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Community Affairs References Committee
29/04/2011
Commonwealth contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices

McGUIRE, Mrs Gabrielle Ann, Private capacity

[09:33]

CHAIR: Welcome. I understand you have been given information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence.

Mrs McGuire : Yes, that is correct.

CHAIR: Do you wish to comment on the capacity in which you are appearing?

Mrs McGuire : I am a mother of a stolen child and a mother of two children who were stolen later on by the federal government in the Family Court because I spoke out about my first child.

CHAIR: We have your submission. It is No. 198. I invite you to make an opening statement and then we will ask some questions. If you would like somebody to be with you at the table, that is perfectly okay. That goes for everyone too. If people feel they would like a person to support them at the table, that is fine.

Mrs McGuire : I guess I have done this on my own for so long that maybe I am used to it. This is a very brief summary. In 1976, after being raped by a railway police officer—actually down the road here, in the tunnel—I became pregnant and went to Pregnancy Help, which was where the grooming started. At five months I went on to training interstate, found various jobs and went into labour well groomed that it was in my baby's best interests and that I would be selfish to keep my baby. After 15 hours of basically being alone in the labour ward until the end, I did not see my baby. My legs were in stirrups and many people walked in and out—not such a dignified position. Sometime later a doctor came in and stitched me up and, yes, I was given stilboestrol. Five days later, the department came in. They got my signature and left. The next day I came out of my brainwashing long enough to go hysterical for my baby, but too late—already gone to a good family. They were 46 and 51 years old, older than my parents. I was kept in hospital for two weeks after the birth.

I tracked my daughter down as soon she turned 18. We met, a euphoric moment. My other children met her—a great day. We had telephone and letter contact for a while, though the APs were putting pressure on her, the emotions rising. I went searching and met up with various groups. All except PARC were wonderful but different. Some focused on the grief, some on the triangle and then Origins on the illegality. I would like to acknowledge Dian Wellfare's efforts. Being of a scientific mind and like a sponge, I absorbed as much as I could, and then that was not enough. I became desperate, wanting more and more. I discovered that my adoption was illegal as were many others. I told my daughter and the APs became very defensive and hurt. Contact was soon cut off.

I had enough material so I decided to write a book so I did not have to explain everything to everybody over and over all the time. Two days before the book was published, my older two children were removed by the Family Court. A coincidence? I think not. I was six months pregnant with my last child at the time. I was warned that if I did not shut up they would take my other kids. I could not possibly believe this could happen. It did, and it did shut me up, apart from a few interviews or submitting my book for the New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into adoption. I received a very good book review from Justice Richard Chisholm. It was published in the Family Law Review after my kids were taken. It was too late. I had raised those children on my own after leaving their abusive father eight years earlier. Access was almost impossible and both children were threatening suicide, so I had to step back. Their father was very good, giving money and things to them when I was out of the picture.

I had a business that taught children to swim. After my kids were taken, people would look at me in the street and whisper. I was well known in the area. I went back to court to get them back but lost and had to pay all the court costs. I could not afford legal advice so I had to represent myself. I had to sell my two swimming schools and my home and move to the country to raise my last child. I went back to the courts again. It did silence me, and I went into a state of trauma and did not speak. It is now 13 years and I am starting to speak again.

My family turned on me after the court case and shunned me at family gatherings, later on inviting my two kids. They have been groomed by my family that I am crazy and when I come to terms with what I did they will welcome me back. My father said I am ostracised from the family if I do not stop talking. The trauma I have suffered since speaking out is a thousand times worse, if that is possible, and I am now terrified of what will happen after speaking out today.

I have some issues with terminology. I do not like the term 'natural mother'; I am a mother. I would like everybody to know. I do not like the term 'birth mother'; it really troubles me. I do not like 'adoptive mother'; I think it is an oxymoron. You are either an adopter or a mother. Adoption was not 'in the best interests of the child'. I do not like the term 'forced adoption' because if it is a forced adoption it is not adoption. I do not like the term 'adoption'; it is kidnapping. I demand justice. I do not quite know what form this should take. Maybe it should be like the South African truth trials. I know of adopters who have acknowledged what they did as wrong, and they say they can start to heal as well.

Stop adoption now. There is absolutely no reason on this planet why we should have adoption. We have guardianship, and that is perfectly adequate for the needs of children with parents who cannot care for them. It is absolutely insane to continue with adoption. The biggest trauma to me is continuing with adoption. Stop it now. Do not ever do it again. I do not want to hear tomorrow that a child has been adopted. You are destroying people's lives. This is total insanity.

I would also like to point out that more people have been killed by adoption than all the soldiers killed in all the wars Australia has ever been to—due to suicide. I have been many times to counselling. It has been said many times that counsellors need training in this issue. We have a very large pack of qualified counsellors, expert in their fields, ready to start counselling today. These people are not going to take years of learning about this issue and getting experienced. They have been training qualified professionals for a year and, ridiculously enough, having to pay the professionals to do this. There are many of them in this room right now. We are the experts. They do not need counselling. They are the experts. They need to tell their accounts. Others need to hear their accounts. All we need is for people to hear our accounts until they get it, and I do not think you have got it yet.

Please do not waste money training professionals. Just organise for real experts to get out there and tell their accounts at high schools—especially for girls—and universities, government policy meetings, medical conferences and counselling conferences. At a deeper level this is a big issue regarding morals, and our government has a good history of fixing moral dilemmas. This problem needs a spiritual solution. People's souls and spirits have been damaged. Holistic healing is needed. Residential workshops would be great. Well resourced drop-in centres are needed everywhere. There should be an awareness campaign by the federal government like the AIDS Grim Reaper ads. People need to be shocked out of denial and into reality. The greatest myth protecting the APs needs to be dispelled. A good AP will be grateful that the truth is finally out and they do not have to pretend anymore, and bad APs deserve what they get. The federal government spent $200 million fixing up the botched insulation scheme; surely they can put a few dollars toward a public awareness campaign.

All of the groups represented here and individuals need to come together in unity and become one impregnable force, find common ground and step forward together. I believe it is the social work and counselling professions who are actively sabotaging the unity of these groups, keeping them divided. And what about the media—or lack of it? I would like the media called to task every time they print or say something that is incorrect. Maybe you could employ these hypervigilant mothers and children to keep an eye on the media.

There are a number of stages of healing, and all people affected by the loss of adoption are at various stages. Many adoptees are suffering from Stockholm syndrome and still defend the AP. This is not good for their healing. It is not the job of the child to defend those who used them as a commodity. Many mothers are still in gaga land. This needs to be taken into consideration when we look at what to do next and what this inquiry can do.

I think this inquiry has been very cathartic and a great deal of understanding has come forward. I am disappointed that time has become an issue. There have been many counselling meetings that go till 3 am in the morning, and it would be good if the committee could do another round in each state, letting more people speak and hear. I wish we could remove the word 'time'. If it is such an important issue, why do we have five minutes? Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. You make a comment in your submission around not being likely to see justice in your lifetime. Could you describe for us what you see as justice?

Mrs McGuire : The first thing would be to stop adoption now. To stop adoption you have to say why you are stopping it, and that is the big crux at the moment. People do not want to stop adoption, because then they have to say why they have stopped it, and nobody has the guts to do that.

CHAIR: What else do we do?

Mrs McGuire : The first thing would be to stop adoption now. To stop adoption, you would have to say why you are stopping it. That is the crux of the matter. People do not want to stop adoption, because then they would have to say why they were stopping it, and nobody has the guts to do that.

CHAIR: What else?

Mrs McGuire : For me personally, I want the Family Court case reopened and an apology from the Family Court for forcibly removing my second two children. My daughter over there is the age of the other two children who were taken when I spoke out. I published a book in 1998 before the parliamentary hearing, and they said that they would shut me up and stop me speaking out. And they did.

Senator MOORE: Mrs McGuire, who said that? You have said that a couple of times in your evidence. Who are they?

Mrs McGuire : I do not know who they are. Speak to the judge on the court. Justice Richard Gee was the first one.

Senator MOORE: So you are saying that Justice Richard Gee said in his judgment said that he would shut up you.

Mrs McGuire : He did not say it. There was an insinuation. I was told by numerous mothers that if you speak out you will lose your kids. There was a lot of—

Senator MOORE: So other mothers told you.

Mrs McGuire : My family told me to shut up; everybody told me to shut up. My father said that I was warned—

Senator BOYCE: It is the system.

Mrs McGuire : Justice Gee's decision included an order for my partner's dog to go and live my ex-husband because my son was more attached to my partner's dog than he was to his mother. They said that I was crazy, because I said that my child was taken.

CHAIR: Earlier, you said that your father told you to come to your senses.

Mrs McGuire : That is current; that is at the moment.

CHAIR: What do you take that to mean?

Mrs McGuire : To accept that my daughter was better off and happier with their family and to leave her alone and let bygones be bygones and not dig up the past.

CHAIR: This has come up before. Mothers whose children were taken are guilty about what happened and do not want to be reminded of it. So many families and mothers talk to us about the fact that after the baby was taken it was never discussed in the family again.

Mrs McGuire : Yes. That is a complex issue. We need a whole set of experts to work on that issue. My mother died many years ago from guilt. She said to me on her death bed that she was sorry. That is all she said. She never mentioned a word. I do not know if my family want to deal with it because they genuinely think that adoption is a wonderful thing and my daughter is happy, or because they cannot deal with guilt or pain. They might think that they were all happy before I dug up the past. I do not know where they are coming from. But they talk to my other children and invite them to family functions while not inviting me. They have convinced, brainwashed or groomed—and I use the word 'groomed' advisedly—them to think that I am crazy and to keep away from me.

Senator MOORE: Is your daughter happy?

Mrs McGuire : Which one?

Senator MOORE: The daughter that was taken?

Mrs McGuire : The daughter who was kidnapped?

Senator MOORE: You mentioned your daughter in your submission. I want to know whether you believe that she is happy.

Mrs McGuire : We have a relationship now. She lives in Sydney. We see each other. We have some wonderful times together. She has a lot of adoptee issues with work. She has a degree in science and had a very high position, but she could not stand up to men sexually harassing her at work and she had to leave. Even though she comes across as quite a strong person, she has a lot of issues with relationships. My grandchildren have the second generation adoption problems, which are worse. These include disassociation. They are difficult at school. I cannot mention to her that I think that maybe her children's problems are adopted related, so she tries all sorts of other stuff. If I write her a letter and sign it 'mum', I will not hear from her for six to 12 months, so I have to call her by her first name. She calls me by my first name and my grandchildren call me by my first name, which is probably the worst insult that I have to cope with.

Senator MOORE: You mentioned in your submission that that is one of the most painful things for you.

Mrs McGuire : It is.

Senator MOORE: You said in your evidence that it is important that—and I am not doing a direct quote; I do not want to verbal you—people who have the experience need to keep talking about that experience and that is the best way to heal and to get better. I do not think the healing is something you can say ever truly happens but you said that people have to keep talking about it. You have said that you have been doing this for many, many years; has that helped you? Has talking about the experiences, writing them down and writing your book—actually helped you?

Mrs McGuire : Yes. I feel—and I have heard other people say this—that I am being two different people. I can function at an extremely high level and most people I know do not even know about the issue of adoption. They do not even know I have other kids. They only know I have one child. I can function. I can work. I can do all sorts of amazing things. Or I can fall in a heap. I cannot do both at the same time. I now cannot work full time, because I need time to fall in a heap. The more I talk about it, the more it makes it easier to go back into the functioning world. So I guess I need things that can help me heal quicker instead of just falling in a black hole. I am quite happy in the functioning world for times but then I have to leave and get out because it is just a plastic—

Senator MOORE: What things do you need?

Mrs McGuire : I want you to tell the newspapers this afternoon that we are stopping adoption now and we will never, ever do it again and that it is a lie. I want adoptive parents to give their children back now and stop mucking around.

Senator MOORE: And if we cannot do that? Because we cannot; we cannot this afternoon tell the media that.

Mrs McGuire : You can tell them tomorrow.

Senator MOORE: And that is the only thing—

Mrs McGuire : That would be the first obstacle to remove. Once you have removed that ridiculous obstacle—I speak out—I have done an enormous amount of getting out there—and they say, 'But they still do adoption; it must be okay'. So, while we are still doing it, it is still 'okay'. That is a ridiculous thing to do. How can we? More people are being killed by adoption than men killed in all our wars. Wake up, Australia. This is the worst human rights issue we have ever had—and we get five minutes? And we keep getting told there is a time issue. Why aren't these hearings running continuously until everybody gets to speak? I could talk for fifty hours non-stop and not repeat myself. I gave you a minor, little, skimmed summary of what the hell is going on here. And I am sure everybody else deserves the same. Can you please run these again through every state again and keep going until we have all spoken? Then you might get a gist of what is going on. Otherwise, we can have another inquiry in five years time if you like, and another one in 10 years, and do nothing, just like we have done before. Nothing has happened.

Senator MOORE: Do you think—

Mrs McGuire : I am sorry I am angry. It is not you people I am angry at.

Senator BOYCE: The way this works is that, once the hearing is finished, we will do a report which will include recommendations to the federal government. It will then be up to the federal government to accept or not accept them. This part of it, which I see as extraordinarily important, is about trying to collect the accounts and build the evidence to justify the emotions. I was going to ask you, Mrs McGuire, about guardianship instead of adoption. Can you talk a bit about what would be different?

Mrs McGuire : The loss of identity to the child. They still have a family, they still have—we have guardianship in this country. It is perfectly adequate and it serves all needs for children who cannot live at their home. They still have parents. Their birth certificate is not tampered with, their identity is not lost and they can still be cared for. The other issue with guardianship is that adoption is about providing a family for an infertile couple, whereas guardianship is looking for the best person to look after that child. You go searching to find that person, whether it is an aunt or an uncle, you keep going until you find that right person. That person's duty is to meet them with their uncles, their grandparents and so on. I know this lady who does foster care guardianship and she said, 'I have had 20 kids and every one of them I get back to their family and I am proud of that'. Her role is to get them back home as soon as she can. She cares for them, she is kind to them and she is loving to them but she gets them back home. How many adoptive parents have given these kids back? If they did not know it was illegal and they thought it was all above board and now they find out it is not true, why aren't they bending over backwards and saying: 'Go home. We are really sorry. We made a mistake. Go home to your parents. Go and find your mother'?

No, they do not do that; they say: 'Yes, you can go and meet her for medical reasons, but you know I am your mother. You have to be grateful for me to come back here.' We have to wait for these oldies to die before we can see our kids. I have to wait for that old bat to die before I can have a relationship with my daughter. I will have to go to her funeral! I am sorry, I have tried to be polite today but I am angry.

Senator BOYCE: In terms of guardianships, you are not necessarily seeing that being from birth to 18? It is like foster care to get families over.

Mrs McGuire : Yes, foster care but permanent foster care if it is needed.

Senator BOYCE: Permanent foster care?

Mrs McGuire : If it is needed. I would hate to see that situation. But if in the worst-case scenario we need it, okay. Let's improve foster care. Let's work on foster care. Let's get these kids back with their families. Let's tell young girls who get in the wrong way that there is not this one choice. My girl said a friend said to her the other day, 'If I get pregnant, I will adopt it out.' I thought, 'We have to go out to those schools and tell these girls what adoption is like.' When they meet their kids at 18, their kids are going to hate them and say, 'You abandoned me.' They are going to live with regret for the rest of their lives. They are going to have mental health issues for the rest of their lives. Who in the hell would choose to do that? Under the age of 25, you cannot make life choices anyway. Anybody under the age of 25 should not be making these decisions. We know that under the age of 25 you do not mentally developed in this area, so you cannot make life choices. Any adoption signed by those under 25 has to be illegal because the mother cannot make that choice.

Senator MOORE: Any choice under age 25 of any kind is illegal? Marriage? Service?

Mrs McGuire : Life impacting and permanent choices. Things like euthanasia and suicide—life destructive choices. You can get out of marriage. Look at the mental health side of things. Mental health people will tell you that under the age of 25 you do not match your emotionally, so how can you make life choices?

Senator BOYCE: We have been trying to build as big a picture as we can of the difficulties people have accessing information. It seem you did not have too much difficulty locating your daughter—Is that correct?

Mrs McGuire : I had no difficulty. On her 18th birthday, I rang the department and they gave me their name and I rang that day. I probably was not ready; I thought I would be searching for years. She has a weird name, so I looked up the phone book and rang. I cannot possibly understand the problems other people have with searching. I have a lot of issues with meeting.

Senator BOYCE: But it was easy for you because the name was not Smith. If it had been Smith or Jones, you would have had difficulties—is that what you are saying?

Mrs McGuire : Probably. There were only two of that name in Australia. That was my luck.

CHAIR: Was that before the law was changed here? There are different laws around Australia. One of the issues that come up all the time is, 'The laws are different in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and here in New South Wales.' In New South Wales, you have the right to the details at 18 for both the child and the mother.

Mrs McGuire : Others in Queensland say she could have put a veto on.

CHAIR: You were in Queensland?

Mrs McGuire : Yes. I was taken to Queensland. It was within a veto system, but they had not put one on yet so I got in. I was just lucky. But I know that as soon as I wrote and got official permission to get the details, they were contacted so they knew I was going to ring. So they had the opportunity to move house, which happens quite often. Mothers chase their kids and suddenly they will have moved that week.

CHAIR: I want to go back to the issue around counselling. We have had very strong recommendations around the need for expert counselling. Counselling services should be specialised and delivered by people who have experience, both adoptees and mothers.

Mrs McGuire : I do not think we have the answer yet. We need to have more roundtable discussions with other groups involved to get a better working model. I do not think we have a working model on what types of thing works. We are just saying, 'We want something,' but we do not know what we want. I am hearing all sorts of stuff. Once you have decided, yes, there is a need for specialist counselling, then it should be, 'Now let's go to the next step.'

CHAIR: Work out what it should be.

Mrs McGuire : Go the next step. I can try and put more thoughts together after all the submissions, but I do not think any of us are quite there yet because I am hearing vast views from everybody.

CHAIR: We certainly would not be and I cannot say what we are going to recommend. We are still in hearings and we have not talked about what we think we will be recommending. I anticipate there will be something around counselling. Obviously, we would not go into the detail of what we think it should be other than some necessary ingredients or things that should be included in that process.

Mrs McGuire : What you could recommend is that a summit be provided. Professionals can be helpful in guiding us; we can get off track sometimes but we know most of it. If the government paid for a summit, whether it be a phone summit so you do not have the travel issues, and we could have a whole week of trying to work out the first step we need or getting everybody talking because we are all a bit disjointed at the moment. I did not want to read anybody's submission before I put mine in, so I did it on my own. Then I was told there was support available to help me write the submission. I contacted that person and she got quite annoyed because I was hostile to adoption. She said, 'You can't say that because I support adoption and I am a consent taker.' I thought, 'You're paid to help me write this submission.' I said, 'I don't give a hoot. You're paid to help me write my submission. Write your own bloody submission that you like adoption, but you're here to help me write my submission saying that I don't like adoption.' She did change her attitude and support me after that, but even two weeks or a month ago I was still being told to try and water down my submission and make it airy-fairy.

CHAIR: By whom?

Mrs McGuire : This is PASQ.

Senator MOORE: You are putting on record that PASQ told you to tone down your submission and rewrite it.

Mrs McGuire : She said she was offended by what I was saying. She was a consent taker and she supported adoption. I said, 'I don't care; you're helping me write my own submission.'

CHAIR: Did she tell you that you had to change your submission and tone it down?

Mrs McGuire : No, she said I had to tone it down and she was offended.

Senator BOYCE: Did you change it?

Mrs McGuire : No, I made it worse.

CHAIR: It seems to me you were pretty full and frank in your submission.

Mrs McGuire : No, I was not actually; I left a hell of a lot out.

Senator MOORE: Mrs McGuire, you said there needs to be a summit. I have seen in another submission that there needs to be a summit. In looking through yours—and I do apologise because you have a couple of recommendations—

Mrs McGuire : I do not know if I said it in my submission.

Senator MOORE: You said it was something you would like to have happen. How would you actually involve people in such a summit? If there was going to be a meeting of some kind to look at this issue, how would you involve people? In your evidence you have said a couple of times there is a lot of division within the various groups, and because it is so complex that is understandable.

Mrs McGuire : Yes, that is correct.

Senator MOORE: In any of these inquiries we try to be as open and inclusive as we possibly can. We go through the open media, we go through support groups—we do everything to give people information. You have already said you do not want people to feel excluded from the process. Can you give some thought, even if you give it to us on notice, to the best way to engage with people on this issue to ensure that people do not feel excluded or divided into different groups. Mrs McGuire, give some thought, and perhaps give it to us on notice, to the best way to communicate effectively to ensure that people have this awareness. It would be really useful if you could get that and give it to us.

Mrs McGuire : I will do that, but what you have done so far I am happy with. It has done the first step. You have got people at various groups, so you could use a similar format, but I will give it in detail.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

Senator BOYCE: With the summit, is its purpose so that people can tell their different accounts?

Mrs McGuire : The summit is to set up the framework for going forward.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. You have taken on some homework just then. If you could get that to us when you have got time, we have been looking at our reporting date at it is highly likely that we are going to extend that because we have so much information. I am not trying to put extra pressure on you in terms of timing but if you could get it to us in the next month or so, if that is possible, it would be very much appreciated.

Mrs McGuire : Yes. And I will table one of my books. That was used in the parliamentary inquiry.

CHAIR: Your time today and your submission is very much appreciated. We value it very highly.