2006, 52 Minutes
Exposes how Australian authorities pressured many unmarried mothers from the 1950s to the 1970s to give up their babies for adoption.
In 1967, Lily was nearly 17, two months pregnant and living happily with her boyfriend Steve when police arrested her, declaring she was in moral danger. Despite having parental permission to marry, the couple were kept apart and Lily was confined in a Catholic girls home until the baby was born. Alone and confused, she was manipulated into signing adoption papers.
Almost 30 years later, her life is still defined by that event. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. It was the theft of my child.”
Lily’s story is not unique. For three decades, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Australian authorities pressured many unmarried mothers to give up their babies for adoption into what they considered "better" homes - those of married couples. At a time when society had no place for single mothers and their illegitimate children, these women were unaware of their legal rights. Sometimes they were coerced, even drugged, and their babies literally stolen.
Despite arguments that the practice was well-intentioned, for the individuals involved the ongoing impact has been devastating.
This documentary explores the experiences of these women and their efforts to contact their children and gain recognition for past wrongs, while revealing the dramatic change in social values that has since occurred.
A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Big Island Pictures. Produced in association with the Pacific Film and Television Commission and SBS Independent.
© National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Pacific Film and Television Commission.
Director: Karen Berkman
Producer: Mark Chapman
Writer: Heather Phillips (original script and concept)
Narrator: Monette Lee Smith
Featured People: Lily Johnson, Steve Benko, Dian Wellfare, Wendy Jacobs, Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, Patricia Large
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: SOSE/HSIE, Human Services, Social Work, Psychology, Health & Welfare Studies, Community & Family Studies, Child Protection, Legal Studies, Personal Development, Values Education, English and Media.
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