Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Ready to open the books

The Anglican Church in New Zealand will open its books if an inquiry into forced adoption of unwed mother's babies in the mid 20th century goes ahead, says Archbishop Philip Richardson.

Taonga News  |  06 Aug 2016

Archbishop Philip Richardson says there’s “no evidence at all” of systemic engagement by the church or its agencies with forced adoption in the 20th century.

He says he’s been made aware of a few isolated incidents – “spread over a 20-year period, without any common characteristics to them” where women were hurt or inappropriately treated in Anglican church homes.

Bishops from this modern era have responded and apologised on a case-by-case basis for these past incidents, said Archbishop Richardson. Some dioceses had reached legal settlements with parents.

“If the government, as an independent observer of all this, has access to information that suggests that there was something which was more systemic – we only have a diocese-by-diocese record – we could co-operate fully with any inquiry that they set up.

“Of course we would. We are only interested in transparency and in addressing this in a way that brings healing and wholeness to people.”

In 2013, the Australian government apologised after a Senate investigation found that as many as 250,000 women had their babies removed between the 1950s and 70s. In the same year the film Philomena documented the widespread forced removal of babies from unmarried mothers in Ireland.

The scale of forced adoptions in New Zealand, in what became dubbed the “baby-snatch era” from the 1940s to the 1970s, is not known because there has never been an official inquiry.

In 1997, the New Zealand parliament dropped its investigation into the “coercive” practices, despite acknowledging that it was carried out by both the state and the church.

Many parents have spent decades trying to trace their children and have demanded a public inquiry.

But the justice minister, Amy Adams, has ruled this out saying it was focused on more urgent issues.

“This is not to deny or diminish any harm that those affected by past adoption practices may have experienced,” she told the Stuff news website . “However, the Government currently has a busy legislative programme focused on issues that affect large numbers of New Zealanders, such as family violence, privacy laws and trusts.”