A possible inquiry into forced adoption is on the Prime Minister's agenda – with women parted from their babies pleading for action.

An unknown number of young New Zealanders had their newborns taken from them and adopted out to married couples during the so-called "baby scoop" era, from the 1950s to 70s.


Plea for adoption inquiry: 'I tried to photograph her with my eyes'


The Australian Government formally apologised in 2013 for its estimated 250,000 forced adoptions, after an inquiry concluded young women were deceived and threatened into giving up their babies.

Waihi woman Maggie Wilkinson has become a reluctant public face of efforts to get a similar process initiated here.

She gave birth at St Mary's home for unwed mothers in Otahuhu at the age of 20. Other women at the home had been abandoned by partners, or raped. Some couples had been forced apart by ashamed families.

She was given drugs to induce her labour, and pleaded for her daughter not to be taken. She saw her baby once more before the adoption took place.

"The matron said, 'You can look but don't touch'," recalled Wilkinson, now 73. "And I tried to photograph her with my eyes. I will never forget."

Last year Wilkinson's petition for an inquiry was presented to Parliament by then Opposition justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern.

The previous National Government declined to order an inquiry, saying other issues like domestic violence law reforms would take priority.

There has been no news since Labour came to power and Wilkinson and supporters feared their cause had been forgotten.


However, the Herald understands the Prime Minister is looking at how grievances related to forced adoption could be aired. That process may involve a select committee inquiry.

Wilkinson said she and other women needed concrete action. They had been lobbying since the 1990s, and with people entering old age "it's almost as if they are waiting for us to all die out".

"It's so sad that they heard all our stories. They have met us. We have supplied the evidence. It has got to be filed. It has got to be part of our history, New Zealand's history."

At the age of 18 Wilkinson's daughter Vivienne tracked her down after approaching Jigsaw, an organisation that helps reunite separated families, with which Wilkinson had registered.

Churches that ran homes for unmarried mothers are ready to aid any inquiry that is called.

Kevin Brewer, chair of the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, which ran St Mary's, said the organisation was sorry for Wilkinson's ongoing pain and sense of loss.

"The Adoptions Act has changed substantially over the last 60 years, and some of the practices of the past are no longer considered acceptable today. There has also been a significant shift in attitudes.

"Historically, families often considered adoption to be the best option ... due to the stigma associated with being an unmarried parent. When faced with the prospect of raising a child alone, without the financial and moral support of their family, sadly young mothers often felt adoption was their only option."

The Anglican Church had (so far unsuccessfully) asked the Government to widen the scope of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse suffered by wards of the state, to include all agencies, including churches.

Brewer said the trust was very supportive of that position, and would co-operate on any other inquiries into adoption.