What happened to the fathers who had no say in forced adoption?
Airdate: 
Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS

The father’s voice has often been ignored in the adoption process.

Before the 1980s it was even common practise to omit the father’s name from the birth certificate, leaving the father and his biological children on an uphill battle if they ever wanted to make contact.

Although practises have changed, the scars remain and the ramifications are still being felt for many fathers and their children today.

Gary Boyce’s girlfriend, Jane, fell pregnant unexpectedly in 1972 when he was just 18 and she was 17. Jane’s parents took matters into their own hands, preventing Gary from seeing her and making Jane give the child up for adoption. Gary was completely cut out of the process and had no say in what happened. The weight of it all caused Gary and Jane to split, and Gary has carried the guilt of what happened throughout his life.

Paul Jennings was only 14 when his girlfriend became pregnant. Far too young to appreciate what was going on, he felt as though the whole situation wasn’t real. He kept the news from his parents and his girlfriend was sent away to have the baby. Eight years ago Paul reached out to a post adoption support agency to find his son. 

We rightly hear a good deal about the mothers' experience in these situations, but what about the fathers?

Attitudes and policies have changed over the years to incorporate the father’s voices, but scars remain from the years in which they were left disempowered and disenfranchised. Even reunification today does not always heal them. 

 

Credits 

 

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter, or posting on our Facebook page.

 

Related links

Forced Adoption National Practice Principles | Australian Institute of Family Studies 

Australian Fathers of Adopted Children | University of New South Wales study 

Forced Adoption Support Services 

To contact a Forced Adoption Support Service in your state or territory, call 1800 21 03 13.

Transcript

JENNY BROCKIE:   Welcome everyone, good to have with us on the. Paul, tell us what happened when you were 14? 

PAUL:  Well, I had a baby with a young lady back then in 1982. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How old was she? 

PAUL: Sixteen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did you find out, when you found out that she was pregnant? 

PAUL: Through school and through her friends and obviously through her. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   There's a photo of you there, how old are you there? 

PAUL: I dare look? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah, yeah. 

PAUL: About 14. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So that's around the time? 

PAUL: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That it happened? 

PAUL: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Who knew that this girl was pregnant, she was your girlfriend? 

PAUL: Yeah, she was my girlfriend at the time. Her parents knew about it, I'd never told mine so I went through the whole process without telling my parents. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You kept it secret from them? 

PAUL: Yes I did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did your friends know? 

PAUL: Oh yes, yes, the school knew and…

JENNY BROCKIE:   So the school knew but your parents didn't know, how did that happen? 

PAUL: Well I just kept it to myself. Yeah, I just went through the whole thing on my own. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Tell me how you felt at the time, knowing that your girlfriend was pregnant? 

PAUL: Terrified, terrified, absolutely terrified. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What did you think would happen? 

PAUL: Oh, well I thought her father would, not kill me but you know what I mean? 

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, pretty close? 

PAUL: Yeah, pretty close. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And did he contact you? 

PAUL: No, nobody did, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And did she stay at school while she was pregnant, what happened? 

PAUL: From memory, she was taken out of school to have the baby and then I can't recall whether she came back or not.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what did you hear about what had happened to the baby? 

PAUL: Well I knew it was adopted out so it was taken out of my hands basically. I didn't hear much after that.  I believe there was a photo, I remember seeing a photo when I was about 16 or 17, around that age, and then that was it, yeah, and then obviously I moved on in life and had my own children and then it became more apparent to me each New Year, because he was born on the 1st of January, so each New Year’s it started to play on my mind. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Gary, you had a girlfriend Jane when you were 18? 

GARY: Yes, she was 18 and I was 19 and she was still at school and I'd just left and, yeah, we'd sort of met and that was it. We went out for a number of years, a couple of years, and yeah, so that was, you know, first love and all the rest of it, it was pretty heady stuff. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you were planning a future together? 

GARY: Well, that would have been my intention.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Was it what she wanted as well? 

GARY: Well, I don't know, we didn't actually discuss it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Okay. Do you remember the moment that you found out at 18 that Jane was pregnant? 

GARY: Yeah, actually I do. She'd come around to the house and told me that she was pregnant, the scariest thing was, you know, having to tell her parents.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Now this was the early '70s when this happened? 

GARY: Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:   What went through your mind when she told you she was pregnant? 

GARY: Well, you get married and then you think well, you know, it's still, I'd only just left school and in those days there was no other option. You got married or you put the child up for adoption and that's what ended up happening. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Both sets of parents knew? 

GARY: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did they react? 

GARY: They weren't very happy.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Now you had a meeting with Jane's parents? 

GARY: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did that go? 

GARY: Yeah, well it was pretty heavy and the baby was going to be adopted and that was the end of it. But my parents were pretty much the same.

JENNY BROCKIE:   What happened when the baby was born? 

GARY: Well, I went and saw her in the hospital the day that the baby was born and it was pretty bad because again I had to sort of sneak around a bit.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you snuck into the hospital? 

GARY: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Without her parents knowing? 

GARY: Yeah, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you see the baby? 

GARY: No, we weren't allowed to see it.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How were you feeling at that time? 

GARY: Well I was pretty, pretty traumatised really. You know, I would have liked to have had some input and maybe, you know, at least be acknowledged as the father because I, I had no, I had no status at all. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You weren't on the birth certificate? 

GARY: No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you weren't either Paul? 

PAUL: No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Okay.  What happened to you and Jane after that? 

GARY: Well, a couple, well we sort of kept seeing each other when she came out of hospital and so on but it got to a stage after about six months or so that it was just too much.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So it was all clandestine meetings? 

GARY: Yeah, and she just couldn't, you know, she couldn't continue like that. I mean, you couldn't blame her. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And she wrote you a "dear John" letter? 

GARY: Dear John, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   On a Valentine's Day? 

GARY: On Valentine’s Day, yeah! 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Can you read a little bit of that letter? 

GARY: Yeah, okay, as long as I don't break down I'll be right. 

PAUL: You'll be right mate. 

GARY: "For Gary, what I have to say is going to be very difficult to put into words. I'm sorry but it's best if we parted because we cannot keep seeing each other secretly.  You and I have no future together. We couldn't get married because we gave away our first child." So it was pretty, you know, heart wrenching and it was funny because we were, I was living with my brother down near Grange and I was on the Grange jetty and I nearly tore it up into a million pieces and threw it into the sea but I kept it and I, you know, kept it for many, many years, so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Where did that leave you? 

GARY: Pretty devastated and, yeah, so I think it sort of affected my, my relationship with other, with other girls, well, it's, you've given away your first child, you know, how many more are you going to be giving away sort of thing and it sort of affected me that way I think in terms of, you know, making a commitment. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Trust? 

GARY: Yeah, yeah. Commitment. 

PAUL: Always in the back of your mind. 

GARY: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Always in the back of your mind too Paul? 

PAUL: Always in the back of your mind. 

GARY: Yeah.  PAUL: Even from a young age. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Gary, did you have any idea afterwards what happened to the baby? 

GARY: I found out that she, the baby was, because I always referred to her as "the baby", lived at Port Pirie and her father was a chemist so that's about all I knew of her.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Ken, when you were 20 you were working on Phillip Island and you had a brief relationship with a young woman called Lisa, tell us about that? 

KEN:  I was working on a Cray fishing boat and we were coming back into the wharf one day and as we tied up alongside the wharf, I noticed a young woman sitting on the beach sun baking and I said to myself, wow, what a honey. And, um, after we'd tied the boat up and finished cleaning up I went and approached her and started chatting to her and it went from there. And we hooked up and basically had a summer romance. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you find out she was pregnant? 

KEN:  I didn't. She kept that from me and last I saw Lisa was her father had come down from Queensland to visit his relatives down there and he'd come and picked me and Lisa up and we went and visited an auntie and I had an appendicitis attack that afternoon and was rushed into hospital and had my appendix removed and that was the last I saw of Lisa. And nine months later a friend of mine who lived in the town where Lisa came from, he'd told me that she'd had a baby, a girl, and she'd adopted her out and that was it, that's all I knew. I knew her birth date and that she was a girl and, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did you react at the time? You knew it would be your baby? 

KEN:  I was devastated, you know, I was sort of upset that she hadn't contacted me. I tried ringing her house and her mother did say to me, I remember, it's a long time ago, 37 years ago, that she didn't want Lisa to see me and I wasn't to ring the house again and that was it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What would you have said to her, Lisa, if you'd made contact with her while she was pregnant? 

KEN:  I would have said to her come on, let's go to Queensland and we'll live with my dad on the Gold Coast and we'll get married if you want to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you think you really would have done that at 18? 

KEN:  I was 20. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   20, sorry. 

KEN:  I had four sisters that were all married and had children so I was the last one in my family to, um, to have children and, yeah, I probably would have. I definitely would have. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   This happened in the late '70's.  In the years afterwards did you try to look for your birth daughter? 

KEN:  No, it was, because I did end up moving back to Queensland to live with my father and work with him and I met another woman and we had a relationship and stayed together for 23 years, and now separated, but yeah, so I probably…

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you didn't look so was it…

KEN: Well I didn't know where to start.  There were no avenues for, you know, my name wasn't on the birth certificate so…

JENNY BROCKIE:   Another one that wasn't on the birth certificate? 

KEN:  Yeah, another one, yeah, and you know, I always thought about Emma, I didn't know her name was Emma but I always thought about the baby on her birthday. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Gary, you'd only been going out with your girlfriend Kay for a few months when she became pregnant in the late 60s, you were 20? 

GARY C: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did you react at the time? 

GARY C: Shock, total shock. The first time we'd made love and a child was going to result, that just didn't seem fair. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you were angry? 

GARY C: Ah yeah, I guess so, but not, not raging anger.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah, not - but you felt…

GARY C: Yeah, been dealt a bad card, if you like, or we'd been dealt a bad card. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you tell your parents and did she tell her parents? 

GARY C: She could not tell her parents, she made that quite clear. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did she keep it from her parents, was she living at home? 

GARY C: No, she went away as far away as she could. This adoption happened in New Zealand, so she went to the other island and her parents never found out until many years later her mother tumbled to Kay's absence and reached the conclusion that mmm, maybe that was when you went away and had a baby, not knowing that there was a baby. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So who knew? 

GARY C: I told my parents and I did not get their support, I was looking for moral and also financial support because Kay and I had nothing being financially deprived university students, and when that support was not forthcoming, I mean I panicked.  And when I did not get the support from my father in particular, I panicked and well, to put it bluntly I've denied paternity. So I forced an adoption to occur. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You said it wasn't your baby? 

GARY C: Yes, at the time I did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did she react to that? 

GARY C: Amazingly with some understanding and she went off to the other island and lived with some people on a farm and she was just a home help looking after deaf children until her time came and then she went into the local hospital and had our son. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did your parents react to you having said I'm having a baby? 

GARY C: You know what?  We never talked about it again. It was my decision and it was never talked about in the household again. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Wow. 

GARY C: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   That's a big piece of information to just sweep under a very large carpet presumably? 

GARY C: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   To cover it up? 

GARY C: Yes, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Was it a serious relationship you had with Kay? 

GARY C: Very serious.  I mean I mentioned just a moment ago that we were planning to get married. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   She must have been furious with you? 

GARY C: No, she wasn't.  Believe it or not we continued writing throughout the pregnancy and when she came after giving birth to our son, she came back through where I was living and we met and she told me about the birth.

JENNY BROCKIE:   What were you two saying to one another just then about this because there's a sharp intake of breath here from the rest of you listening to this story. What were you saying? 

KEN:  I was saying to old mate here all relationships back then were serious, you know, everyone that I know, you know, when you were that young you fell in love with them. 

PAUL: That's right.  You were in love instantly, especially at 15. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Really? 

PAUL:  Yeah, of course. 

JENNY BROCKIE:    I mean this is the '60's and the '70's, come on, not everybody was madly in love with everybody they slept with. 

GARY: Well the thing is most times…

KEN:  I loved every woman I slept with. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sorry, go on Gary. 

GARY: But if you were in a relationship that, you know, you sort of feel, it's an intense relationship, excuse me, that's how you feel. That's what you do. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So were you all in love? 

GARY: Yeah. 

PAUL: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you think, even at 14? 

PAUL: 14, 15. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Now as you mentioned Gary, it all happened in New Zealand?  You moved to Australia not long afterwards? 

GARY C:  Mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why? 

GARY C: I graduated and part of my reason for coming here was as a geologist, this is where the jobs were, but I also felt as I was fleeing the scene of my crime. I just…

JENNY BROCKIE:   A crime? 

GARY C:  I wanted to get away and start afresh, just leave that behind me. It … 

KEN:  Sweep that under the carpet. 

GARY C:  Bothered the hell out of me what I'd done. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Were you still in touch with her at this point? 

GARY C: No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   With Kay? 

GARY C:  No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not at all? 

GARY C: I found out via mutual friends that about a year later she got married and as far as I was concerned that was absolutely the end. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And did you know what had happened to the baby at that point? 

GARY C: I knew he'd been adopted out to be raised as a Catholic, that was a stipulation that Kay had made, and yeah, that's all I knew at that time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Where does it leave you as a man how you feel about yourself in those situations? 

GARY C: Well I felt I'd failed as, you know, as a provider, and yeah, I lost the essence of my manhood by walking away from prime responsibility. That the way I felt about it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why did you walk away? Why did you decide to? 

GARY C: Just I just found it totally overwhelming, I didn't think I was equipped at age 20 to be an instant father and to support a wife and child. I mean it sounds callous and it was at the time. Yeah, there was certainly the stigma attached with illegitimacy which was alive and well, very conscious of that, more so for the mother because of, you know, her visibility during pregnancy. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Mmm. The woman's reputation was very much on the line though in these situations, wasn’t it? 

KEN:  For sure. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And it's interesting, did you feel your reputations were in any sense on the line or not? 

GARY C: Not in the public sense but internally, yes. 

KEN:  Exactly. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So all of you knew that you had a biological child out there somewhere in the world. Did you think about it much in the decades afterwards, or was it a case of getting on with your lives? 

PAUL: No, you'll probably get the same answer from us all. Their birth dates. 

KEN:  Yeah, that's it. 

PAUL: Their birthdays, it just overwhelmed you weeks before and weeks after. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Describe that for me Paul, when you say it overwhelmed you, how? 

PAUL: Well you can imagine with me with, you know, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, even you know for a…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Which was the birthday?

PAUL: Which was the birthday, you know, yeah, my wife describes it as I went quiet, if you like, for the week before and the week after and, you know, because it was always just something in the back of my mind, you know? That was how it was for me. 

KEN:  Yeah I thought about Emma on her birthday every year for the last 37 years and you know, and at times when I was a little bit depressed or a bit down, you know, had a fight with my, with my wife and you know, well jeez, what if I hadn't had that opportunity to live with Lisa and bring up Emma, it would have been, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So it was like another life, another alternative life that was kind of looming in your history? 

KEN: Yeah, yeah, but you know, you deal with that and you get on with your own life and the birthdays, yeah. 

GARY C: Yeah, I didn't know exactly when my son was, I'd forgotten the date and I guess that was part of my denial but I knew it was in late May so always around that time, yeah, that was just a period there where you…

KEN:  Exactly. 

GARY C:  Just went a wee bit subdued. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what went through your mind then in the years after with…

GARY C: I just wondering how is he?  Alright? Is he with a loving family? Is he being raised well? How's he going at school? 

KEN:  Yeah, how's he doing at school? 

GARY C: What's he look like?  And I was convinced one day in Melbourne that I saw him in the street and he must have been, I guess, in his early 20s then and I was convinced that it was him. And of course when I turned around and had another look he'd gone so I wasn't able to confirm or otherwise whether it had been him but for days afterwards I hung onto that was my son. 

KEN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jo, did you think about who your birth father might be growing up as an adopted child? 

JO: All the time, all the time. I'd always be looking and seeing I wonder if that looks like him or maybe that would look like him. Absolutely. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what sort of things did you think about him?

JO: Um, I just would wonder what, what he was like, what he looked like, what his relationship with my mum might have been.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you feel resentment at all about your biological parents not having raised you? 

JO: No, I just knew my life wouldn't begin until I'd met them, that there was this deep need and an ache for them each day.  My adoptive parents were always supportive that that would happen, that they would give me their full support to do it and I was also very lucky that my mum, Jane, didn't do as she was told. So…

JENNY BROCKIE:   Your biological mum? 

JO: Yeah.  So from the moment I left the hospital she kept contacting the adoption agency, finding out how I was, made constant and regular contact with them. So my adoptive mother wrote to Jane to reassure her I was loved and healthy and so then that, there was no more contact from there but then when I was 15 Jane contacted again and so we wrote to each other for two years and then met when I was 17. She then was able to tell me who my father was and she'd had no contact with him since I was born, well soon after I was born, and so she made very quiet efforts to make contact with Gary. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And when she reconnected with Gary, here, your biological dad, she wrote to you, didn't she? 

JO: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Can you read out a little bit of that letter that she wrote? 

JO: Of course.  "18 years ago we didn't have the chance to talk about the circumstances or end the relationship. We were literally torn apart and separated from you. After talking things over with him, I can now see that he was also traumatised over losing me and you. He became very emotional when I showed him your photos and asked for your address. You'll receive a letter from him soon." 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How did you react when you read that letter? 

JO: I was just thrilled. I felt like the whole, the parts of me had come back to together and that I could be whole.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Gary, what was it like seeing Jane after all those years, after 18 years? 

GARY: Yeah, it was pretty emotional actually and we sort of reminisced about the good old days and, you know, what may have been and what could have been and all the rest of it, but…

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what do you think could have been? 

GARY: Well, I mean, you know, talking about should have, getting together, being married and so on. But of course I was engaged already to be married shortly anyway so it wasn't, you know, that wasn't going to happen unfortunately. So…

JENNY BROCKIE:   Unfortunately? 

GARY: Well, my marriage didn't last very long and I don't know, it was nothing to do with her but, you know, you sort of think well maybe if I would have been bold enough to sort of say well, no, I've reunited with my first love and all the rest of it, you know, but that's sort of all…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Were you still in love with her when you saw her again? 

GARY: Well it's hard to say. You sort of, you get a bit overcome with all the emotions. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And she found it emotional too, didn't she? 

JO: Yeah, and she found it very healing as well that they were able to talk and share the grief. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what was it like when you finally met, the two of you? 

JO: It was really, it was exciting. 

GARY: Yeah, it was pretty emotional. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Gary, you were keen to reconnect with your former girlfriend Kay, when was that and why? 

GARY C: I married a birth mother, not Kay, another woman who had a child that she'd given up for adoption here in Australia and she reconnected with her daughter in 1998 and that coincided with my son turning 21 and I knew so little about, um, what had happened as a result of me, um, denying responsibility that I had thought I was susceptible to be served with maintenance orders up to 19, until he was 21. So I felt this great sense of relief when none had appeared and I'd crossed that threshold and that…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Wow, but you're not sounding very attractive at this point? 

GARY C: No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I have to be honest here, so you're a guy who wants to deny paternity? 

GARY C: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you run away to Australia? 

GARY C: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And then you wait until you're not liable for any maintenance? 

GARY C: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Before you start looking for your son? 

GARY C: It's not a pleasant story. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   It's not a great story? 

GARY C: No, it's not but it's the truth. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Just being honest, sorry. 

GARY C: That's what happened. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sorry. 

GARY C:  That's what happened. Yes, and as I said my wife connected with her daughter and I began thinking, I saw what was happening with her, they didn't actually meet but I saw the process unfolding and I began to think about well, you know, maybe I should do something about reconnecting with my son. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Interesting that you married someone…

GARY C: I know. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Who was a birth mother who'd had to give up her biological child? 

GARY C: But we barely talked about our individual experiences as birth parents. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Another big carpet on the floor with lots of stuff underneath? 

GARY C: We were both in denial. So I realised that what I needed to do, because I'd let Kay down and forced the adoption to occur, I needed to make my peace with her first. So I sought her out.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did she react to you then? 

GARY C: Very positively, very positively. I mean first thing I said I've come to apologise for the wrong and the pain that I've caused you and she said I forgive you.  It was, yeah, for her it was as simple as that and I felt this great weight lifting off my shoulders. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And then what did you want? 

GARY C: Well we talked about, of course, our son, and we wondered how he was and Kay was in the process of seeking non-identifying information which you can do via the department in New Zealand.

JENNY BROCKIE:   You decided you wanted to make contact with your son but it was very difficult? 

GARY C: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Why, why was it difficult? 

GARY C: Well, because I wasn't on the original birth certificate so I did not have the legal means of reaching out to him via the department. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   But he had imposed a veto on contact as well? 

GARY C: That came later, that came later when we did actually reach out. Kay and I collaborated at that point with the search, alright, and my first step for, just to unwind the denial of a paternity, if you like, was to acknowledge my paternity and to do that I needed to sign a statutory declaration, have Kay countersign it, just confirming that I was the father and then get that sent off, which was the first step to getting my name entered in the birth records as his father. The other thing was I did not want my son, should he access his original birth certificate, to find a blank or "not known" against father. 

KEN:  No father at all. 

GARY C: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you both decided you wanted to find out what had happened? 

GARY C:  We reached out to him, he was overseas. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How old would have he been then? 

GARY C: Oh, he was about 28, and as a result of that he came back and via her imposed the veto. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you find him, given there was a veto? 

GARY C: Okay, I employed a researcher.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Okay.  So what happened when you tracked him down and when you made contact with him? How did he react? 

GARY C: He was shocked to hear from me, it was a negative reaction.  He was angry that I had breached the veto.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you, did you have any kind of qualms about…

GARY C: Of course I did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Calling him out of the blue like that? 

GARY C: Absolutely.  I went through absolute agony, so I played out all sorts of scenarios and yeah, I deferred it for months and then…

JENNY BROCKIE:   And he, when he spoke to you again, he didn't want to have contact with you? 

GARY C: No, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did you feel about that? 

GARY C: I was, it's not what I wanted to hear. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you meet him in person at any stage? 

GARY C: Yes, I did. I happened to be going to New Zealand in 2009 for a family reunion and I wrote to my son and said I was going to be in the city where he lives, would he be amenable to us meeting? And about a week before I left I got this letter back saying that yes, he, that was okay and I'd asked him to nominate a venue if he said yes so we met at the end of November in 2009. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was that meeting like? 

GARY C: Rather, a bit like a face-to-face replay of the phone conversation. So he showed a complete lack of curiosity, he did not ask a single question about his, you know, the circumstances of his adoption or about either of us.  So it was, it was a difficult 75 minute conversation. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So that meeting was in 2009? 

GARY C: Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Are you still trying to contact him now? 

GARY C: I do it via sending the birthday cards. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Do you get anything back? 

GARY C: No, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And where does that leave you and how you feel? 

GARY C: Hoping and hoping and hoping that one day, you know, he'll, there'll being a change of heart.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Emma, growing up, did you have any idea of who your biological father was? 

EMMA: No, not at all, not at all. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And your biological mum? 

EMMA: I only had a name and that was it, there was very little information on my adoption papers. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you know you were adopted?

EMMA: Yeah, I found out at a very early age, I think I remember it would have been probably around four.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you imagine what your biological father might be like? 

EMMA: Oh, look there were many times, you know, as a primary school child and a teenager imagining what he looked like, what features I had of his, personality types, all those kind of things.

JENNY BROCKIE:   You only found him last year, how did you find him? 

EMMA: I applied for a TV show called Long Lost Family and I felt that this was my only, I guess, last resort to be able to have that chance to try and find my father. So after I emailed them, they came out and did an interview with me and then over the next two months I had signed a contract, they had told me that they had picked me for the show. Hadn't told me that they had found him or anything so I was kind of left in the dark as such until we started filming really. I had no idea if they found him, if he wanted to meet me, if he wanted to be on the show. I had no idea. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you find out that Emma is looking for you? 

KEN:  I knew before Emma. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You knew before Emma? 

KEN:  Yeah, yeah, I knew. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when did you see a picture of Emma? 

KEN:  Not until early November.  They had some photos of Em when she was a baby to a teenager and married and…

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was that like? 

KEN:  Overwhelming, I cried my eyes out and I said wow, she's as beautiful as what I thought she'd be and, and, yeah, it was, I was over the moon. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Let's have a look at what happened when the two of you finally met on Long Lost Families. 

 

VIDEO PLAYED. 

LONG LOST FAMILIES:

 

EMMA:  Hi dad!

KEN: Sweetheart, goodness me. You don’t know how good this feels. Goodness me sweetheart, you look beautiful.

EMMA: Thank you.

KEN:  You really do.

EMMA:  It’s so good to see you.

KEN: It’s so good to see you sweetheart, oh my baby.

EMMA: I have waited for such a long time.

KEN:  I know you have, my goodness me.

 

KEN:  I'm going to start crying. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was that like? 

EMMA: Oh, sorry, it was, um, it was just a long time coming for me. I can't even describe, um, there was so many emotions. And when we kind of cuddled and I looked into his eyes it just felt that we hadn't been apart for 37 years, we just kind of had that instant…

KEN:  That's exactly what I felt too. 

EMMA:  Instant bond. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was the first thing you wanted to say to her?

KEN:  Sorry that I didn't have the opportunity to raise her as my child. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Gary, did you say sorry when you met your son? 

GARY C: I did, yes I did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did he react? 

GARY C: With nonchalance, as though it didn't mean much. 

KEN:  That would have been hard. 

GARY C: Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And other Gary and Jo, did you have a kind of meeting like this? What was it like when you two first met? 

JO: For me it was like many coming home. This person you've never met but you feel very comfortable and familiar with as though you've always known them. 

GARY: Yeah, it was, it was, yeah, it was emotional but it was, but it was good though because then the sort of circle had been complete.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you didn't have the music track running behind the first meeting? 

JO: Definitely not. 

KEN:  Well we didn't either, we didn't have that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   No, that's right, it was added later. Nikki, you help people link up in these situations. Is that what it's usually like for biological dads? 

NIKKI HARTMANN, POST AND FORCED ADOPTION SUPPORT SERVICES:   Not all the time. I think like we've got a particular process that we go through and each, each step of the process is dependent on what happened in the step before. So they're all different and generally people will approach with caution and want to be respectful of the experience of the person that they're searching for. And I think people tend to want to know a bit about each other first before, before they make that contact and so that's where, that's where we come in.

So I think often, in the general population there's an idea that, that people meet and things will be great and everyone will go on living happily ever after and I think the reality is that all new adult relationships take work and they can be complicated and they can be great and they can be complex and they can be easy and all of these things can change over a period of time. And I think one of the things is that they are adults coming together with a, with a biological strong connection, but their lives may have been very, very different.  So you know it's around how, how relationships are supported to start, to start working. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Paul, you met your biological son for the first time eight years ago after 36 years, something like that? 

PAUL: Thank you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was it like? 

PAUL: Well I was with Nikki, Nikki's been a friend of mine. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Nikki helped you, yeah. 

PAUL: She's been a friend of mine for years so we, we met at a pub actually and it was very strange. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   You're not much older than him? 

PAUL: No, I'm not, just a few years. No, we arranged to meet at a hotel and have a drink together and Nikki and I arrived, Nikki and I arrived there and, um, we sat there for half an hour and then another half an hour and then half an hour. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Look at the two of you, my goodness. 

PAUL: Yeah, he's not mine, is he? 

KEN:  The apple didn't fall far from the tree, that one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And what was it like? 

PAUL: Well, we'd thought he'd turned around and gone back home because we were there for a good hour, hour and a half, and he was in another part of the bar to us so by the time we got to…

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you thought you'd stood one another up? 

PAUL: Yeah, pretty much, yeah. He'd got that at 5.30, I'd got there at 6 and I think we met about 7.30. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Oh, my goodness, so he'd waited for two hours for you? 

PAUL: Yeah, pretty much. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Keen boy? 

PAUL: Yeah, and we'd had 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Man, sorry. 

PAUL:  And we had a few drinks on board by then. Had a few beers so …

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what did you say to him? 

PAUL: Oh, what do you say?  Hello? How you going? Would you like another beer? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Wasn't there actually more that you said than that? 

PAUL: We're boys, it's not like, you know, it's not like the big emotional hug or anything like that. It's just good day mate, you know, how you doing, and then you work through it slowly, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Yeah? 

PAUL: Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What did you get through, what sort of things did you talk about? 

PAUL: Well he asked me whether, his understanding was that we'd had him for a while and that he was given up and I told him, I sort of said no, no, no, that's not right. You know, me being so young and what happened from there and how I found him and all those sort of things and you know, why it took so long, so, and we talked about that for a while.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And how did you feel about that meeting, where did it leave you? 

PAUL: Great, it was a happy story for me, he's come into our lives and he mixes with my kids.  You know, they call him the brother from the other mother and so it's all good now, yeah.  Came to our wedding. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Obviously not being on the birth certificate is a big thing for all of you? 

PAUL: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And I mean it's really interesting to me that even in the early '80's we're talking about this sort of stuff still happening and people being kind of shipped away and you know, sent away? 

PAUL:  Look I can understand why I wasn't, I don't necessarily agree with it but I can understand why I wasn't.  I mean we were so young, her parents were trying to make the best decision for her at that time so whether I agree with it, I don't, you know.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And one of you has had your name put on the birth certificate. Gary, yeah. 

GARY: That was hard work, pardon me, that Jo did to get all that put in place.  But yeah, that's sort of, again that's sort of closed the circles in terms of, you know, that I had a family and you know, that I was acknowledged as the father. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Daryl, you're a psychologist, you've done a lot of work in this area. How common is it, was it, for the father's name to be left off a birth certificate in a situation like this? 

DARYL HIGGINS, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF FAMILY STUDIES:  From the research that we've done at the Institute of Family Studies it's actually a very common theme from the fathers that we've talked to, but also from the mothers. But absolutely their views certainly make that clear that being left off a birth certificate is actually a really deep seated psychological thing for them and really is quite consistent with other people's views about what's one of those things that really niggles at people about that era of forced adoption. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And do you get a sense that there are many fathers in these situations that want to know about their biological children? How much of a sense you get that those fathers want to know as much as the mothers want to know?

DARYL HIGGINS:  Well I think we're reliant on the fathers who want to participate in research and absolutely that's a very strong theme. You know, as a society we collectively wanted to, you know, turn our eyes away from what was happening and didn't want to support and I think, you know, we heard from these brave fellows up on the podium today talking about how they weren't supported by, you know, the society around them and even by their own families. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Well often it was the mother's family that just moved in and made all the decisions around all of this? 

DARYL HIGGINS:  That's right, that's right, and so that theme of being left out of the decision making, where was my voice in that, is something that I think really stays psychologically with many of the fathers right throughout their lives. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How common was it for the father's name to be left off the birth certificate in these decades, you know, in the '60's, '70's, '80's? 

DARYL HIGGINS:  We actually don't have really good data on the numbers but certainly from the people that we've interviewed as part of our research, it's actually a really common theme.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And Gary, you wanted to make a point about if you're left off the birth certificate, you're then reliant on other things? 

GARY C: That's right. So when an adopted person comes to search and let's assume they go through the mother, search for the mother and find the mother first, then ask about the father, if the father's not on the, we've seen the father's not on the birth certificate, the quality of the original relationship between the mother and the father starts to be an important factor. The mother is either willing to release the name of the father, or depending on the circumstances of the quality of the relationship back at the time of conception, she may choose not to. And the adopted searcher, the adopted person searcher is stymied. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Is it easier now for people to find their biological fathers? 

DARYL HIGGINS:  Look, absolutely things are very different now and we no longer have the era of closed adoption, where the records were sealed, where there was a whole lot of shame and secrecy and whole lot of practices that actually worked against ever being able to have, um, children find their parents and to be able to support that connection.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Jo, about fifteen years after you met Gary and established a relationship, you decided you didn't want to see him again, why? 

JO: Because it was really painful. Because I didn't know where I fitted in and so, I had lived in an adoptive family where I felt I didn't belong, thinking I would go to a biological family where I immediately fitted in and there wasn't a really a space for me.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So why did you decide to stop seeing him? 

JO: Because the pain of adoption continued and I sadly felt it was Gary's fault. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So you had like a delayed anger towards him? 

JO: I think I probably had a little bubbling of anger throughout the time we were together because I could see also that when, with reunion, I came face-to-face with my mum's pain and, um, yeah, I was kind of in the middle and so I just found that, yeah, it was too difficult and I asked not to have contact. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And Gary, how did you react to that? 

GARY: Well, I was devastated actually because you know, I’d write a letter to her and explained, you know, how much we'd sort of wanted to sort of keep in touch with the family you know, it's her decision. You can't…

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what changed Jo? 

JO: When my mum died I started looking back at letters that she had written to me and I was re-reading the letter that she wrote after she met with Gary when I was 18 and that was when I realised that everyone was damaged in the process and we were all hurting and we were all trying to find a way of making reunion work and that he wasn't to blame. That he was as much a victim in it as Jane and I were. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what did you do? 

JO: I rang him and after five years I asked if we could meet and he very graciously immediately said yes.

GARY: It's been good. 

JO:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you have a strong relationship with your grandchildren? 

GARY: Yeah, yeah, we do, it's terrific.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Has what happened all those years ago back in the '70's affected the choices you've made in your life do you think, Gary? 

GARY: Well, yeah, I think it's affected me in relationships subconsciously. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How? 

GARY: About making a commitment, the person you're with is somebody that you want to be with, you know, for the rest of your life.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Did you have other children? 

GARY: No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And was that a conscious decision? 

GARY: Well pretty much so I think, yeah, you just don't want to go through that again sort of thing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You don't want to risk losing them? 

GARY:  Yeah. Well, you know, I've already lost one child, I don't want to lose any more. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And are you in a relationship now? 

GARY: Yes, I've been married for the last twenty odd years to my beautiful wife Jan so, you know, it's been great. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What about you Gary, did fathering that child of yours all those years ago affect choices you've made in your life? 

GARY C: Yes, it did. I felt I lived a half-life, if you like, when I was in denial. I don't think I was a particularly good father to the two children I have with my wife.

JENNY BROCKIE:   And obviously a huge burden? 

GARY C: Yeah, yeah, dealing with the grief and the guilt. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Ken, how has fathering a child in the '70's affected the choices you've made with your own life do you think? 

KEN:  There's things in life that you can't, you know, whatever happened in the past you can't go back and change. It's happened and you know, I've apologised, I spoke with Emma's mum this afternoon actually for the first time in 37 years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Today? 

KEN:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What was that like? 

KEN:  Awesome, it was great.  You know, as she said to me:  "Oh, you sound exactly the same as what you did when you were 19". 

JENNY BROCKIE:   So what, what made you do that today? 

KEN:  Well, she'd asked Emma if Emma would asked me if I'd mind giving, Emma giving my number to Lisa and I said no, of course, I'd love to talk with her and apologise to her and that's exactly what I did. I told her I was sorry, it would be interesting to see how Lisa looks today and how she feels about things. I mean I'm not going to, I don't want to get back into a relationship or anything, but it's, you know, just I'd like to talk with her and see how she's doing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Interesting though that early love, that early girlfriend? 

KEN:  She had a piece of my heart then that I couldn't give to anyone else, you know, and that's, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And you only met Emma six months ago, how much are you in contact now the two of you? 

KEN:  Two to three times a week, Em? 

EMMA: Yeah. 

KEN:   I'm probably humbugging you a bit more than you humbug me? 

EMMA:  Oh look, the kids love speaking to him. We caught up obviously just before Christmas, just after Christmas, my husband Justin and Jordan went up to Darwin to spend a week up there with dad which I think was really, really great for them.  I just feel like we've just kind of jelled really, really well together and it doesn't, doesn't feel like we've had a day apart to me. 

KEN:  Yeah, I feel exactly the same. You know, it's like we've slotted straight back into a life that we could have had for 37 years, but maybe we'll have for the next 37 years? 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Paul, if you were faced with that situation now, knowing what you know about yourselves and about life, what would you do? 

PAUL: Hindsight's a wonderful thing. 

GARY: That's right. 

KEN:  That's a hard question. 

PAUL:  I don't - because I've had a wonderful outcome I don't regret it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Any of the rest of you got thoughts on what you've learnt about this, about yourselves and about the situation? 

GARY C: Yeah, what I've learned from what I've been through and what I've absorbed from others is that adoption, separation has an enormous impact on the lives of families. It doesn't end at the moment the adoption takes place concern. 

GARY: No, it's just the start. 

GARY C: There are many, many waves that throw out from that stone cast into the pond. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Thank you all so much for joining us and sharing your stories tonight, it's been really good to talk to you all and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks very much everyone, thank you well done.