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In November 2009 a research project commissioned and funded by the Royal Women's Hospital (RWH), Melbourne, set out to investigate delivery and adoption practices in relation to single women who were confined at the hospital in the period 1945-1975. The RWH was responding to calls from relinquishing mothers to explain its past adoption practices. As a result of the research, the hospital has acknowledged the ongoing trauma and suffering of women who lost a child to adoption, and issued a formal apology.1 Oral history was fundamental to uncovering these past practices and investigating claims that these were unethical or even illegal, as most remain undocumented.2 In the context of the larger project, in-depth interviews of sixty to ninety minutes were conducted with thirteen single mothers, two of whom kept their babies. Their stories covered the period from 1963 to 1977. While the intention was to conduct interviews that covered the entire time span under investigation, attempts to locate women who were willing to speak of their experiences prior to 1963 were unsuccessful. The objective of this research was to develop an understanding of how the policies, practices, and staff attitudes of the RWH affected the experiences of single mothers who gave birth at the hospital during this time. For the purposes of this paper, I have chosen to examine one interview from this project and explore the challenges it posed in creating a reciprocal interview relationship, particularly in dealing with traumatic memories.

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access