Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott give forced adoption apologies

HUNDREDS of Australian families torn apart by the forced adoption policies of the past were given some consolation for their misery, with an official apology from Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday.

In a heartfelt speech, Ms Gillard acknowledged the hurt caused by the policies, which were common across the country during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The national apology, which was also given by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, comes after similar apologies in several states including Victoria and Queensland in recent months.

Ms Gillard said the entire parliament deplored the shameful practices that denied mothers of their fundamental human rights under the policies.

She also acknowledged the pain forced adoptions caused for fathers, sons and daughters and others affected by such policies.

"To redress the shameful mistakes of the past, we are committed to ensuring that all those affected get the help they need, including access to specialist counselling services and support, the ability to find the truth in freely available records and assistance in reconnecting with lost family," she said.

"We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated.

"In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation.

"Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child's right to know and be cared for by his or her parents."

Ms Gillard said the story of the families affected by forced adoptions was one of suffering and unbearable loss.

She said the time of neglect was over, and the work of healing could now begin.