Here's a report from Canberra:
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a historic national apology in Parliament to the thousands of unwed mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their babies for adoption over several decades.
More than 800 people affected by the policy cried and cheered as they listened to the apology in the Great Hall of Parliament House and responded with a standing ovation when it was finished.
A national apology was recommended a year ago by a Senate committee that investigated the impacts of the now-discredited policies. Unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened into giving up their babies from World War II until the early 1970s so they could be adopted by married couples, which was perceived to be in the children's best interests, the committee report found.
"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," Gillard told the audience Thursday.
It's usual after one of these to encounter someone, somewhere, lamenting the meaninglessness or undesirability of such apologies. Sometimes these lamenters are Simon Jenkins. You can imagine it: 'What part did Julia Gillard have in taking the babies away from their mothers? Hey?'
Perhaps on this occasion it won't happen. It seems from the reaction of people in the Great Hall of the Australian parliament that those who suffered the effects of the forced adoption policy found this apology perfectly meaningful, and welcomed it. It's an official acknowledgement of a national wrong - end of story.