Cases part 1

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Two high profile court cases in 1955 brought adoption to the national public interest – in one the adopting couple retained the child and in the other, the natural mother.

With the 1953, Murray vs. Mace NSW case the mother, Joan Murray, an unmarried bus conductor, reversed her decision to adopt before the Court order was made, and was technically entitled to do so.

The original Supreme Court hearing, before a single judge, found in Murray’s favour but the High Court gave the Maces leave to appeal to the Equity Court. The NSW Child Welfare Act stated the Court could dispense with the consent of the mother ‘… where, having regard to the circumstances, the Court deemed it just and reasonable so to do’. Given the mother’s colourful past and her limited resources, Justice McClelland deemed it so and dispensed with the mother's consent.

Miss Murray then appealed to the full bench of the Supreme Court and the order of adoption was set aside - again. The Maces fought back with an appeal to the High Court that overturned the Supreme Court decision and the order of adoption stood- for a second time.

In 1955 the Privy Council in Britain was the final court of appeal for Australian judgements. This time Miss Murray’s appeal failed. The order of adoption stood - forever. This case revealed intrinsic weaknesses with consent that led to the reforms of mid-1950’s and beyond.

 

Two high profile court cases in 1955 brought adoption to the national public interest – in one the adopting couple retained the child and in the other, the natural mother.