[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia had admitted its involvement in forced adoptions in the 20th Century. Archbishop Philip Richardson, who, as one of the church’s three primates, has responsibility for the Tikanga Pakeha – the part of the Church representing the descendants of European settlers – has welcomed calls for an official inquiry and said that the church is ready to open its record books.
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 country’s 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.”
Archbishop Richardson told Stuff that the Anglican Church in New Zealand had taken part in the forced adoption process and confirmed that some dioceses had reached legal settlements with parents on a case-by-case basis.
“We should always be open to examining our past,” he said. “If later evidence was to show a systemic failure on the part of the church, across all dioceses, of the kind of significance of some of the Australians’ experiences, then of course the church would need to cooperate.”