Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard tendered on Thursday what is being called a `historic national apology in Parliament to scores of unwed mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their babies for adoption over several decades.
More than 800 people, many of them in tears, heard the apology in the Great Hall of Parliament House and responded with a standing ovation.
Agencies quoted Gillard as saying, "Today this Parliament on behalf of the Australian people takes responsibility and apologizes for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering,"
"We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers and we recognize the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members," she said.
"We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children," she added.
Gillard committed 5 million Australian dollars ($5 million) to support services for affected families and to help biological families reunite.
A national apology was recommended a year ago by a Senate committee that investigated the impacts of the now-discredited policies.
The committee could not estimate how many adoptions were forced but said they numbered in the thousands.
With Agency Inputs