Saint Mary's Home - Toowong
Saint Mary's Home - Toowong Contributed

FORCED ADOPTIONS: Clarence woman to share her story

IMAGINE being a young, unmarried women, pregnant 50 or 60 years ago.

Society is still not very forgiving to women who fall pregnant outside of marriage now, but in the period from the 1940s to the 1980s, it was scandalous.

This was when many women found themselves in places like Saint Mary's Home - Toowong where their children were forcibly removed and adopted out, sometimes without consent.

In 2013, Brisbane Archbishop Most Reverend Philip Aspinall acknowledge the pain, suffering and shame experienced by the young mothers in Saint Mary's Home and the Church of England Women's Refuge at Spring Hill who had their newborn babies put up for adoption.

He recalled examples of pregnant women being forced into hard labour, other informed their child had died when really they had been put up for adoption and others who were given no medical care before or after delivery.

"Those so deeply affected then still suffer the impact of those circumstances today," the Archbishop Aspinall said.

"Something as simple as seeing a mother and a baby in the street can bring it all back."

The National Archives Forced Adoptions Project details experiences of the forced adoption process and allows people to tell their story.

One woman, Rosalie, from Queensland wrote about her time at Saint Mary's Home and her and the women around her's experiences.

Rosalie had an unplanned pregnancy to a boyfriend of two years. She had only just move interstate, didn't know Brisbane and had no money when she was put in Saint Mary's Home.

"Most of us knew the father and knew him well, for a period of several years in my case" she wrote.

"One girl had been engaged, but had been jilted, she used to cry all day. Another had been prematurely sexualised from an early age, probably by a relative or friend of her family. But she wasn't to blame for that.

"We were exposed to things at St Mary's that we shouldn't have been. One of the girls' babies was strangled on its cord. She came back from hospital devastated and nobody knew what to say to her.

"Another tried to give birth in the toilets alone at night because she wanted to keep her baby and she was afraid they'd take him off her. We were woken by the flashing lights of an ambulance, as her baby got stuck in her birth canal because she'd pushed too early, and he was severely brain damaged.

"When she returned with her son, I heard Matron callously say to her 'well you can keep him you silly girl, nobody will want to adopt him now'."

Now, there is a generation of people who never knew their parents, or the pain their mothers went through.

Recently, The Daily Examiner spoke to Grafton woman Janene Cleaver (nee Blanch), who was the child of a forced adoption. For years, she has been searching for answers and piecing together what happened to her mother Rosemary who was also in Saint Mary's Home - Toowong. Now, she wants to share her story.


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