Labour MP who was adopted, and has an adopted son, welcomes review of 'outdated' laws

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi's announcement earlier this week New Zealand's 66 year-old adoption laws will be reviewed is being welcomed by an MP with more first-hand experience of the system than most.

Labour MP for Rongotai Paul Eagle was adopted in 1972, his mother unable to support him due to the lack of support for solo parents at the time.

The law prevented birth parents and the children they gave up from accessing information about each other, meaning it was 20 years before Eagle met his mother. 

"My birth mother told me of her sadness and how she missed me and worried about how I was doing. At shopping malls, she would look at each little Māori boy and wonder if it were me," he said through tears during his emotional maiden speech in 2017.

Eagle, who now also has an adopted son, says he is only one of many Kiwis who were cut off from their birth parents. 

"I've been meeting with people for the past four years. When I did that speech hundreds of people have come to me privately saying 'I have a story to tell'. I want their stories brought with other stories to see what the best way forward is here," he told Newshub Nation.

Approximately 45,000 adoptions took place in New Zealand between 1955 and 1985, many of which involved Māori being taken from iwi and placed with Pākehā families. 

The Government has released a discussion document Adoption in Aotearoa New Zealand to assist engagement with the review and public submissions are open until August 31.

"The Adoption Act has not been substantially updated since it was enacted in 1955," Faafoi said when announcing the review.

"It no longer meets the needs of our society, or modern adoption best practice."

Advocates are also calling on the Government to apologise for 'forced' adoption tactics during the 1940s-1970s, where babies were taken from single mothers to place with married couples. 

Australia apologised for similar practices in 2013, and while our own Parliament acknowledged 'coercive' tactics had been used to separate children from their mothers in 1997 there has since been no inquiry or apology. 

When asked whether an apology was overdue, Eagle said that would be answered through the current consultation process.

"I know many [advocates] have firm ideas about an apology. This is their time to go through the process, to participate in it. I think the key thing is to look at it in terms of all the impacts of adoption and once we get all that material we will go out to the public next year and say, 'Have we got this right?' 

"If an apology is due, it will be addressed through this process. But it's about getting those experiences into a document that says 'look this is the way forward'. Just remembering it's the child that has to be at the heart of all of everything. So once we get that right, I believe the solutions will come."

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Newshub Nation is supported by NZ On Air.