Unearthing a place of reflection

Independent Regional Mothers spokeswoman Brenda Coughlan says for many decades she has advocated for the truth to be exposed.

She represents an advocacy group that lobbies for the rights of women affected by forced adoption policies, adamant the community must “remember, we can’t forget”.

Ms Coughlan is hoping to build a place of reflection to acknowledge all those affected in Gippsland, and is calling for the community to have its say.

She is planning to apply for a grant available through Relationships Australia Victoria, which is looking to fund projects that raise awareness about forced adoption.

“It’s something every sensitive, very complex and includes a lot of people,” Ms Coughlan said.

“And if there are people that have been grieved by the former forced adoption policies and practices, I think their input would be so wonderful.”

On 21 March 2013 then Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a national apology to those affected by former forced adoption practices and policies.

A Senate Inquiry had found the practice to be widespread across Australia, particularly in the mid-20th century.

In response to the inquiry’s recommendations, the Federal Government committed $11.5 million over four years to provide support, training and increase the capacity of those affected.

RAV is using Department of Social Services funding to provide specialist support and has established funding rounds over two years (2016 and 2017) for groups to conduct relevant activities or projects.

These could range from local training, memorials or facilitating retreats, but should enhance support or build capacity for anyone affected.

With hopes to build a memorial in Gippsland, Ms Coughlan is asking anyone affected to contact her about the wording and design of the project.

“(The memorial will be) a commemorative thing – they’re (those affected are) not forgotten,” she said.

“It’s not just being an apology – it’s a history they’re part of and it’s a history that can’t be forgotten.”

RAV compass forced adoptions support service program coordinator Julia Douglas encouraged any eligible group to apply for the funding to raise awareness.

“We see this as a great opportunity for people to raise awareness of this issue and build better capacity and support for people affected,” Ms Douglas said.

“We are interested in any ideas people have.”

Applications for the current round close on 23 March.

For more information or for application forms, visit www.relationshipsvictoria.com.au/services/compass/small-grant-funding

If you’d like to provide input for a memorial application in Gippsland, email Brenda Coughlan at motherstruth@gmail.com