Pru Goward’s Retirement, Wednesday 19th December 2018.

Yesterday, the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, announced she will not be running for re-election in 2019. She has served the state of NSW for 12 years and is retiring to care for her ageing husband. No-one could fault retirement for such a purpose.

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NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said Ms Goward was a ‘trailblazer for women’ and a ‘strong advocate for the people of the Goulburn electorate’ (1).  NSW Planning Minister, Anthony Roberts described her as ‘a remarkable individual’ who had ‘championed the cause of women over decades’ (2). A quick google search provided these – just FYI:

1. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/no-safe-refuge-for-domestic-violence-victims-in-goulburn-20150710-gi9fr9.html

2. https://www.wel.org.au/womens_refuges_15_10_15

I suspect there are more.

Ms Goward said that her decision was ‘personal’ and a ‘difficult one’, made ‘in the best interests’ of her family.

Interesting.

Using near century-old adoption language to describe her family circumstance is psychologically…. performatively….. interesting.

Has ‘in the best interest of the child’ become part of her daily vernacular? The definitive discourse of adoption applied in a different context, slipped so easily – by design perhaps – into her retirement announcement … transliterated for media consumption to – ‘in the best interests of my family’.

It is simple of course. Now, at the end of his life, her husband needs his family.

He needs care from those who love him – those who know him. He will not be placed in the ‘care’ of strangers and ‘forgotten’. He will not be ‘vulnerable to abuse’ in a government run facility. He is not ‘unsupported’. He will not be voiceless and powerless to the impatience, abusive language or violence of strangers in an institution. Even the very best that money can buy in an aged care facility, wouldn’t be good enough. No-one is more qualified to care for a loved one who is dying than one’s own family. In both our coming in to life, and in leaving it, we are entitled to the care of our families.

Pru Goward’s husband is entitled not to suffer forced removal, or to be placed in ‘care’ against his will and/or without the consent of his family.

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Ms Goward’s words are powerful. She is an actor of the political stage. Her role is one of power – she is the maker of decisions – of lasting impact – forever even – in the lives of others. She speaks words that construct social narratives. Journalists record her words – the media repeats her words – inscribes her words – enshrines her words into history.

And so, I wonder whether Ms Goward has ever suffered financial hardship. She was not born into poverty, she has never been the victim of domestic violence, nor lost her home, nor been rejected by her parents, her church, society, judged by medical practitioners, state social workers, or the law. Nor do I believe, was she ever alone and destitute, when pregnant with any of her three children.

I listen to and I watch her performance. Despite her own contribution to the NSW State Apology for Forced Adoption (2012), in her final political act, only four short weeks ago, Ms Goward’s new ‘adoption bill’ for the state of NSW was passed into legislation.

Her solution to the state’s child-protection system’s ‘failings’ was to make forced adoption legal.

When NSW forced adoption law is implemented it will be couched as being, ‘in the best interests of children’.

Ms Goward worked hard to implement her final political act. I don’t think this is her final exit from the public stage. She is entering a transition period. She will come through this transition and we will see her again. She will most likely be playing a different role – but one of similar character – one with the same objectives.

And, ‘in the best interest of the child’ will be a repeated line.

If she does not return, it will only be because resistance to her final act is persistent. It will only be if resistance to the Commonwealth Parliament’s Committee Inquiry into Local Adoption Report,

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Social_Policy_and_Legal_Affairs/Localadoption/Report?fbclid=IwAR2tEh0mBs2R9owecNoGrIuVmW5-LBSPrVfw3ESmMTz9W8Dx-pm2JlagxRA

… which recommends, a ‘national (forced) adoption law’ is persistent.

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If she does not return it will be because persistent resistance comes from within the ‘system’ – by the good people working in our states’ and territories child protection units, who have, over decades, campaigned for and successfully implemented ‘permanent care orders’ not adoption orders – and only when absolutely necessary.

If she does not return it will be because resistance also persistently comes from those of us who know what it means to live with the impact of family separation – of inter-generational loss – and the lifelong impact of adoption trauma.

Resistance must come from those of us who believe in breaking the cycle – from those who know that change can only come through continuity in the care for mothers, babies, children and families in need – and in commitment to the preservation of families – not in the same repetition of speech, action and silenced outcomes.

Not in what the state itself has acknowledged was cruel – not in apology – and not in claiming, that the political ‘mistakes of the past’ would never be repeated.

Elizabeth Russell

Thursday 20th December, 2018

 

 

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