Former Premier: ‘Secrets and lies’ in Tasmanian adoption law

David Bartlett
David Bartlett

The story on The Examiner website, titled Forced adoption: stolen babies, family secrets, unsolved mysteries, has not been published in print for the reasons outlined.  

Under Tasmanian law, victims of forced adoption are prohibited from telling their stories in the media. This applies to newspapers, periodicals, television, and broadcast, but not websites.

For former Premier David Bartlett, the issue of being able to tell these stories is a deeply personal one. His mother relinquished him when he was a baby, and he was a ward of the state until he was 18.

Lobbying to change the law to allow separated biological parents and children to contact each other, as occurred in 1988, was his introduction to the world of politics.

“That [law] is so outrageous, and draconian,” Mr Bartlett said.

“That is the classic mentally of government and institutions – the churches, frankly – at the time: all about secrecy.

“The opposite should be the case.

“The only way you get healing out of a circumstance like this, is to get rid of the secrets and lies.

“Tell the truth, talk about what happened, so that everybody understands – it’s so people like me, relinquished kids, aren’t angry. And so relinquishing mothers aren’t guilty, because actually, stuff happened to them that was out of their control.”

Mr Bartlett was born prior to the law being changed to include reporting prohibitions, in 1968, so he has been legally able to tell his story in the media.

However, he said he was not aware of the law in any case.

“That’s appalling,” he said. “If I’d known about it, I would have changed it when I was in government.”

There have never been prosecutions under this law, and there have been past cases of victims of forced adoption telling their stories in the media.

However, in 2012, the Mercury newspaper was prosecuted for breaching a similar law, which prohibits victims of sexual assault from telling their stories.


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