Resistance to inquiry into forced adoptions

The pressure on young women and girls to give up their babies for adoption, effectively forcing them, was awful, albeit in a different social age (our society has changed hugely since the 1960s).

The petitioner Maggie Wilkinson, and Green and Labour MPs are complaining after National voted against an inquiry at a parliamentary committee.

Newstalk ZB: Government accused of shutting down calls for formal inquiry into forced adoption

Waihi woman Maggie Wilkinson, whose just-born child was taken away from her at age 20 fifty years ago, started a petition urging an inquiry into institutional abuses.

Wilkinson says unmarried women at the time weren’t even allowed access to contraception. They were naive, and taken advantage of by the state.

“It was a great opportunity to take our children and give them to married people who had either missed the boat in having a family, because of war, etcetera,” she said. “It was a supply.”

Although Wilkinson’s petition was rejected by the parliamentary committee, she’s refusing to listen to those who say she should just “get over it.”

“I can’t [get over it] because there are women like me who are still alive and there are some women who died without holding their child, without seeing their child,” she said.

It was a horrible thing inflicted on mothers, and on the babies regardless of what there adopted life was like.

Green MP Jan Logie…

…isn’t happy the government MPs who have dismissed the matter out of hand, and is critical of their view that times and practices have changed.

“That is an argument in terms of dismissing it, [and] robs all of us in this country of an opportunity of understanding and giving those women some closure,” Logie said.

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni…

…believes holding an inquiry is important, and she believes the same mistakes could happen again if citizens don’t reflect on and learn from the past.

“So many women, and broader families as well, were impacted by this, and so they deserve to have their experience recognised.”

In Australia…

…a Senate inquiry was held and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a historic national apology in 2013 to women similarly affected.

The Senate committee report found unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened to give up their babies, so they could be adopted by married couples.

Much like in New Zealand. It was perpetuated by the State but family of the mothers were also complicit, trying to avoid social embarrassment.

Newshub: Tearful calls for forced adoption inquiry rejected

Women who sat in tears sharing their stories of being made to give up their babies through forced adoption have been refused an inquiry into the practice.

Parliament’s social services committee has rejected a petition by Maggie Wilkinson who called for a full investigation into the practice, which saw hundreds of children put up for adoption between the 1950s and 1990s against their mothers’ wishes.

In a report from the committee, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the committee acknowledged the “pain and suffering” women like Mrs Wilkinson and their children went through, but a majority found an inquiry wasn’t the best way to deal with the issue.

“Although we do not agree with many adoption practices from the 1950s to the 1980s, we note that these practices reflected the social values and attitudes of the time,” the majority found.

“We cannot undo what has been done before but we can stop the denial and silence and support people to move forward,” Ms Logie’s Green Party minority view says.

In their statement the party hit out at evidence presented to the committee by the Ministry of Vulnerable Children, which did not address the specific questions presented by Mrs Wilkinson and her backers, who also disputed parts of the official evidence.

They’re backing a broad and full inquiry and an apology.

The Labour Party also backs ongoing calls for an investigation.

“We moved a motion at select committee for an inquiry to be carried out; however, unfortunately this was costed down by the Government members of the committee,” the Labour minority view in the report says.

The first calls for an inquiry were to former National MP Trevor Rogers in 1992.

That’s a bit ironic.

The current National Government seems to be averse to inquiries into past injustices. They have also avoided an investigation into mental health abuses.

MPs on the Social Services Committee:




  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 3, 2017

    Joss Shawyer deserves national recognition for her campaign that eventually broke the disgrace and her pioneering book: “Death By Adoption”.

    It’s sad that fat cats get much more recognition than more deserving people.

    • pickled possum

       /  July 3, 2017

      I read Death By Adoption and found it sad informative and shocking.
      It was down right courageous of Joss Shawyer to put pen to paper over this when so many adoptions were made under coercion.
      It was because of this brave woman ‘secret adoption laws’ were changed.

      “Death By Adoption, first published in New Zealand in 1979, is an account of the tactics used by society to swindle women out of their ‘unwanted’ children. Death By Adoption is the death experienced by the natural mother when she loses a child to adoption. Her grief is raw and inconsolable until such time as she meets her child again, but because of secret adoption laws such reunions are rare. In-depth interviews with the victims of adoption practice expose the harsh realities of this tidy solution provided by western societies that use adoption to punish women who dare to have single sex, and expose too the misery of adopted people who do not know who they are. Death By Adoption puts the case for every woman’s right to raise her own child and for adopted people to have legal access to their original birth records.

      In 1990, the author, herself a single mother and a qualified social worker was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for ‘Raising the Status of Women in New Zealand’. Her political activism helped bring about a law change that went part way towards righting the wrongs of secret adoption by enabling adopted people to search for their missing mothers and other family members.”

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  July 3, 2017

        It was a great book because it told such a true and powerful story. It backed up the lobby group Jigsaw she went on to co-found and eventually succeed in making huge social change. All credit to her.

  2. Brown

     /  July 3, 2017

    The book may well all you say it is and I’ve no doubt that a mother who really wanted to keep her baby would be distraught at giving the child away but the flip side is that today there would be many children alive had they been adopted out and not left with supposedly loving feral scum. Things change and we can’t keep re-visiting these old practices to pretend it brings closure or whatever the current catch cry may be. We should be grateful someone did something to bring about a change as society developed and what was once normal was revisited.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 3, 2017

      Maori practised open adoption within the family traditionally. It was the closed and forced adoption that Shawyer challenged.

      • pickled possum

         /  July 3, 2017

        Yes Al it was Matua Whangai
        “The whāngai system was open. It was done with the full knowledge of the whānau or hapū, and the child knew both their birth parents and whāngai parents. Rather than being the sole decision of the mother or parents, a wider community was involved in the decision.”

        It was a partnership also with SW but was terminated in 1990.
        Whangai still happens today.
        eg A young mother who could not cope gives the child over to her parents or sibling to raise, to some one who could cope. The child knows who his birth ma and pa are, which gives full accountability and transparency, if something goes not so right then the child has a voice, that the family listens to.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 3, 2017

      No doubt a small proportion of adoptions rescued children from your feral scum but some unhappily went in the other direction and the vast majority were just normal young women who got unlucky in the pregnancy lottery and were then condemned by society and coerced into adoption. It is that they want an apology for – and perhaps most of all from the church institutions which controlled both aspects.

  3. Gezza

     /  July 3, 2017

    I think it’s a sad thing that would never happen today & that an inquiry would do nothing but open old wounds & cause unnecessary condemnation of many people who thought they were doing the right thing, at the time, given the social mores of back then – & sometimes actually were. It sounds to me like the Committee reached a balanced conclusion & made the right decision.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 3, 2017

      Is it unnecessary to condemn what was then popular but wrong? I’m not a fan of the “everyone was doing it” excuse. I don’t think these people want to see punishment, just an apology from those wo set themselves up on a higher moral plane while doing evil.

      • Gezza

         /  July 3, 2017

        Yes. I understand that. These people are already broadly condemned to my mind. Do we need to publicly identify & pillory them – that may be what happens if they have to give an apology? Those involved if any still alive will be old. Some might even be like dad, completely unable to remember what was happening 5 minutes or an hour ago – able only to remember flashes of the past & incoherently string them together. Some might genuinely have thought what they were doing was the right thing. Their families may suffer guilt by association? I don’t imagine this decision was reached by the Committee lightly. Let it go – or find a way other than a public enquiry to give the victims acknowledgement of their pain & an apology if a perpetrator can give one.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  July 3, 2017

          I don’t think it needs to go to the individual level, just to their institutions.

          • Pickled Possum

             /  July 3, 2017

            Yes Al imo its the institutions that need to acknowledge a wrong so it doesn’t happen again and again.
            Individuals are/were ‘just doin their job’ and did it to the letter of the law or they would get the sack.

            ps PG … am I in mod because my pp have not been PP?

            • Brown

               /  July 4, 2017

              ‘just doin their job’

              This didn’t wash post WW2 and should wash today.

              I like accountability and that means you don’t do the wrong thing and then hide behind an organisation. Seeking to shame an organisation while leaving the supposedly nasty people within it untouched seems to resolve nothing. The issue is one of what is or was ”wrong” and there are occasions when we judge old mistakes while ignoring the perceived facts of life as they applied at the time. Wisdom is required to distinguish between perceived good and plain evil but that seems lacking today.

              Its interesting how a subject touches nerves.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  July 4, 2017

              I agree with Brown that “just doing your job” doesn’t wash with me at all.

              However, I also agree that pursuing moral vendetta’s for fifty-year old offences by now geriatrics is unsafe, unnecessary and unfair.

              I disagree that holding institutions to account does not resolve anything. That seems to fly in the face of all available evidence.

        • Gezza

           /  July 3, 2017

          That doesn’t need a public enquiry.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  July 3, 2017

            It does if the institutions won’t do it voluntarily.

            • Gezza

               /  July 3, 2017

              Ok. You can win that one. I’m rehearsing. Nite Al.