Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FAMILY AND HUMAN SERVICES
23/09/2005
Adoption of children from overseas

CHAIR —Welcome. It is a great pleasure to have you with us today.

Witnesses were then sworn or affirmed—

CHAIR —Would you like to make an opening statement?

Miss Matthews —First of all, we want to say thank you so much for this opportunity. More and more the voices of adult adoptees are being heard in these sorts of forums and are being invited along to the process of intercountry adoption. I think that is reflected in the involvement of ICASN in different organisations at different levels of government throughout the country. We are interested to hear about the terms of reference of this inquiry but our role here today is more to enlighten you to as to the experience that adopted children have. While much of the focus will be on the process of adopting children, we would like to give you the perspective of what it is like for children and how often the importance of support after the adoption has taken place is neglected. Once the papers are signed there is not a great deal of support for people like us in navigating our way through the experience that we have had. That is probably our focus for today.

We also want to enlighten you about the fact that, while we understand the goal is to create loving families from intercountry adoption, it is not an easy journey and it is not a journey or an experience that ends once parents have their children. That is the perspective of a lot of agencies. ICASN grew out of the development of this book, and Lynelle, being the founder, can explain more about how that came about and where it is at today. The book The Colour of Difference was put together by the Post Adoption Resource Centre in Sydney. It profiles 30 or so adoptees from different countries. It was an amazingly unique and revolutionary book. There is nothing like it even today, I think. It was kind of the first public opportunity to see what it has been like for us.

Once that book was put together, the friendships and the relationships that were formed through that project were kind of the catalyst for ICASN being formed. What we have found is that a relationship between adoptees is not like a relationship that you can find anywhere else. I often liken it to Alcoholics Anonymous, in that an alcoholic can understand an alcoholic more than anyone else can; an adoptee can understand an adoptee more than anyone else can. So supporting each other and being in contact with each other is something that has been seen to be so important, and our network is so important for that.

It is a voluntary network; it only exists because of committed individuals throughout the country. It only exists because those committed individuals are willing to spend their own money to be involved, to provide support and to deliver resources to other adoptees. Support is the key. Like I say, it only exists because of committed individuals. Our role today is to help you learn about what it is like at the other end and how important it is to provide services and support for the journey after the adoption has taken place.

CHAIR —Chris, you say you are part of the revolutionary guard. Would you like to say something?

Mr Warner —My parents adopted me in the eighties, and after the adoption process they were pretty much thrown into the deep end. They had no idea of what an adopted child’s needs would be afterwards. For me, studying my culture and learning about it has probably been one of the most helpful things for me in maturing as an individual and as a person—more than anything else. That is why I believe that post-adoption resources are crucial in terms of the child’s development.

CHAIR —Would you like to just briefly say something that you have encountered and have had to deal with, and how having fellow adoptees to talk to has given you a sense of backup and understanding?

Mr Warner —It is a bit of an extreme case because of where I lived—my parents moved down to the Hawkesbury. If you have never been to the Hawkesbury, when you go there you step back in time a few generations, and it is still a very Anglo-Saxon area.

Mr TICEHURST —It is better when you cross the Hawkesbury!

Mr Warner —Yes. And at the time I was growing up. I was young, and because of my age I was obviously an easy target. I experienced a great deal of racism directed at me. When I was in year 1, people would constantly come up, spit on me and tell me to go back to my own effing country. At that time, I had no idea that I was any different from my birth parents. I was always told I was adopted, but I had no concept of what being Asian was or what it was about, and so I thought of it as a bad thing. Having said that, meeting other people who shared similar experiences as adopted kids and who also have a reflection in the mirror that is completely different to what they think they are helped me a lot to understand that I am not alone in this world, that other people experience what I experience, and that together we can help each other.

CHAIR —I hope your experience has got better as you have got older.

Mr Warner —Absolutely.

CHAIR —I am glad we have got better too.

Mr Warner —Times have changed.

Ms Beveridge —Lynelle, would you like to say something about what you feel the importance of this connection is?

Ms Beveridge —You mean specifically important to the network?

CHAIR —Yes.

Ms Beveridge —I founded it six years ago, and that basically arose because I was adopted in a rural region of Victoria, in Gippsland. I went to school and grew up in a community where I was the only ethnic person, so of course I had a lot of racism. I had things happen, like guys would not date me, and I thought, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ It was just because I look different. I did struggle with that. In my story in the book I have written that it severely impacted my concept of self and how I viewed myself. I did not think I was pretty, I did not think I was attractive and I had all of those negative self-perceptions, but I attribute that largely to the fact that it was an intercountry adoption in the country. In those days, there was not the education and awareness there is today for adoptive parents in particular and for communities. Even in schools today, while I have heard of some schools where there is some education for race issues and for different family structure issues, I think it is still an area that needs a bit of development and improvement. That is probably the key area where particularly adopted teenagers that are growing up today would still be experiencing some issues.

I have found the network to be incredibly important to my ability to process my background, my past and my identity, to find a sense of belonging and to find people who can relate and mirror back to me that my experience in feeling abnormal was normal. So it has been very important. It has been probably six years, and I must say I have come to the other end of the journey feeling a lot more at peace and very at ease with who I am. ICASN has been a large factor in that.

For me it was about dealing with my frustrations at the lack of support that was out there. I did go looking for support networks for help. When I came to Sydney there was nothing. I scanned through all the groups. There were all these 12-step programs and things around but there was nothing for adoptees. Today there still is nothing specific to intercountry adoption, apart from what I have seen with ICASN. There are other organisations, like VANISH and Jigsaw, in some states, but they largely focus on domestic adoption and they still largely need improvements in their resourcing and awareness of intercountry adoption issues.

CHAIR —What do you think of the practice that is now being adopted and insisted on with China, for instance, where, when parents go across, they go in batches so that the parents form a relationship and they try to keep the adopted children in contact with one another?

Ms Beveridge —I definitely think it is good to give the children a sense of community. I have heard many stories of how some adoptees, even in my age group, have been raised in a way that their families have kept them together with other adoptees. I can see that that has definitely helped them in being able to relate to someone like them and to be able to see that their situation is normal. I would have loved that opportunity but I never got it.

CHAIR —Do you think we have improved in our adoption procedures and attitudes since the 1980s? I certainly hope so.

Mr Warner —I believe that DOCS does an absolutely wonderful job in the way the process is run. I talk to a lot of people who are adopting kids. In the early stages they say, ‘Why can’t we have the kid now?’ Afterwards they say, ‘I am glad we had that sort of waiting period, because at the beginning we weren’t ready.’ What people do not understand when they adopt a child is that it is not about you. That child comes, in a way, preprogrammed with issues. I saw that first-hand. I did not believe that kids came with abandonment issues until I went to the orphanage in Korea. You would see babies in rows and they would be crying. If you put your hand close to their face they would shut up because they could sense love. They are there for a few months without that sense of connection, so they are going to have trouble in their life connecting to other people. I think DOCS does a wonderful job in that it has seminars to promote attachment and so forth. The parents who have spoken to me afterwards say that the best advice they have ever had has been from us, the older generation of adopted kids, giving our knowledge of what we have been through. Hopefully those parents will not need all that knowledge, but why do you practise a fire drill? Just in case there is a fire.

CHAIR —Exactly. With regard to the question of attachment, we heard some evidence in Tasmania last week that there are now attachment seminars being run and that people are paying a lot more attention to the fact that when a baby is in an orphanage there is not a response immediately to a cry or a lot of crying. This is now being recognised.

Ms Beveridge —It happens all through your adulthood as well. I know that for adult adoptees in our network it is a lifelong trauma; it really is. You constantly have problems trusting. You constantly fear people abandoning you. There are things you can do to address that, and that is one area where there is a lack of resources to help and support. There is a lack of adequate professional help for adoptees. My background is in psychology, so I am quite aware of the mental health issues. Even though people say, ‘We don’t want to hear just the bad side of adoption,’ we do have to remember that there is a proportion of adoptees who have a bad experience. They have a hard time with their adoptive parents, suffer abuse and all sorts of problems and yet they are the quieter ones because they are too afraid to come forward and speak up. I guess I take it on myself to be an advocate for those people because I too have come from an experience like that. I have grown through it, but I have only grown through it because I have had the means within myself to do that. Not everyone has that, but they should be given the opportunity. We need to keep aware of that.

Mr TICEHURST —You have raised some very important issues. I would like to congratulate all of you for coming forward and doing the work that you are doing. It is obviously very important. How old were you when you arrived in Australia?

Ms Beveridge —I was six months.

Miss Matthews —I was 10 months.

Mr Warner —I think I was about six to eight months. I was still a baby.

Mr TICEHURST —You have certainly been here for a long time.

Ms Beveridge —Yes.

Mr TICEHURST —It is interesting because I would have thought that, with some of the experiences that you have mentioned, you might have come here as older children. I have learned from going around schools that by the time a child is five or six they are set for life. But you have obviously had the experience of being here very early.

CHAIR —That first six months is very important.

Ms Beveridge —I think that people forget that a child does have a significant amount of trauma from being separated from their birth parents and removed from their culture.

Miss Matthews —It is about brain development as well. As a baby in an orphanage or an institution, you are crying because you want something—whether it is touch, food or whatever it is. You have a basic need and you are asking for that in the way that a baby does. When you do not get it instantly—like you mentioned—it is all about brain development. Your brain does not develop that pattern that says, ‘When you cry, you are going to get a response.’ So you develop from that moment and it does not matter if you are five months or a year; that is what is happening: your brain is not developing in the same way as somebody’s who is in a different situation. That is why it travels with you through adulthood as well.

Mr TICEHURST —You have raised a very important issue, because it is not just adoptive children who have those sorts of issues. I must say that I am an advocate of a mother or father being with the child when they are very young. Certainly those experiences that you mentioned about those needs being responded to fairly quickly are very important.

Ms Beveridge —This is why it is so important to me, and I cannot advocate strongly enough, that in any process or methodology that government departments go through in allowing prospective parents to be parents you need parents who have emotional stability. That is the foremost thing that comes to my mind. I do not think it is about material wealth; it is more about their emotional stability and their ability to respond and not have their own baggage get in the way of seeing to the needs of a baby who actually needs a lot of things and has trauma.

Mr TICEHURST —Lynelle, you mentioned that you had a bad experience. Was it in terms of abuse with the parents you were brought up with?

Ms Beveridge —Yes. And I wonder what screening happened back then. Of course, I hope that it has improved a lot today. I have not met any young teenage adoptees who tell me that they have been abused, but I have met an awful lot of adults who have told me that. It is a worldwide thing; it is not just Australia-wide.

Mr TICEHURST —Analee, were you brought up in a city or a country area?

Miss Matthews —Similarly to Lynelle, I grew up in a country town in Victoria. We had a similar experience in that I was the only Asian person there. I had nobody to mirror back my ‘Asianness’ or another adoptee. Again, that isolation and not having that mirroring impacts on how you feel about yourself.

Mr TICEHURST —And, Chris, you got stuck in the Hawkesbury?

Mr Warner —Yes. When people adopt, I am the biggest advocate for them having to pick a large multicultural area to live in. Even though they might say, ‘We live in a rural area and we want to adopt from Korea,’ you have to ask: ‘Are there any other Asians in the area?’ That is not to say that they should not be looked at as applicants, but it should be strongly suggested to them that, from all the evidence given here, they should really consider moving. I have heard too many stories of people living in rural areas and kids struggling with identity issues all their lives. Then you meet kids who are raised in Sydney and they are fine with their identity because they have been around other Asians. They are quite happy that they are Korean and they embrace that. It took me ages. It took me two trips to Korea before I decided to embrace the fact that I am Korean. I am 19 now, but it took me a very long time to finally say: ‘Yes, I am Asian, I am Korean and I am proud of that.’ I am proud of being Australian as well, but I think that culture is an important thing.

If children are left in orphanages they will grow up and they will live life. I had the opportunity to meet my birth family. Not a lot of kids do. That has probably helped me through issues, so I am a bit fortunate that way. My Korean brother and sister lived their whole lives in orphanages, and they both have computer science degrees. So orphanages are not that bad. But, for me, knowing the culture is absolutely one of the most important things. Yes, they are Australian, but people who come here from England still study English history. People who come from other countries to Australia still keep in touch with their background. I think it is important that we not lose sight of our cultural heritage. I am Korean, and that is still a part of my cultural background.

Mr TICEHURST —Do you think it is the parents who are creating these racist type issues for the kids? Kids generally will find something. If one of the Anglo-Saxon kids, say, is a little bit different—different ears or whatever—they will always be picked on. It seems to be a bullying type of attitude.

Miss Matthews —Yes, absolutely.

Ms Beveridge —That is where education in schools can help.

CHAIR —Yes, anti-bullying education. I agree.

Miss Matthews —I will share with you an analogy that I use with prospective parents in order to give you a bit of an insight into what it can be like for an intercountry adoptee. If you drive a car that is registered in New South Wales, people who see you in your car think that you are from New South Wales because of your numberplate. If you take your car to the mechanic and they give you a car with Queensland plates, people who do not know you will automatically assume you are from Queensland. That is okay. You might enjoy that for a week or so. You might get away with a few things because you know everyone is assuming you are from Queensland. But what if the mechanic says, ‘I cannot give you your car back ever,’ and, road laws aside, you get to keep the Queensland plates? How would you feel driving around with Queensland plates when you are from New South Wales, knowing that everybody assumes you are from Queensland? That is kind of what it is like when you come from one culture to another. People look at you and assume that you are one thing when in actual fact on the inside you feel something else. We feel like white Australians and it can shock us sometimes when people treat us based on how we look.

Mr TICEHURST —That is a very interesting point. My experience in hiring cars is that if you went to Victoria they would probably give you a Queensland plate! But I am always very sceptical about Victorian drivers when I see them here!

Miss Matthews —You have got two of them here!

Mr TICEHURST —After a while you see that there are little telltale signs on the back of the cars and you know they are rentals. But that is a very good analogy. Excellent.

Ms Beveridge —The other thing Chris briefly mentioned before is that he is from Korea, which has extensive post-adoption support services for adoptees returning to their birth country. There are many adoptees, a large majority of them in Australia, who do not have that opportunity. We need to look at providing some resources or something to help adoptees go back to their birth country to search for and find their birth parents. A majority of them want to do that. Because of the way adoption was run 30 years ago we have hardly any records and hardly any ability to go back to our birth countries and find out our histories. I do not know what can be done, given that it is an international issue; it is not just an Australian issue. But I guess there needs to be a focus and emphasis on, and perhaps a review of, how we are trying to facilitate this now. That way, when the child is 20 or 30 years old, we will at least be able to give them as much information as we can, not have lost it somewhere in the process.

CHAIR —Certainly Korea has an active policy of wanting to stay in touch with its children who have been adopted out.

Mr Warner —Absolutely.

CHAIR —That is part of the deal right from the beginning, whereas dealing with China is totally different. A very poignant story was told by one set of parents who came before the committee. They had gone in a batch to China and had brought back their babies. The parents returned to the police station where their baby girl had been left. The policeman broke down in tears, put his arms around them and said, ‘Twenty-seven girls have been left at this police station and you are the first people to contact me.’ They now stay in touch with him. They send him photographs and regard him as a sort of honorary uncle.

Miss Matthews —That is exactly what we want to happen. And, through the education process, that is what we try and advocate.

CHAIR —That concept of the support groups bringing children together, where they have picnic days and so on—

Miss Matthews —Fantastic.

CHAIR —They use their ethnic costumes and enjoy that part of it.

Ms Beveridge —I went to the Queensland one that you were at. I remember presenting you with flowers. It is a pity we do not have that kind of thing statewide.

Mr Warner —Absolutely.

Ms Beveridge —I think it is a fantastic event. It was the first one I had ever attended. I thought, ‘Wow! I’ll keep going to these.’ It is celebrating our difference. It is celebrating our experience.

CHAIR —Who you are.

Ms Beveridge —It really was bringing everyone together. It felt like a community.

CHAIR —It felt like a terrific day.

Ms Beveridge —It was. It was great.

CHAIR —So you think that would be a good model?

Ms Beveridge —Yes, for each state. Definitely.

Mr Warner —If they cannot actually go back, then bring the culture to them. When I went to Korea I met people from Australia also doing the same thing I was doing, which was going back and searching. I made friends with those people and now they are good friends of mine. I think America has one of the best systems. They have a whole bunch of kids go over at the same time and then they can all share their experiences together.

CHAIR —That is the batch. That is what we are talking about.

Mr Warner —With a group, you can then all talk about it.

CHAIR —Do you mean going back?

Ms Beveridge —This is returning to your country.

Mr Warner —It is a whole group of kids going back at the same time. I think that is such a good idea. People say that our adoption process in Australia is bad, but in Korea they adopt them out because you cannot accept another child into your bloodline if it is not a blood relative. Most Asian countries still have this strict rule on the bloodline. It is so important that you keep the bloodline. When people adopt in Korea, the person pretends they are pregnant for nine months and then pretends for the child’s entire life that it is actually one of theirs. That is why it is so hard for people to go back and search for their birth family.

CHAIR —They do not want to know.

Mr Warner —They are so secretive about it. If the mother has given up a baby and then remarried, there is absolutely no possible chance that they will meet their parents. Often, when they first give up the child, they have the choice to say whether they want to be contacted or not. If they write ‘not’ there is no possible search. In those circumstances, if those children are still wanting to search, I think embracing the culture, whilst it may not be what they are looking for, will give them some peace of mind. Also it is important to know that they were given up for the right reasons. I grew up all my life with this little story that I was told from the adoption agency that I was a child of a one-night stand, a high school fling. Then I found out that my parents were happily married for a number of years and that I have an older brother and sister. When I was told that story that changed my—

CHAIR —Your perception of you.

Mr Warner —My perception was that I was a bastard child, and how could anyone else love me if my own mother did not. That made me grow up that way, but when I found out the truth it completely altered who I was. Now I am more open to talking about it. Back then I was closed and I held everything so close to my heart because I did not want to get hurt. I would say to kids, ‘I guarantee you 100 per cent that the story you got from Korea is false.’ They have 10 or eight stories, which they circulate. They change them to make them sound like big sad stories so that people go: ‘We should love this child more.’ I do not know why they do it. That is what I mean by people complaining about our adoption system. I think our adoption system is one of the best in the entire world.

CHAIR —There are going to be children who are adopted and do have the background of the story you were told. They are not going to go back and find a brother and a sister.

Mr Warner —That is what I am saying. I think I am genuinely one of the fortunate ones, one of the extreme cases. When I met my parents, they had 10 or eight social workers in the room because it was a big thing for someone to meet a parent. It never happens. I would explain to them that there are other kids who have that same story. Unless there are a lot of truck drivers going around Korea having promiscuous sex, it is probably not true. I explained that to one girl who came to me with that issue and that was a huge load off her mind, knowing that the story is a complete lie. It is good to tell them that this is what we know: it may not be true, so do not take it like the Bible. It is not the Bible; it is a little hearsay story that they tell parents.

Miss Matthews —That is the thing with intercountry adoption, as well. In domestic adoptions there is always the focus on reunion. There is always the focus of: ‘Have you found your birth parents?’ For the majority of us it is just not possible. I guess our equivalent is returning to the birth country, learning about the culture first-hand and learning about the people. Often intercountry adoptees will want to try and find whatever they might be able to find with whatever paperwork they may or may not have. The fact is that most of us at some point or another will want to go back to our country and learn as much as we can about our beginnings. I think that the education for parents needs to address this. It is almost inevitable that you will want to find out as much as you can about where you came from because it helps you figure out where you are going.

CHAIR —Even if you are born into a family where you know who your mum and dad are, you are still interested in who your forebears were.

Ms Beveridge —It is a natural instinct.

CHAIR —We all share that.

Miss Matthews —Yes, absolutely.

Ms GEORGE —Can I just ask to what extent the non-government agencies and government departments draw on your experiences in preparing parents for intercountry adoption or in post-adoption processes. Do you get asked to speak at seminars?

Ms Beveridge —It depends on the state government departments. So far we have fairly good relationships with the government departments in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Actually, we do in South Australia too. In Tasmania it is a bit more difficult and the Northern Territory is a bit difficult. But most of them do facilitate prospective parent workshops and will have adoptees working with them. Something I have seen overall from the whole intercountry adoption arena in Australia is that we really are lacking coordination amongst government departments, non-profit organisations, adoptive parents organisations and organisations like ours. We do not facilitate and help each other. We do not share information. It has only been since ICASN has started doing that that we have built up the network with our fellow departments and parent organisations. That never existed before. I am astounded that we have not thought to do it and that there is not a national umbrella to do it under, and funding.

CHAIR —I guess no funding comes with it either.

Ms Beveridge —Exactly. There is no funding.

Mr Warner —When we speak it is all just volunteer work. It is all—

Miss Matthews —Out of our own pockets.

Ms Beveridge —We have to make sure there is a balanced perspective on intercountry adoption, where all parties have a voice so that we can get a balanced perspective, not a skewed perspective. That is why it is important that ICASN exists, because you have a first generation en masse who are adults in professional fields of their own and who can participate and try to make it better for future generations.

Ms GEORGE —I must say you are wonderful ambassadors for your network—just stunning.

Ms Beveridge —Great.

CHAIR —I guess there are not records for when you three were adopted. We can only find figures that go back 10 years.

Ms Beveridge —Yes. We are not even on the books.

CHAIR —You are not on our radar. I guess when you were adopted the incidence of overseas adoption was pretty small.

Ms Beveridge —Yes.

Mr Warner —I was born in the eighties. There were kids adopted before me, but I am still from one of the earliest batches of Korean kids to reach Australia. Also, when my parents attended the seminars it was explained to them in great detail about malnutrition and all the bad things that I might have, coming in. It was a pretty big turn-off, I think, but it was also good to see how much they actually wanted to adopt a child. So it was good and bad. I am very thankful now that a lot of organisations ask me to speak at things. It is getting up and telling very personal details about your life to a bunch of complete strangers but, having said that, I lived these experiences for a reason. I went through all the trauma, I went through the good times and the bad times, and if I do not share my story how can people learn from it? That is what this organisation is trying to do. The best experience is life experience and we try to pass that on to parents. Hopefully, then their kids will be a lot more well-rounded than we are.

Ms Beveridge —I think we have actually turned out pretty well, though!

Mr TICEHURST —If they are half as good they will be fine.

CHAIR —Chris, have you got a good relationship with your parents here in Australia?

Mr Warner —Yes. I love my parents and I respect them. That is why I understand that it must have been hard for them. They say that when they adopted me there was none of this. There were no inquiries, no nothing. It was just them in the deep end, so they had to wing it in some ways. They tried to treat me as one of the regular children and that did not work out. Then they tried to treat me in another way. We are now happily in a middle section. I am happy with how they treat me and they are happy with the response they get.

I think I was fortunate that when they adopted me they had five other kids, so they were just looking to boost the ranks. They were experienced in parenting, so I was a little bit fortunate in that matter. Having said that, my parents have said that they wish I had spoken about these sorts of things. They wish they had spoken about my adoption a lot more to me. They suspected I wanted to talk about it, but because I was so closed up I did not. They always tell parents now to really push the issue. When you think your kids are ready to talk about it, push the issue.

CHAIR —That is good advice. What about you, Analee?

Miss Matthews —My parents are learning as I learn more about how this has impacted on me. I do consider myself a late bloomer in exploring all of this. It has only been in the last five years that I have looked into it all. When Chris said he should have talked about it earlier I thought: ‘Far out! So should I, then, because I was 25 at the time!’ My parents and I have a great relationship. A lot of the issues that come with being adopted and being separated from your birth mother impact on our relationship a lot. There is the whole fear of abandonment and lack of identity and self-esteem and all that sort of thing, so there are a lot of underlying trust issues which are completely mine. My folks did the best they could without any education at all and, like I say, they are learning with me along the way. Let us just keep on doing that.

CHAIR —Lynelle, you had a bad experience, but where are you now?

Ms Beveridge —In those years when I first started talking about my bad experiences I think my parents felt, as most would, fairly threatened and pretty upset about the fact that it had happened anyway. But today I have a very good relationship with my parents. It has been a journey of a lot of healing for our whole family. I think that deep down my mother and father probably still feel a little bit bad about not having done it better, or they think, ‘If only we had known better.’ From that I say that we would like to help with adoptions today so that parents do not have to feel like that anymore, so that adoptees do not have to be doubled up with issues on top of the adoption issues and to make it a little easier. It is not easy; it is a complex journey for all involved, and the work that DOCS does and the work that a lot of the government departments do is so essential. This is where it starts in making sure that we do improve services and that adoption is a better thing.

CHAIR —So at the end of the day you are part of a family that wanted to make you part of their family, and it is a family.

Ms Beveridge —Yes.

CHAIR —You were not fostered; you were not anything else. You became part of a family. Do you feel good about that?

Miss Matthews —Yes. We can only speak for ourselves, but I think we feel good about it. Our goal now is to make the journey a little easier for the future generations.

Ms Beveridge —There are adoptees I know who still struggle and do not have good relationships with their families. There are a number of them.

CHAIR —I know a few people who are born into families who do not have good relationships with their families.

Ms Beveridge —Exactly. It is just a normal thing anyway.

Mr Warner —One of those things.

Mr TICEHURST —How many people are in your organisation?

Ms Beveridge —We have over 220 adoptees in Australia, and worldwide there are probably another 150 contacts as adoptees. We also have over 250 organisations, including government departments, adoptive parents organisations and professionals, who are on our database as contacts.

Mr TICEHURST —But how many people run your local operation itself?

Ms Beveridge —There are only about six of us.

Mr TICEHURST —And you are based in Sydney?

Ms Beveridge —No, they are based in different states. We have two key people in Queensland, two in New South Wales, one in Western Australia and one in South Australia. But I have a full-time job that is more than a full-time job, so does Analee and so do all of our people.

Miss Matthews —It is just fitting it in where you can.

Ms Beveridge —I have sought help and professional advice before on how to structure our organisation so that we can better fit the need, but there is a lack of funding and a lack of trying to get help.

Miss Matthews —And volunteers, as they always do, come and go as well. So it is just about relying on their passion.

Ms Beveridge —Our six people, though, have been pretty stable. We have had these six people for over four or five years now. But I would like to see that grow and I would like to see a little bit more help.

Mr TICEHURST —It is important work you are doing. To be able to come out and talk about your life experience like that is tremendous. I would like to congratulate you all.

CHAIR —Could you table copies of those books for us?

Ms Beveridge —Yes. They are for you.

CHAIR —Is it the wish of the committee that it accepts those documents as exhibits to the inquiry and authorises them for publication? There being no objection, it is so ordered.

Ms Beveridge —What I would love to see is a book five years on from that with the same adoptees, because one thing that is lacking is longitudinal studies on how adoptees cope. It would be an interesting piece of research but, to date, there is no funding.

Mr TICEHURST —When was the book written?

Ms Beveridge —It was published in 2000 but it took two years to publish.

CHAIR —Thank you very much for your testimony today. I think we have had an insight that is very important in drawing together all the threads of this inquiry. Thank you for coming as very fine Australians.

[10.16 am]