Victoria Park: Adoption memorial finds permanent home in Read Park

One of the sculptures commemorating people whose lives have been affected by adoption. The sculptures may find a home in Victoria Park's Read Park.
One of the sculptures commemorating people whose lives have been affected by adoption. The sculptures may find a home in Victoria Park's Read Park.

A STATUE depicting the sorrow and loss of a wanting and lost mother, one arm across her face and the other outstretched in need, is part of a Perth-first memorial for people who have been separated by adoption.

Victoria Park’s Read Park has been chosen for a pair of sculptures commissioned to mark the WA Parliament’s 2010 apology for past adoption practices and policies, which was the first of its kind by any government anywhere in the world.

Eight years on from that historic event, and five years after Julia Gillard’s national apology, Victoria Park Council has confirmed the park near Albany Highway as the most appropriate location for the donated memorial.

The memorial, which includes a second smaller but just as poignant sculpture of a small child asleep in a giant hand, was commissioned for the WA branch of the Association Representing Mothers Separated By Adoption Inc (ARMS).

A second sculpture that forms part of the adoption memorial, featuring a sleeping child inside a clasped hand.

It will also include a plaque dedicating the memorial to those who have been separated by adoption. The plaque’s headline reads: ‘A Quarter of a Million Mothers’.

Reports estimate about 150,000 children were taken from unmarried mothers and provided to couples wanting a child in the 1950s and 1960s alone.

Victoria Park Councillor Bronwyn Ife said there should be more recognition for significant, historic events in Australia like there are in other countries.

“When travelling overseas I often find myself moved by the memorials that are erected to recognise events in history that the government of that country was responsible for,” she said.

“Recognising government policies that were cruel seems to be resisted in Australia, even after official apologies have been made by Parliament.

“This policy of forced adoptions of babies born to single mothers has impacted many many thousands of lives, creating lifelong grief.

“Recognising this is important – it allows the victims of this policy to have a place to go to grieve, it educates the community about an important part of our social history that is often ignored and it reminds us to never, ever do this again.”

ARMS originally approached the Town of Victoria Park to accept and display the solid granite sculptures at the McCallum Park foreshore because of its proximity to parenting support service Ngala in Kensington.

While McCallum Park was not viable, and Ngala is actually outside the Town of Victoria Park boundaries in the City of South Perth, ARMS’ request met all criteria under the council’s commemorative recognition policy and Read Park was considered the best site.

The not-for-profit organisation also has committed to paying for delivery, installation and maintenance of the memorial.

In a report recommending Read Park, council officers said accepting the donation should be viewed as a statement of goodwill to those affected Australia-wide and not as a reflection of past forced adoption practices in Victoria Park.