THE UNTOLD STORY OF BABY TRAFFICKING IN VICTORIA DURING THE 1940s/50sINTRODUCTION BABIES sold for 50 POUND IN VICTORIA AUSTRALIA
Australian Governments have yet to acknowledge the plight of many of vulnerable mothers and their infants during the 1940s, 50’s, and 60s who were sold to couples for 50 pounds. These
children’s stories remain a hidden part of our social and political history.With a history of Male dominance and being shielded in covert graft which was linked to the abortion racquet the sale of babies was recorded in daily newspaper articles, women’s magazines, and even in parliamentary debates. The introduction of the Model Adoption Of Children’s act inaugurated a Principle Officer thereby theoretically eliminating the need for a Fathers consent but it also heralded the cessation of the understood meaning of private adoptions instead it placed adoption in the hands of the mainly church based Non Government Organizations (NGOs).
The babies born in the era prior to the proclamation of the 1964 Adoption Of Children act (this is the era this paper focuses on) are now adults 50 years and upwards, some of these people may have passed away before knowing the truth about their birth circumstances. The search /research continues or has not yet begun for some adults who were caught up in this period of baby
After the 2nd World War, sterility clinics were established in the major hospitals around Australia due to one in six servicemen not having a family and adoption was regarded to be the new panacea 1. The demand to adopt increased amid the general populace, particularly female babies under twelve months 2. Adoption was embraced and transformed by the wider community to create a perfect solution for adopters and mothers with babies born out of wedlock. Appalled with the introduction of a Commonwealth pension by the Prime minister Mr Menzies for unmarried women of military personal the moral high ground was being heavily enforced by the churches.
3 An unfortunate unwed mother could place her baby for adoption and then return to her rightful place in society, and a child would not have to wear the blight, because it would have two married parents, and it solved the problem of infertility or of a person with a history of still born baby’s. Adoption was also seen by some doctors to be a profitable opportunity and they placed it as an adjunct to their lucrative abortion racquet 4 An article published in a Sydney newspaper in 1949 claiming a ring was employing operators in Victoria to run a black market in illegitimate babies and charging mothers to have their babies at a private premise, they guaranteed, that they would find a good home for their baby. The baby was then sold by the operator to the highest bidder. In 1950, another claim was made that an interstate organization with contracts in the majority of hospitals and foundling homes was responsible for the trade of babies throughout the Commonwealth.5 The headquarters of this organization was believed to be in Sydney and that if an approach was made through the right channels in Melbourne it was possible to buy a baby. Wanting to expose these unscrupulous people two investigative journalists went to a hotel and bought a baby for 25 pounds. Women were reported in most cases not to receive any money for their baby and “baby black marketers kept all the money they made from the sale.”6. The headlines of the Argus read “Baby Traffic Probe is on” when reporting an investigation was being held into babies being sold to childless couples. The article reported that Mr Cremean from the Federal Labour Government revealed in The House of Representatives parliament that the practice for charging for the adoption was a widespread practice in capital cities 7 Mr Cremean asserted that children from unmarried mothers were being sold for 50 pounds in Melbourne and other capital cities. Mr Cremean asked for an Inquiry to obtain evidence against “unscrupulous doctors, whom he suspected in engaging in this obnoxious trade”. He said it was as “bad as the white slave traffic or the drug trade.” “The women are sent to a certain private hospital in Melbourne for confinement where they remain until after the baby was born. The baby is then taken over by the doctors”. Cremean then stated that: “these doctors keep well in the background and operate through intermediaries; finally dispose of the child to foster parents”. He believed the price of a baby was 50 pounds. Cremean identified that the doctors “never appeared
as direct negotiators.” Many of the children appeared to be illegitimate and when the child was legally adopted the “register of births was cancelled and the record was transferred to the register of adopted children”.8. The records could only be inspected with an order of a Supreme Court judge.
A Sydney Morning Herald journalist reported that: “there should be an investigation of the adoption register which would show the coincidence of the number of times adopted babies came from the one hospital with the same doctor as intermediary.” It was noted in the article “that more than one private hospital specialized in that type of operation .It would have been found that the doctor responsible for the confinement was the same as the doctor giving the final authority for the disposal of the baby to the foster parents.”
9 Sir Earle Page for the Federal Department of Health assured Mr Cremean that the “alleged sale of babies through State Health Departments will be investigated.
John Cremean proposed to “scrutinies records of illegitimate births and baby adoptions.” 10) A Sydney hospital and four Melbourne hospitals were selling babies to childless couples. Two doctors operate city practices. One of the doctors’ enticed pregnant women by offering to charge no fees was identified as a leading social figure in Melbourne and had “criminal contact to put
him in touch with pregnant women. Babies were sold for 50 pounds, but wealthy clients were prepared to pay up to 150 pounds. The women carried out light domestic duties in return for free confinement. In some cases the mother’s hospital Bill was paid for by the Hospital Benefits Act Allowance and the adopting couple. The hospital received 15 % of the adoption fee also.
The doctor handling the confinement was reported to have been given the greatest cut after meeting a childless couple, assuring them of a baby, he requested money required for legal expenses and tipping. They filled out request forms and the application were then duly lodged with the authorities
11. Mr E.J. Pittard, Secretary of the Victorian Children’s Welfare department denied the claims although he affirmed that the adoption of Infants act stated that payments to the “child’s parents for possession of the child were illegal, he argued adoptions had to be authorized by a County Court judge and a judge would refuse to authorize the adoption. On the other hand unofficially senior members of Government department’s admit to the racket’s existence, however police say that it is difficult to prove whether money is passed 13 13a On further consideration Mr Pittard admitted that “some people would do almost anything for a chance to adopt and if they paid for a child they may not have been too keen to talk about what they had done “if there is evidence of payment, it would be difficult to prove that it is for the child.”.14 he concluded while payment may have occurred, the money could have been paid for clothing for the child or for a pram 15 Pittard recommended to hand an investigation over to the police or the Attorney- General’s Department. It was reported that: “Child welfare officials were powerless in Victoria to prevent this practice, and that under the Child Welfare Act there is no law to prevent the sale of infants. Steps were being made to overcome this position. Authorities have ordered an investigation and a move to bring about new legislation may be made.
16a. Mr Pittard recommended in a memorandum to the undersecretary titled Further recommendation to the Adoption act pushed for tighter regulations in appointing a Guardian ad Litem regarding the protection of the Childs rights “That all application come under the preparatory investigation of a qualified experienced authority… as the act stands a person who already has the baby in their care has the right to nominate the person to investigate all circumstances and if the court is satisfied it appoints accordingly, however the person holding the baby will invariably nominate a person they know knows them favourably and therefore desirable impartiality is frequently absent”
The department did not have the right to investigate the prospective adopters (foster parents) .
17a Pittard was also very concerned with the role of the Guardian ad Litem and their conflict of interest also he wanted the Department to take control of agencies ensured accountability, he said “my feelings in the matter now are primarily to agree that several agencies referred to certainly are entitled to respect for their handling of adoption arrangements but that they are responsible for only a small percentage of the adoptions negotiated in this state the facts are that average annual number of adoption orders granted by the courts over the past 5 years is 1090 of which, as near as can be gauged, the number contributed by reliable agencies is 240 and this department produces approximately 50 this means that in the vicinity of 800 cases are arranged annually by other than the third reliable agencies, and to my mind it is wrong to leave alone the interests of such a majority in consideration of the treatment of such a few 17b recorded The chief almoner of Queen Victoria Hospital Patricia Jackson stated in the1946/1947 annual report that the new legislation was creating more work for her as she now had to apply on behalf of Mothers for the benefits newly legislated for single mothers 18 However natural mothers attending private institution were not being made privy to any financial assistance19
In the 1950’s, Mrs Primrose, Secretary of an East Melbourne Founding’s home highlighted that they had a long list of people wanting to adopt children.
Victorian Police admitted that the “law controlling babies was loose and could be exploited, but there was no evidence to support the charge made by Mr Cremean that babies were being sold for 50 pounds” 20 The Victorian police claimed to have had no knowledge of a black market in babies21 One month later in April 1950, a newspaper reported that one Melbourne hospital and one doctor were believed to be involved in a baby selling racket in Melbourne The article does not identify the name of the hospital or doctor.22 As has already been stated the same doctors who performed Dilation and Curettes (D and Cs) on patients who had been aborted by private operators were referring patients and paying Policemen for protection ,were also providing the childless couples with babies. Mrs Jean Field started undertaking abortions in 1950 and she was reported to have given 62,000 pounds in cash to form a company. Her abortion fees of 10 pounds to 30 pounds or “nothing if they were poor.”
And the money had been kept for her by a doctor who had died in 1955. 23/ 23a/however one city hospital in Melbourne and a hospital owner who is alleged to be in partnership selling babies
with a high society doctor are named in a conferential letter from Mr John L. Cremean M.P. to the Chief Secretary the Hon. Dodgshun M.L.A on the 24 July 1951 requesting the secretary carry out a personal inquiry into those people. 23b Dr Norval Morris has noted that “more than 750 orphaned babies in Victoria go out to “unchecked” parents and this should be noted by the Government. At this time new legislation was being framed to create a “clear a path through the jungle of the State’s child welfare laws. “ 24
In South Melbourne Avonhurst Private Hospital was operating from 7 Queens Road in 1952 it was the birth place of a male child “William” and is one of the hospitals identified by John Cremean.
It has not been established in a court of Law that certain members of the Victorian police force found it impossible to obtain evidence of baby trafficking because they were receiving protection money from the doctors involved and that the state government refused to acknowledge baby trafficking was happening in Victoria notwithstanding the welfare dept, and other agencies involved in adoptions concurring it occurred, and it is difficult to get indictable proof, that the Vic government found flaws in the adoption bill and considered amending the Act to prevent possible Illegal sale of children25 and that VAUCLUSE PRIVATE HOSPITAL in Brunswick and THE MANNER HOUSE in Campbellfield were also involved in baby trafficking
(to be continued)
1.Senate Inquiry Origins Spasa amendment
2 (The Canberra Times, Wednesday 7th of February, 1945, (The Canberra Times, Wednesday 7th of February, 1945, .
3 Letter from Council of Church’s to Mr Menzies
4 The Racquet Gideon Haigh pages 53,54, 62
5 Black Market in Babies (Morning Bulletin, 31st of January, 1949, p.3)
6 (The Northern Miner, 20th of November, 1950, p1)
7The Argus newspaper (Thursday 30th of March 1950, p3) read
8 28th March 1950 senate adjournment speech Mr cremean
9”(The Sydney Morning Herald, 29th of March, 1950 p.1)
10 (The Argus, Thursday 30th of March 1950, p3).”
11 The Charleville Times reported in July 1950 (p.5
12 Thursday 30th of March 1950, p3 passed
13 (The Charleville Times, Thursday 20th of July, 1950, p.5).” 13a the adoption of infants act 1928
14 (The Argus, 30th of March, 1950).”
15(The Mercury, 30th of March, 1950, p.2.)
16a (The Northern Miner, Monday 20th of November, 1950, p.1).”
16b Court of petty sessions Rules adoption act 31st
17 1928 Adoption Act.
17b Memorandum to Undersecretary 9th
18 Patricia Jackson Chief Almoner 1946/1947 Queen Victoria Hospital Annual report
19 A Mother
20 The Mercury newspaper (Hobart) Thursday 30th of March, 1950, p.2.).
21.” (The Argus, 30th of March 1950, p3).
22.(Northern Miner, Monday, 3rd of April 1950, p.1)
23. (The Canberra Times, Saturday 21 March, 1970, p3).
23a Kaye inquiry 1970
23b The Racket by Gideon Haigh p 53/ 54
24The Argus, Monday 3 May, 1954).
25(The Argus Friday 31st March 1950 page 3)
When you have finished reading Chapter 10 then click on Older posts in bottom right hand corner to continue reading there are 24 chapters in total