”. Speaking as one who was also there, these statements are the very worst kind of revisionism and re-writing of history.

    By the way, I was 20 years old, not 12 and I have all my hospital and social records.

  71. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    JS, you are entitled to an apology from the Prime Minister and I’m glad you were alive here in Australia to hear it. I hope that you can accept it for what it is: “a regretful acknowledgement of fault or failure; assurance that no offence was intended; explanation; vindication.” Only you can know what happened to you. I hope that you have at least 44 more years to pursue your dream for what could have been.

  72. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    The more I think about this the more I can see that the Prime Minister’s apology could and should be extended to those like CML who were forced by the circumstances of their employment, training and the hospital authorities, to carry out these morally and ethically compromising tasks without question. These nurses and (mostly) junior medical staff would have had little choice and I guess in many cases would have had to endure extremely confronting personal hardship without any support whatsoever. Although many, or most perhaps, came through that time without scarring, I’m sure there are plenty out there who knew in their hearts it was wrong but being small cogs in a brutal wheel it was the path of least resistance for them to get to a better place.
    Personally, I am sorry for all of them. I hope they can take some personal solace in the words of the Prime Minister and perhaps search in their hearts for the forgiveness and reconciliation which this airing of grievance may now make possible.

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