Monday, 25 March 2013

The difference between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott

During the National Apology for Forced Adoptions held in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra, the difference between the world views of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott was graphically demonstrated.

There were tears and applause for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard:

The first moment when approval of the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott  turned to anger, interjection and shouting:

Full speech transcript
Note: transcript appears to have been amended by author since first publication

A perspective from one of the many in the Great Hall that day:

Yesterday I stood proudly alongside my biological mother -- who I now call mum -- in Canberra to hear the historic national apology. It was a monumental occasion to be sitting next to my mother listening to Prime Minister Julia Gillard give an authentic and informed apology. Mum and I were both impressed, and you could tell by the response of other people affected by forced adoption that they were elated when she actually acknowledged the harm by talking about the loss of lives to suicide.
The emotions in the room were palpable. Gillard used the word illegal, which we were hoping for. Mum desperately needed to hear that word... 

When Abbott started speaking, immediately the tone of the room and the elated atmosphere disintegrated rapidly. Abbott obviously had not consulted with anyone. He didn’t understand the findings of the Senate inquiry and didn’t understand that language is so important when we’re talking about forced adoption. He spoke about "relinquishment" not "forced adoption". We were there for a national apology on forced adoption, not relinquishment. My mother did not relinquish me, I was taken.
He also used the term "birth mothers". For the majority, the mothers and fathers consider themselves parents, period. That’s when the heckling occurred, when he used the term birth parents. For my mother, it echoed the judgemental and insensitive practices of the past.
Everything that Gillard achieved in terms of validating all the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters was completely eroded by Abbott’s speech. One of the recommendations was to bring broader public awareness around the coercive and illegal practices that occurred. If our Opposition Leader couldn’t even understand what happened and use the appropriate words, then what hope do we have of the broader community understanding?

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