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

GREENUP, Mrs Louise Anne, Private capacity

[17:24]

CHAIR: Welcome. Would you like to make a statement.

Mrs Greenup : I just want to tell you that, as one of the other ladies said, I am probably one of the lucky birth mothers—natural mothers. I was 15 in 1977 and it was a completely different world then—the neighbours and what people thought. If you gave a baby up for adoption you were doing a very special thing for other people. I was about the most compliant birth mother there was. I was a good girl. I fell pregnant and I went along with the system. I was fully supported by family. I was one of six children—the eldest daughter. I was going out with a young fellow. Even though I was 15 when I had the baby, we intended to marry, as silly as that sounds now. We did marry three years after we had the baby. My parents wanted the answer to one question when we went to the Catholic adoption agency: what is the best thing for Louise's baby and our baby?' being me. The only thing we were told was 'adoption, adoption, adoption'. Being as compliant and good people as we were—my father was a senior police officer—we followed the system to the letter. We did not get any phone calls once we had been to the agency. We filled the paperwork in. We did not get any phone calls to say there is an alternative—no advice, no counselling, no social workers. We just went along.

I went to the hospital at Camden and had my baby. The father of the baby was nearly 18 then, doing his HSC. He was banned from the hospital by the matron of the maternity ward. So he stood outside trying to get any attention from me that he could that I was all right. Like for a lot of the other mums, the birth process was not pleasant. I had the sheet, the pillow, the whole bit, and it was a dreadful time. But being a good girl I just went along with the whole thing, as did my family. At the time of consent taking, me being hysterical, my mother—the only person with me, which was prearranged with the adoption agency—asked the same question again, 'Please tell me that the right thing for this girl and this baby is the adoption, because I will bring this child up if it is not.' She had a four-year-old; I had a four-year-old brother. We were told, 'No, you are doing the right thing' and you believe the stories that you are told.

I have been together with my son for 16 years now. He came looking for me when he was 17. I have a granddaughter. I am 49, I have a 34-year-old son and a l have a two-year-old granddaughter, and it took me a bloody long time to tell people that I have a son 15 years younger than me, but I am proud of it now. I am proud of him. Josh has lived with us; he has worked with us; he is part of our extended family.

What I would like to see happen for the mothers that do not have the luxuries that I have had is that, when they go for their birth certificates, it is all together, so that for this baby that you had when you were 15 and who he is now, you do not have to look for two pieces of paper—that it is all simply there. I am not ashamed and I would like to say that most of the mothers here are not ashamed that they have had babies. But why we have got to look for a bloody puzzle is beyond me. He was 17. I paid all the money that had to be paid for him to get his certificates, because he was saving up. His parents who adopted him—again, I am lucky. If they were your neighbours you would think that you had won the lottery. They are terrific people. He has been brought up by good people. As I said, we have been back together for 16 years. He has lived with me, he has been in our business, he is a part of my life and he is a part of his brothers' lives. We have got it all in our family—half, step, adopted, the whole lot—and it works in our house.

I am a very lucky person to have a wonderful family, a wonderful husband, but every day I live with guilt because I did not buck the system or fight. I made a decision a long time ago that I was not going to live with that guilt because I get one shot at this to be with my son, the two boys that I have had since, two stepchildren and the six grandchildren I have had altogether. I try all the time to build a relationship with Joshua and his family, and I am lucky: it works. I go and stay up there and he comes and stays here. But I see him hurt. As a man he said to me, 'Mum, come out and have dinner with me.' He said, 'Just tell me why again.' And this is for people who it is working for. This is where it is really good and easy.

Every day I think of my son as a baby and I see the man but I still am looking for my baby. That will not go away. It is never going to make sense; the puzzle is never going to be put back together. Like one of the other ladies says, you get distracted. I have an adoption box—just something that I go into and have my howls and all the rest of it. I come out and I have got to look after my family. It is really hard that that is with me every day. It is never going to be perfect now. That is fine; I can live with that, and I am going to live with it. But when you lose a baby it physically hurts. It hurts every day. That is still with me every day. But it is not going to beat me. As I said, I only get one shot. Like one of the other ladies said: please, get this out. I know it is not up to you with the media. But we are not ashamed. We just want people to know it happened. And there are other stories that I hear. I cannot believe—I do believe but I cannot believe—that this has happened to women in Australia. That is all I wanted to say. Thank you for your time.

CHAIR: Thank you. As far as I am aware, I have reached the end of the list I had. I can hear someone wanting to speak. It has to be just a question, not a conversation.

Mr Spinney : I just want to put this on record. With everything you have heard and everything that has been submitted, what is it going to take for the organisations and individuals that are still alive today that are still holding positions to be at least brought up for accountability if not criminal charges? What is it going to take?

CHAIR: I think that is one of the issues that we are looking into. If there were an easy answer we would have accomplished it.

Mr Spinney : They are doing more damage.

CHAIR: I have run us over time. I have done that deliberately so that we could make sure that we heard from everybody on the list. What happens from here is that we will definitely be having a hearing in Canberra and, as you know, there are submissions from other states. We have not held hearings in some of the other states yet. We have to look at where we can then schedule those other hearings. I am adjourning this hearing in Sydney. We will be letting people know when the next hearing is in Canberra and then what the process is from there as well. As you know, we are still getting a lot more submissions in. I think I should warn people now that meeting the time line of 30 June is looking increasingly unlikely. I think you can guarantee that we will not meet that date. I would rather do the job properly, as I know the committee would rather do, than meet an arbitrary time line of 30 June. We want to do this job properly. We want to make sure we have as much evidence as we can get. I think you will find—I do not want to pre-empt the decision of the committee—that we will agree as a committee to seek an extension from the Senate. We will obviously have to seek that agreement from the Senate, but I think you will find that we will want to seek that extension so that we can do this job properly.

Ms Taylor : I have met quite a few adoptees, so I have quite a few adopted friends. If they want to submit, can they submit now up until June?

CHAIR: Yes, they can. On the Senate committee website and in the terms of reference you will see that we have closed submissions. We have to do that so that we can start a process of setting hearing dates. To my knowledge, and from experience on inquiries that I have been a part of, we have never kept a deadline. We have always accepted late submissions and we will continue to accept late submissions. Thank you.

Committee adjourned at 17:34