National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) is coming and in Australia the conversation on adoption during November, will again be dominated by the voices of Deborra Lee Furness and her corporate machine, AdoptChange.
In contrast, NAAM can be a difficult time for Adoptees, of sadness, of anger, and feeling powerless against dominant voices.
I am an Adoptee, who has joined with three others to write and publish a book of poetry, I have more to say on what Adoption Is for me, and I encourage others to continue to speak up on what Adoption Is for them. Join me!
Photo credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images firstname.lastname@example.org http://wellcomeimages.org General Lying In Hospital, York Road: nurses weighing a baby. Photograph, 1908. 1906 Album of photographs and cuttings pertaining to dr. Basil Hood
I grew up in Bathurst, New South Wales as the only daughter of immigrants from the Netherlands. I can understand, read and speak some Dutch. Every Christmas our family would celebrate in our variation of the Dutch tradition, going to the midnight church service and coming home and feasting on ham and bread rolls served on the crockery my parents had brought with them from Holland. The Christmas tree was adorned with Dutch trinkets and the myrrh man ‘roked’ his characteristic smell that made every Christmas Dutch. Most years we received a parcel from my family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents with the hand-me-downs and gifts, and the lingering smell of pipe tobacco that was my link to family and my Dutch heritage.
When I was 43 I found out I was adopted and I lost this.
Recently I have delved back into my ancestry and discovered that on my mother’s side I have an ancestor, Jimmy Young, from Xiamen, China who came to NSW for the Goldrush, and another, Peter O’Neill from Wicklow, Ireland who was sent to the Penal Colony of NSW for being involved in the Irish Rebelllion. After he was pardoned he settled at Homecraft, Rockley, in the Bathurst District, not far from where I grew up.
I’m not sure how to respond to this. After the excitement of finding these characters in my family, I am angry with a system of closed adoption that not only cut me off from the roots that established my identity, but also transplanted me into a location where my family ‘ghosts’ and connections resided outside of my awareness and possibility for connection. How many grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins lived nearby? Lost opportunities for connecting to a wider family that is important in developing a sense of who I am. My dream is to be re-grafted back onto one of the family trees that I was cut off from, to be accepted and belong as ‘one of them’ despite the separation, scandal and politics of adoption.
Balancing out the lifelong expectations of being an adoptee; an existence for my mother’s and others’ happiness.
Give give give … until there wasn’t a drop left and I crashed.
“Care fully for myself” is my starting point before I make decisions on what to do for others and myself.
I risk sounding selfish but I am overdue for an energy audit that is based on the energy that I require as the mother of a son with a disability, a mother of three other children, and a grandmother of two gorgeous girls. And then there is the energy I need for myself. Now isn’t that interesting that I put myself last on this list. Hmmm.
Visit the new website of IdentityRites: a peer support and advocacy group which gives a voice to Adoptees, at: http://identityrites.org
“We have been deprived of knowledge of identity, heritage, and medical information; issued with false birth certificates; and denied public acknowledgement and awareness of the lifelong impact of separating us from our blood families.
IdentityRites seeks to quench the yearning for the dignity of ancestral connection.
We are an Adelaide based Group of Adoptees with a common purpose to initiate respectful and non-traumatising ways to tell our stories.”
Tony Abbott said regarding those affected by past adoption practices: ‘They’re entitled to be feeling very passionate. They’re entitled to be feeling I think very wounded and that’s why the apology was so important’.
The Apology in Canberra on March 21, 2013 was overshadowed by Abbott’s talk of moving a no confidence motion against the Government at the time, led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Will it get a mention in Parliament this year? Will March 21 be recognised as a National Day of Mourning for those affected by past adoption practices?
A morning tea was held at Kirribilli, Sydney residence of the Prime Minister of Australia. Invited were the celebrities who have advocated for changes to Adoption laws in Australia. Of note were Cadel Evans, Deborra-Lee Furness and Hugh Jackman and a host of child Adoptees from various overseas countries.
Furness explained to Lee Sales on the 7.30 report that adoption practice had been ‘spooked’ and ‘tainted’ by the stolen generation, the forgotten children, and the ‘forced adoptions’ and as a result Australia had the lowest adoption rates for some time.
So what had made the difference, Lee Sales asked:
‘A new government on board – we have to have a champion or leader’ and they had found that in Tony Abbott. Furness went on to say ‘let’s talk about adoption …let’s do it’.
My comments: It’s a shame Abbott isn’t the champion for the children in Nauru, Christmas Island and Manus Island detention centres. Regarding past practices, what has been learned to avoid the same mistakes being made and consigning another generation of adopted children to the consequences of ‘Adoptions Past’: higher incidences of complex PTSD disorder, mental illness, suicides, lung disease, auto-immune disease, unemployment … part of the findings of the AIFS Report before the Apology in 2013.