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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Without Consent: A Review of the Travelling Exhibition About the History of Forced Adoption in Australia from 1950-1975.


Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard. Photograph: Mark Graham/AFP/Getty Images (source).

By Guest Author: Kylie Carman-Brown, BA Hons, PhD
When it comes to acknowledging the impact of adoption on children, Australia, I am proud to say, leads the world.

In 21 March 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered an apology on behalf of the nation to all those who were affected by the practice of forced adoption. Since that historic day, the National Archives of Australia has worked to produce a website and a national touring exhibition. The exhibition was launched two years later, and Ms Gillard agreed to open it.

As a historian and an adoptee, I’ve had a strong interest in the project. The day after attending the apology, I wrote and asked them if I could help in any way. It took a while, but I ended up writing website content, and I have also loaned objects. It’s been a curious process, being both a participant in the creation of the exhibition and one of its subjects. It has brought more pain and grief to the surface to be healed, which is necessary but unpleasant, and at the same time, I think it is one of the most worthwhile projects I have ever been involved with.

The exhibition and website was one of the recommendations from the Senate Enquiry in historic adoption practices. The task was given to the National Archives of Australia, with an incredibly short lead time. The Archives was instructed to have an exhibition ready to open for the second anniversary of the apology. Given that the National Archives had limited material on which to draw from in their collection, the task was more than daunting.