Saturday, March 23, 2013

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's 'forced adoption' speech

Two Australian Prime Ministers have now apologised for the enormous emotional and psychological damage caused by the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and from 'forced adoption'. These discredited forms of social engineering have been exported Cambodia and given rise to a thriving industry for NGOs in the business of 'rescuing' poor children from their families and, all too often, forcing them to become Christians - only to be turfed back on the street when they turn 18 and are no longer the kind of cute kids that open the hearts and wallets of sponsors and donors.

LICADHO is the leading human rights organisation in Cambodia. It is headed up by Naly Pilorge. Chab Dai is a coalition of around 50 Christian NGOs and is headed up by Helen Sworn. Citipointe is a member of the Chab Dai coalition.

This blog entry was inspired by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's apology on Friday 22nd March to all those who suffered as a result of 'forced adoption' last century in Australia 

Dear Naly and Helen
You have ignored my letter to you of 13th March:
You have also chosen to ignore my “13 Questions for Chab Dai and LICADHO” published on 17th March:
The quotes below, from a speech delivered yesterday by Prime Minister Julian Gillard to the Australian parliament, resonate with the realities faced by the parents and children of poor families in Cambodia today:
Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.
We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers.
And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.
We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children.
This is in reference to the removal of babies from their parents care last century! In this century, in March 2013, NGOs such as Citipointe, through the church’s ‘shameful practices’, creates a ‘lifelong legacy of pain and suffering’ for parents such as Chanti and Chhork and ‘adopted’ (stolen) girls such as Rosa and Chita, in March 2013!
You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support.
Chanti’s rights as a mother have been abrogated by Citipointe church, with the tacit approval of Chab Dai and LICADHO – through the silence of both organizations during the past close to five years. To add insult to injury, Citipointe (again with full knowledge of Chab Dai and LICADHO) has deprived Chanti of any “care and support.”
To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise.
Chanti was manipulated by Citipointe in mid 2008 into placing her thumb print on a document that she believed constituted an agreement between herself and LICADHO for her daughters to be provided with temporary care until hers and Chhork’s financial crisis had passed. Upon having her daughters stolen from her by Citipointe (with full knowledge of Chab Dai and LICADHO) she was “betrayed by a system that gave (her) no choice.”
We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.
In being presented with a document that she could not read and which was explained to her in false terms, Chanti never had the opportunity to give her “informed consent”. Chanti was given “false assurances” by Citipointe church and it seems, on the basis of the documents that I have at my disposal, that the church’s removal of Rosa and Chita was, for a period of 15 months, illegal under Cambodian law.
Naly, Helen, you are both women and perhaps mothers. Can’t you see that the actions that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is deploring on behalf of Australians, which took place many decades ago, are precisely the actions that NGOs such as Citipointe practice today? And Citipointe is not the only NGO within the Chab Dai coalition that practices this forced ‘adoption’. In some ways, the forced ‘adoption’ by NGOs working in Cambhodia is worse because the children adopted are then abandoned by the NGOs when they turn 18 or 19.
We know you have suffered enduring effects from these practices forced upon you by others. For the loss, the grief, the disempowerment, the stigmatisation and the guilt, we say sorry.
To each of you who were adopted or removed…and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin and to connect with your culture, we say sorry.
Prime Minister Gillard’s speech goes on in this manner for much too long to quote here in full but the full text can be found online. I will end with one last quote:
We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated. In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation. Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child's right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.
Prime Minister Gillard may well have resolved that such practices are never repeated in Australia but both Chab Dai and LICADHO are turning a blind eye to such practices as they occur on a daily basis in Cambodia.
The time has come for Chab Dai and LICADHO to state publicly that both organizations deplore the practices Prime Minister Gillard is referring to. And it is time for the Cambodidan government to close down those ‘orphanages’ and other such NGOS who engage in such practices.

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