A Father Speaks on Forced Adoption
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Interview with Cameron Horn
Author Rebbeca's Law
"Full You Tube video of Cameron's 4 Corners interview can be found at:


Following on this page is a full transcript of that video."

Transcript of Cameron Horn 4 Corners interview from rushes

*Ellen is not the real name of the person involved.

 

4C:       So Cameron just, if you can, takes us through who you were when your girlfriend got pregnant. And what your time was like together and how that changed once that happened.

CH:      Well we were late teenagers. We started going out together when she was in year 11. Most of our time together was when she was in year 12 and a bit beyond that. I met her through sport – I was at university for the time that we were together and she was at school.

            So we were fairly typical northern beaches late teenagers, just hanging around the beach. Fairly carefree time. I worked at a squash centre at Chatswood. And even at that young age we made plans about what our future was going to be. We were pretty tight – yeah. There was no sort of question that we hadn’t found our life’s partner. We were pretty convinced that we had.

4C:       And then what happened?

CH:      Well, obviously – I didn’t know – but just after she finished her HSC I found out that she was pregnant. She must have known but we hadn’t seen each other for a while, while she was doing the HSC.

            And so, to cut a very long convoluted story short, when her parents found out, they went absolutely ballistic. Her father at one stage chased me around the house with a knife in his hand. And he beat her up in the kitchen one day while I was there. That sort of behaviour. And I was getting reports from her of what was going on in the house. And he basically – the family decided basically, to lock her in her room for the last three months of her pregnancy to try and keep her away from me.

            So, when that happened I got a message to her through a friend who lived across the road, that I’d come down to her window that night and exchange – for the next three months each night after work, I’d go down and exchange letters – she had a small ventilation window that she could open and just sort of hold hands through the window. I’d stand out there getting rained on, and the wind and everything, around 11 o’clock at night.

            So we’d exchange letter through the window and that’s how we kept in contact for the last three months.

            And unfortunately in those letters she didn’t tell me what hospital she’d been booked into. She was telling me a lot of what was going on and that there was this adoption talk, and I knew that she was in touch with a particular adoption agency.

            And on one occasion, she had an appointment with them and so she stopped off at my place on the way and we both went in to see them, and I also had the phone number for the particular case worker. And I was adamant that this is not going to happen. You might as well just forget about it. We’re going through this charade because there’s physical abuse going on if we don’t. But once she’s in the hospital, once she can get out of the house, once there’s some normality, adoption’s not even on our radar. So forget about it.

            I actually at one stage asked the social worker a direct question. I said, “How do I stop this adoption?” And she said, “You can’t.” Which I now know is completely untrue. But you’re relying on people who you think are professionals and who you think have the knowledge.

            I went to the chamber magistrate at Manly Court to try and see if he had any angle on this. I was caught between spending money on lawyers, which I didn’t have, because I was a uni student, and trying to spend what little money I had, setting up a baby room at home, and trying to make some sort of provision for bringing a child home.

            So that’s who we were, and that’s how we were thinking at the time.

4C:       And your key issue is that you feel that you were completely shut out of the process. As the biological father you were removed …

CH:      Yeah – well, I now know it was standard practice. But yeah, completely shut out of Ellen’s* life. Shut out of my girlfriend’s life by her being locked in this house. And it wasn’t until 18 years later, when I started getting some papers, that I discovered that the agency knew all this stuff. They knew that there was physical abuse going on in the house. They describe certain things in some of the papers. They knew – my name is all over the paper work, so they knew about me. They knew I was making noises that I didn’t want this to happen. I didn’t want my offspring to be disappearing somewhere else. But I was given this blank sort of, “There’s no way you can stop it. Only Ellen* and her family can make this decision.”  Which, at the time, seemed a bit strange, but my father had just gone through a divorce and I saw how he had been treated through the courts and I thought, “Well maybe that’s just how things happen.”

            But yeah – then when our child was born and I actually turned up at the hospital, and there was about probably 6 to 10 days when, I think there was hospitalisation there.

So I was in and out of the hospital, and a couple of times I turned up when the consent taker was sitting there with the papers and all that. And I stopped that process happening. But there were situations where Ellen’s* father was coming into the hospital, and slapping her around in the hospital and no-one came to help her. You know? So, as far as my involvement – I was trying to get involved, you know. I should be part of his process. My DNA is all over the paperwork that exists now, and yet I still lost my daughter to adoption.

And interestingly, I heard from women who lost children recently, that they were being interrogated about this in another forum, and the question was said, or the statement was said, “Well, you signed an adoption consent. So, you know – that’s the end of it.” Well, they can’t say that to me. I didn’t sign anything. I was vey adamant – in fact, I was asked to sign and I just looked at the consent taker, like … In fact, when – I distinctly remember, in the hospital at one stage when all those papers were spread all over my girlfriend’s bed, I just looked at her, and I said, “This is wrong. This is completely wrong.” And, at that stage, all the paperwork was folded up and taken away.

So that was my attitude. And yet, I didn’t sign anything and to this day, I do not agree. A relative of mine recently said to me – I asked her, “What was your perception of my attitude back then?” And she said, “Cam, you were so determined not to lose your child.” And yet, here we are having this conversation. I did lose my child. And it’s like, you know, I now know there were all sorts of clauses in all sorts of Acts that I could have invoked if someone had just – hadn’t been so convinced that they were going to take my child.

4C:       Your story is …

EDIT DUE TO NOISE

4C:       So, just make it clear for us – what were your intentions once you found out your girlfriend was pregnant?

CH:      Well, my intentions – our intentions were always, to get married. And then, when we found out she was pregnant, it was just a matter of, oh well, we’ll have to bring that forward. And so, even in fact, the first day in the hospital, we were discussing this, and she leaned forward to me, and her mother was in the room, and [Ellen*] leaned forward to me and she said, “Cam I want this little girl to be Rebecca Horn.” And I said, “Yeah – so do I.” I said, “Don’t worry. We’ll do it somehow.”

            But by that time, there was so much pressure. And I said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll do it somehow. We’ll do this.” And we were sort of, sitting knee to knee, on chairs and our heads were touching. You know. And we were sort of, saying this – in front of her mother. And her mother was just having a conniption. She was having some sort of breakdown on one side of the room. But that was what we were discussing even in the hospital. There was never any other thought in our minds. It’s still a mystery to me how they got her to sign those consent papers at a time when I wasn’t there.

            And then when I met her again, about six weeks later – they took her back home and they locked her up again. And once the revocation period was over, they basically put their foot in her back and said, “There you are. There’s the world – go out and get it.”

            So she came back to my place one time and completely fell to pieces. She ended up in the foetal position under the table. I had to chase her around the house to stop her hurting herself. That’s the sort of state-of-mind she was in at the end of all this.

            And just on the marriage situation, in my papers – when I got my papers 18 years later, the adoption consent taker had made a note: “Cameron wanted to keep the baby, but marriage was not considered.” Now, you know – that first part of that statement is absolutely true. Yes, Cameron wanted to keep the baby and Cameron wanted to keep Ellen* as well. You know?

            And this, “Marriage was not considered” – well, I think that’s obviously her parents have insisted that be put down, or it’s just some piece of fantasy that the adoption agency has written there. Because our intention was always to get married.

4C:       What is clear is that they’ve admitted your intention was to keep the baby.

CH:      Yeah.

4C:       But you were never given a look in.

CH:      That’s right. Well, I was never given any of the rights or responsibilities that were enshrined in law for fathers in 1980.

4C:       Your experience is not that common though. I know you say there are others out there. But for most men, they seem they can move on from this more easily than women can.

CH:      Well, obviously, there’s that physical connection for women. They carry the baby. They give birth to the baby. And then they physically have the baby taken off them at some stage. Someone reaches into their hands and takes it away. And all those sorts of things don’t necessarily happen for the man. But certainly right through – or from the period, those couple of months there, I was talking to my baby through the womb. And all those sorts of things. And on those occasions when I could get together, the one or two occasions. You know – there was that same bond. And then of course, when she was born, I mean, I can still remember turning the corner and walking into that room and then there’s the love of my life holding my child – you know. You don’t forget those sorts of things. I mean they talk about – people say about the adoptive parents, “Oh well, they’re the ones that changed the pooey nappy.” I was one of the first people to change a pooey nappy for my daughter. You know – I held her, I mean – this was 1980. I mean, even as Ellen* was giving birth, she said to me later, and in fact her mother confirmed this,  while she was giving birth, she was saying, “Get Cam here. Someone get Cam here. Someone call Cam.” And no-one bothered to call. None of the nurses. And she was pleading with her mother, “Go and call Cam.”

            So, yeah – I guess some guys shoot through and some guys don’t want to know. And I suppose there’s a lot this happens in casual relationships and whatever. And I’ve heard since I’ve been involved with this, I’ve heard a lot of stories from one extreme to the other. Guys who desperately wanted to save their child from adoption, and other guys who have made some sort of connection now, but at the time were, they admit now, were too immature or ran off. But then again, I know of one guy who – he’s supposed to be a deserter, and the truth of the matter there, and I know this intimately because it’s in my family – the father of the girl, was the Australian Bantamweight Services Boxing Champion. And when he got hold of that boy, he absolutely … and I don’t know if I can use this word on the ABC, but he absolutely beat the shit out of him, and that was because that boy was coming back to the house trying to get some information. And you know – this alcoholic father, boxing champion, beat this kid to within an inch of his life, and then he disappeared. So he’s counted as a deserter. So, I think there’s a whole range of fathers.

            In fact, when the information laws were changed the Government Departments were saying, “Wow! All these fathers have come out of the woodwork wanting to get information about their children. Or wanting to get their names on birth certificates. And that’s another thing too. I mean, they had all our information and yet they didn’t put our names on the birth certificates. So what’s an adoptive child going to think when they get their original birth certificate and they see, “Father Unknown”? Which is a complete lie. So all these things have added to creating something of a myth. I’m not saying it’s not true – a lot of guys did run. And I think probably regret it in the end. I can say, and a lot of people who knew me will give you the story – I did not run, you know. And a lot of guys who either didn’t run or were forced out of the situation or the girl was taken to a lie-in home – I know guys who were hanging around the lie-in homes, and got the police called on them – police called to take them away at hospitals and this sort of thing. So, there’s a whole range of experiences there. (17.05)

EDIT DUE TO NOISE

4C:       There’s a weird incongruity isn’t there, between the social worker mentioning that you wanted to keep the baby in the notes, and then your name not appearing on the birth certificate. Just tell us about that.

CH:      Well, I don’t know really what happened there, but apparently it was standard practice that no matter how much information was in the paperwork about the father, he didn’t appear in the birth certificate. And you talk to a lot of the women and they’re as shocked as anybody, when they get this original birth certificate and it’s got ‘father unknown’. Because, obviously it makes a … it casts a slur on them as well.

4C:       Just tell us about your situation.

CH:      Well, as I say, I’m named right through all the paperwork. I know that Ellen put my name on all the registration forms, she put my name on all the paper work. My name’s everywhere. And yet, somewhere between all that paperwork being filled out, and someone at Births Deaths & Marriages deciding what they’re going to put on a birth registration, my name gets removed. Now, do you want me to go into how I found out about this?

4C:       Yeah – sure.

CH:      Ok, well then 16 years later, the Information Act gets changed, and I just happened to be at work and a fax came through to the wrong department. It was supposed to go to ‘news’, but it came to me. And I looked at this, and I discovered that my daughter could go and get her original birth certificate at the age 16, and get certain information. So I thought, I better go check, you know, that I’m there, because I didn’t want her going to the address that was on the birth certificate because that was going to be the violent grand-parents. And you know, you don’t know what sort of reception she’s going to get there.

            And I wanted her to come to me. I wanted her to find me, so I go and find out that I’m not named on the birth certificate. Then I have to go through this horrendous process, paying money and getting stat decs from Ellen and having to contact her husband. And you know – disrupting her family and her life to put this right. And she had no hesitation in doing it. And they make you pay money as well.

4C:       But do you see, just those two things though – you see on the one hand, you’re mentioned as wanting to keep the baby, and on the other hand, you were removed from the birth certificate. Do you see those two things as working together?

CH:      Yeah, I do actually. Because removing the father, or making it appear that the father had disappeared, removes all responsibility from these adoption workers – all the responsibilities they have towards the father to basically get his consent. To ask, you know, to give him an opportunity to be involved in the process – to be involved in the child’s life and future. And every time, that I’ve found anyway, in the legal courts, where a father has challenged this, and there’s four or five particular cases, every time that I’ve found where they’ve challenge this, the father’s won. And so I think, not having the father on the birth certificate, gives this illusion that neither of the parties knew – the mother didn’t know who the father was either – I mean, it’s ridiculous. Thousands and thousands and thousands of birth certificates.

4C:       I think it’s fair to say, that you’re quite obsessed with this issue. You’d probably deny that.

CH:      I do have other parts to my life.

4C:       When you had the reunion with your daughter, did that give you any sense of closure? Did that answer some questions? Has it been better since then?

CH:      No, it’s been much worse. And in fact, the grief and the … because now you can actually see the result. And as far as I’m concerned, the result is not that pleasing.

4C:       Just take it back then – tell us about the reunion and what happened there.

CH:      Well just to answer that previous question. This is not something that gets better over time. Because as you get older, as you live, you learn more and more and more about what’s been taken away from you. And so you learn more and more about the enormity of what’s been stolen.

            So at first, it’s this thing that’s happened. And it has been horrendous. It’s been this terrible sort of trauma and it’s been this event. But then as you see babies, and you think, Oh, that’s cute. You know – where’s mine? You see – you watch other people, you watch little people growing up, and then you have kids of your own – kids you’re allowed to keep! And so you learn a whole other aspect of what’s been stolen from you.

            Then as you were saying, you meet your offspring that’s been taken and you know, she’s … you can tell she’s been hurt by this event. You can tell that despite every effort that’s been done on the part of her adoptive parents, there’s still tragedy and there’s still pain and there’s still anger and hurt and there’s still all this stuff that’s in her that’s derived from her removal from particularly her mother, but removal from her parents, her biological story. And so somehow she’s got to cope with that. And so you see all this coping. You see a lot of pain. And then, it’s been 14 years since I first met her. And some of the response that I’ve had – or lack of response. I mean, even when someone is not responding to you, they’re still communicating to you. And so you see more pain, and more anger and more hurt and more judgement. And I don’t know if you can hate your biological kin without hating yourself to some extent.

            So, there’s all these issues, that are imprinted upon this person, who’s, otherwise might have had a very different life. And certainly wouldn’t have been the money floating around that there has been in her life. But that’s another thing. I see this complete reliance on materialism and emotional and soulful sort of things don’t seem to matter. Only the material matters. Well, that’s only half a human being as far as I’m concerned, walking around. I’m sort of getting a bit existential here, but you know that’s what I see.

4C:       Well, just tell us how the reunion came about. But what your expectations were and how it felt on that day and afterwards.

CH:      I think two people coming into a reunion have a lot of fantasy and a lot of unreal expectations. And I think also there’s no textbook, particularly for father-daughter reunions. And so they’re fraught with all sorts of minefields. And really, my daughter and I stepped on every single one of them. And I’ve since spoken to a lot of men and I’ve been able to say, ‘Look, avoid this and avoid that,” and they’ve had much more successful reunions.

            Our reunion was, as far as I’m concerned, a complete disaster. We met down under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was the first time I’d ever seen her. She had actually seen me on television a couple of weeks before. And leading up to that television appearance, she was very enthusiastic. And there was a lot of phone calls and letters and contact. Then after she saw me on television that just stopped. And I think that, you know, she was majorly disappointed by reality. There was this fantasy and then there’s reality. And I have to say, I was too. When I first met her she’d had an eating disorder in the past 12 months. She didn’t look all that great. It was kind of strange when I met her because we’d organised where we were going to meet. And I was walking across the grass towards her, and she refused to turn around. Her adoptive brother was with her and he’d seen me and he indicated to her that I was coming across the grass. But she refused to turn around until I was almost right on top of her.

So I think by the time we actually got face to face meet, she didn’t want to meet. But she’d made this commitment she was going to meet and so she went through with it. But it was … the few times – I saw her a couple of times and they were sort of, monosyllabic meetings.

EDIT DUE TO NOISE

4C:       Where were we up to?

CH:      I’ll backtrack a little on the reunion.

EDIT FOR UNKNOWN REASON

4C:       So we know you tried to stop it, but you did find out. And how did you react then?

CH:      I actually can’t remember how I found out. I think I just got a phone call at work saying, “She signed the papers.” Something like that. “Your 30 days starts now.” That was from either a friend of hers or from a member of the family. I actually – can’t actually remember how I found out. But then as soon as I found out, I went round to her house. And I found all the windows in her room had been boarded up and nailed shut, and all that sort of stuff. So I couldn’t get to her the way I had been previously with the letters. So I basically went home and waited out the 30 days, hoping I’d get a phone call.

            Actually I went home and I tried to phone her, and every time the phone would get picked up by her mother. And the phone was right outside Ellen’s room, so obviously she was being stopped from using the phone.

            Anyway, after the 30 days, you know – I was watching the 30 days like you watch the clock sort-of-thing. And the 30 days came and went. And I remember that morning pretty clearly. That was just like (long pause) – I don’t even think I got out of bed. You know, I just sort – she’s gone.

4C:       So you were very aware of when that 30 days ended …

CH:      Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah – I think I had it marked in my diary. I had every day marked in my diary. And yeah – that 30 days came and went, and I’d been told I couldn’t intervene or couldn’t make any change. And then, a couple of days after the 30 days I got a phone call from Ellen saying that she was working just around the corner from my place. And I said to her, “Do you want me to come up there for lunch?” And she said, “No, you can’t be seen in public with me.” You know, she had gone to this sort of headspace.

            She comes down to the house. We have lunch. I think we just stood in the hallway just holding each other for an hour. And then it was time to go, and then a car went passed the house. And she just went absolutely berserk, saying, “It’s dad. It’s dad. He’s come to get me. He’s going to come in and kill me.” He’s going to do this. He’s going to do that. And I said, “It’s not your father.” And I was chasing her around the house. She was trying to find somewhere to hide. I was chasing her around the house and in the end, I had to sort of wrestle her to the ground. And say to her, “Look, there’s no-one coming in. The car’s gone. No-one’s bashing on the door. Nothing’s happening.” And she crawled underneath the table and just sort of curled up in foetal position, crying. And so I got under the table with her, and just held her. And then just like that – just like … she just stopped and said, “I gotta go back to work.” And just basically, stood up. And she said, “Go outside and check there’s nobody there.” So I went outside and then – I went outside and I saw she was sprinting back to work, which was probably 400 metres. And this was a girl who had just gone through this trauma.

            And I also discovered, it was about another 6 weeks, she was still heavily bleeding. Which I now know, now I’ve had other kids, I now know that’s not normal. So obviously there’s some … all this disintegration of this beautiful person that I was in love with.

            So anyway, we started trying to get our relationship going again, and then eventually, I got a letter from her one day, saying that she told her parents that we were still going out together. And they said to her right there and then, “You’ve got to choose either him or us.” And I can quote it word for word, you know, from 32 years ago. She said, “With all that’s happened I couldn’t stand to lose my family as well.” And she said to me, “You’ll get over this in time.” And things like that. So …

            But I still continued to see her for the next couple of years. Actually, she was working at a bank and stood in line and went to her counter at the bank and she just (!!!)

            But anyway – we continued to see each other just for lunches and things over the next couple of years.

            But I went back to uni in 1981, after all this happened, and I was just a basket case. You know and I … I had been going alright at uni until 1980. Then this happened. Went back to uni in 1981. And just, you know – I’ll show you my transcript, it’s just fail fail fail. So I changed university, and I went, I thought, “I’ll do P.E. I’ll do teaching P.E.” So I had to do anatomy and I had to all this biology and anatomy. And come the end of my biology class, I’d passed everything, I was doing ok. And our final report for biology was the human reproductive system. And, you know, we had all term to do this, and I was repeatedly going down to the library. I’d open the books – back in the days of book – open the books and look at all these diagrams and babies. And I just thought I was being lazy. I just thought I’m just being, you know – I blamed myself. But I’d just blank out for hours. I’d sit in the library with all these books open, thinking, “I’ve got to do this assignment.” You know – you’ve got to do this assignment to pass. I’d passed the exam. I’d passed all my other assignments. This was the big 40%er at the end. And I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t physically bring myself to put pen to paper and actually do this, looking at all these diagrams. And I couldn’t figure out why. And in the end one of my lecturers got hold of me and said, “Look – you’ve passed everything.” And I still didn’t know. I just said to him, “Oh look – just fail me.” I didn’t care. And he said, “Look, just give me a piece of paper  with your name written on it. And the title of the thing. You’ve passed everything. You’ve passed without this. Give me something I can put an ‘F’ on it. And you’ll at least pass this module. Years later, like 18 years later, when I’m going through reunion I suddenly realised this is why I was blacking out. 2 years later I’m blacking out looking at reproductive – you know – babies coming through reproductive channels. You know, diagrams of the human reproductive system. I’d be there for hours just blank. And it was the trauma. I now realise it was the trauma from what had happened having my child taken away. I just couldn’t go through that process. And even now, I still have certain words I find I hesitate on. Most of them, funnily enough, start with ‘A’. But one word in particular that I have a real problem with is the word “agency”. I can say it now because I’ve really concentrated to say it. But when I – I only discovered this when I started lecturing in advertising. Obviously, that word comes up all the time. And I’d be standing up in front of the class, and I couldn’t say that word. And, I’d just come to a complete mental blank. So obviously, there’s some psychological impasse in my mind, with words like ‘agency’. I mean. I find the word ‘adoption’ pretty traumatic as well, but I’ve just had to train myself to say that word over and over.

EDIT FOR NOISE

4C:       The consent form did get signed …

CH:      Yeah …

4C:       … by the mother. How did that happen if you were still so against it.

CH:      Well, I don’t really know. I know I went in there – I was going in the hospital reasonably regularly and when I say that, on odd occasions it was twice a day, on other occasions there’d be a day between where I’d miss it. And that was because I was actually continuing to work, trying to make some money, so I could at least put together something to support the child I thought I was going to be bringing home. So, on a couple of occasions I missed days being there, because I had shifts at the sports centre where I was working. And probably – hindsight’s a wonderful thing – I shouldn’t have been working, because I wasn’t working very efficiently either. But on one of these occasions, I don’t know how this adoption consent got signed. I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen her name on it. And in fact she hasn’t signed her real name either. But somehow, they’ve got in there on a day that I wasn’t there. Her parents, obviously, I know, her father went in there and was physically abusing her and sitting on top of her in the bed and smacking her around and all this sort of stuff. That happened on other occasions – other people witnessed that. So I assume this sort of pressure came upon her at a time that I wasn’t there. And I just got a terse phone call. You know, a day or two later. So I knew, I kind of knew she was no longer at the hospital. But to this day I don’t know how that adoption consent form got signed. I’ve never been able to ummm – in fact, I said to her, when we met up again, I said to Ellen, “How did you sign?" How did you come to sign this thing?” And she said, she just basically said she was all alone and isolated, and this sort of thing, and even I wasn’t there. She just kept saying, oh well, where was I?  So the fact that I wasn’t there for a day, and they’ve been able to use that. I don’t know what was said, but the best that I could get out of her was that. When I was needed to stop this thing yet again, I wasn’t there on a particular occasion. That’s the best that I can come up with for that event, because it’s a mystery to me to this day how she came to sign that thing.

4C:       (to producer off cam) I don’t know if that cowbell is going to go off again. Should we just ignore it?

CH:      Oh, it’s the ice cream van.

4C:       Oh, is it?

CH:      Yeah.

4C:       Most people go through some sort of dramatic heartbreak …

CH:      Mmmmm.

4C:       … in their life. To what extent, when you’re really honest with yourself, to what extent is your emotional pain and trauma to do with a sort of primal heartbreak that your life has pivoted around?

CH:      Oh ok.

4C:       And how much is it to do with losing your daughter?

CH:      Ok – I think, you know, people compare this to a death. But there’s a big difference. Death’s final. And I know, any woman who loses a child through any mechanism that will always be with them. But if it’s a death, there is a finality to it. As tragic and as painful and as much as you’ll never forget that. But the real …

COW BELL IN BACKGROUND.

4C:       There it is.

CH:      Oh – go away.

EDIT DUE TO DISTURBANCE

4C:       So just tell us again, how consent came to be signed.

CH:      To be honest with you, I don’t know. I was trying to juggle work so I had some way of supporting this child I thought I was going to be bringing home, and going to the hospital a couple times a day and on odd occasions I’d miss a day because I would have to do my shifts. So, I know that there was unrelenting pressure from her family and that had been going on for months. I know there was complete dismissal of anything other than adoption amongst the social workers and …

EDIT DUE TO DISTURBANCE

4C:       In the end, how did consent come to be signed?

CH:      Well, to be honest with you, I actually don’t know. I was trying to juggle work and going into the hospital to support my girlfriend and my child. And sometimes I’d be in there twice a day. And there were occasions where I had shifts and I was trying to work so I would have resources to bring a child home. I thought I was bringing a child home. So, there was a few days that I missed. On odd occasions I went in there and they were in the process of signing an adoption consent.

            One thing that I was told – one time when I went in and I intervened in one of those occasions, I said, “Ellen what are you doing?” And I picked up the forms and I said, “This is an adoption consent form. Do you understand what you’re doing?” And she said, “Yes. This will give me 30 more days to make the decision.” And that’s how it was being sold to her. And she said, “With all that’s going on with my family, and all the pressure, I kind of need this  breathing space.” And with all the pressure that was being put on her … so there were aspects like that were being the sales pitch …

4C:       I’m sorry – we’ll start that again.

CH:      Yeah.

4C:       Because you said it very neatly before, it was about …

CH:      Yeah, but I just remembered that was a pivotal piece of information …

4C:       Yeah, but it’s a bit of a distraction …

            You were talking about intervening in those situations before – we’re just trying to nail 

            It was good that you were working … you don’t know how it happened … and the baby da da da … there was unrelenting pressure … and she must have finally caved in.

CH:      Yeah.

4C:       So consent was signed. How did that happen?

CH:      Well, to be honest with you, I actually don’t know. Because I was trying to work, and I was juggling work and going in and supporting my girlfriend and my daughter in hospital. And on odd occasions I’d be in there twice a day, on other occasions I’d miss a day because I’d have a shift at work, but it was very much I was trying to earn and continue my income so that I would have an ability to support my child when I brought my child home. That was always the intention. I don’t know how the consent was signed. The only thing I do know is that intense pressure was being put on her, particularly by her family. There was inaction on the part of the adoption agency in terms of coming up with any alternative. And also the people working in the hospital. There was no alternative being offered. And consequently, on a day when I wasn’t able to get in there, they’ve been able to convince her to sign this consent. Now I know one of the arguments they put to her was that this will give you 30 extra days to make up this decision. And that looked very attractive because she was under such pressure – 30 days breathing space. But, you know, it was an adoption consent she was signing. And then when I saw her 30 days later she was a basket case. And so was I. You know, I counted down those 30 days. I mean, I got a phone call, I think from a family friend saying that she’d signed the papers and that she was no longer at the hospital, so don’t bother coming. That’s all I knew. I don’t – to this day, I really don’t know how she put pen to paper. And in fact, I’ve seen the adoption consent – it’s not even her correct name that’s on there. So, you know, I can’t really answer that question definitively.

4C:       Ok, I asked you this before, but how much of the emotional trauma that you still suffer, is due to a fundamental heartbreak that you never got over.

CH:      Ok, umm, yeah, there’s these two issues. I could say, “Oh he’s just pining because he lost the person he thinks was the love of his life. Or, you know, there’s this child. You know, there’s this daughter, and that’s the issue. The truth of the matter is this is not a death. Death’s final. If my child, if my daughter had died, and if our relationship had disintegrated, you know, in some other way, then that’s just as you say – part of life. But death’s final. Death’s the cut off. Death brings that finality. But there’s this part of me that’s been amputated that’s floating around out there in the world.

            You know, we are parents of missing children. No-one would say to Lindy Chamberlain, “Oh just pretend you never had an Azaria.” No-one would say to to Tess Knight, “Oh just pretend that Samantha never existed.” We are the parents of missing children. And no-one would ever dare say some of the things that get said to us, to parents like that. So, you know – I’m a parent of a missing child – I don’t know where she is. I’ve had a reunion. I’ve seen her for five minutes in 32 years. I don’t know where she is. I know she’s living overseas somewhere. I don’t even know exactly. I’ve pleaded with people to give me information. It’s an amputation of a really important part of me. And yes, there’s a memory of a love affair, and that’s one thing. But there’s an amputated part of me, that is floating around in the world somewhere that I know nothing about. And I desperately want to know something about, because I had nothing to do with its removal. With her removal. It’s like having a limb removed without your consent.

            So they’re the issues. And they’re the issues that get bigger and bigger and bigger, because there’s more and more and more time that’s been stolen from you. The issue for me is that, people say, “Oh, this happened 32 years ago. Get over it. You know? Well my fathership over that girl wasn’t just stolen from me 32 years ago. It was stolen from me yesterday. It’ll be stolen from me tomorrow. It’s this ongoing issue. And I have two other children and I know what it’s like to be a father. And I know, you learn more about fatherhood and fathership, and what actually was stolen from you. That’s the issue. So, yeah – one thing’s a memory, but, you know, the issue goes on because my fatherhood has been stolen today, tomorrow and forever. It’ll never be retained, it’ll never be recovered. But at least there may be some time when I’ll have a friendship with this person who’s still living.

4C:       Some people might say, “If you love somebody you set them free.”

CH:      Yeah – well, that’s a lie. Next question. I can tell you. I didn’t set her free for a start. And if you love someone you protect them. You look over them. You converse with them. You input into their life. You mentor them. You don’t control them, obviously. And if they don’t want to know you, well, yeah – you will grieve for them. If you love someone and they are apart from you, you will grieve for them. You know, parents who have children living overseas, they don’t grieve, but even if they have a relationship, they still miss them. So for some reason because someone else made these arrangements without my consent 32 years ago, I’m not allowed to miss my daughter. I’m not allowed to have a little grief. I’m not allowed to think about her every now and then. It’s … a double standard.

4C:       Just in a nutshell – we don’t want to go into the expanded version of the illegality issues you allege, but one thing I’m concerned about, you talk about Crimes Acts, this is not a civil suit. But if it’s so compelling, if the arguments are as compelling as you regard them, why haven’t you taken them to the police and why aren’t the police acting on them?

CH:      Because we as men, who’ve lost children to adoption, are only just now starting to get our voice. I don’t know if I can say this to you, but I’ll be surprised if this goes to air. And the reason I’ll say that is because there have been other people who have tried to get these sorts of things to air, and they get stopped. Because no-one is listening. So if I go to the police, I feel very much that they’re not going to take me seriously, for a start. And until there is some sort of social acknowledgement that there are illegalities … I have run this past lawyers, and they just freak out because they just go – and I haven’t even had to get to the end of it – they’ve just gone, “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That clause means that. And that clause means that, so therefore …fathers should have been signing consents.” You know? And we’ve got 300,000 of these consents floating around Australia, and not one of them that’s got a father’s signature on it. Now, ok – some of these men might have disappeared and couldn’t be found. But the law states, you go find that guy and find out, either what his attitude is, or you’re supposed to get maintenance out of him even for times before the child’s born, and so on.

            So, I don’t want to go into all that technical stuff. But the other thing is that – it’s like, ok, let me tell it to you this way. There was a news story where a woman was crossing from Gaza into Israel carrying a basket. And the IDF personnel lifted up the bag and looked under it, and there was a basket full of hand grenades. And they said, “What do you think you’re doing?” She said, “Oh yeah, I thought they were oranges but I didn’t want to look too close.” And that’s what this issue is. People want to pretend it’s oranges, but it’s a basket full of hand grenades and nobody wants to look too close. Ok? And because no-one is really taking this side of the issue – it’s taken 30, 40 years for the women to find a voice. The actual women who had the babies taken from them. And so there’s been this folklore that men are, you know, that they just disappeared and part of it was not having their names on the birth certificate, and all these sorts of things.

            And so I’m really concerned that if I spend a lot of time going to the police, (A) they wouldn’t take me seriously, (B) it’s really hard to find, I mean, no lawyer wants to spend their time on this. I suppose there’s the Director of Public Prosecutions and so on. But there’s real issues that you’re not going to be taken seriously. And until there’s some awareness of this issue, that there are fathers out there that did try to stop these adoptions, and that there are legal arguments that are quite – extremely compelling. And the other thing is that those legal arguments are never discussed when you talk to people involved in this issue. I mean there’s a whole Act they never talk about, because that’s where all the grenades are.

            And also, I do have a life. We as fathers and husbands and so on – we are busy and so I’ve got projects I’ve got to get through. And I’ve got other people I’ve got to consider. And I have actually discussed this with them. And they’ve said, basically, if you raise this issue as a legal issue … even as far as I have gone, in terms of writing to the senate and writing a book about it all and these sorts of things, were way beyond anything that my wife signed up for. And you know the impact of this on my kids even as it is … So to start up a whole court case and to … you know. If I was single, and if I was alone, I would have done it years ago. But there are a lot of other things that have to be considered. But you know – it’s still in the back of my mind. And as you say – Crimes Acts, there’s no statute of limitations on those.

4C:       On kidnap anyway.

4C:       Do you want Cameron to just try and give us a very controlled potted explanation of what he thinks his rights were?

4C:       Yeah – I mean the key ones, not all.

CH:      Yeah, there’s so many. Alright. Are you still rolling?

4C:       Yes.

CH:      Alright. Do you want to ask the question?

4C:       Yes – just umm – you think what happened to you was illegal. Why?

CH:      Because there are a number of Acts that govern the taking of a consent. And basically, The Child Welfare Act stipulates that any person who is liable for the maintenance of a child is a parent. The Adoption Act had written into it that a putative father was to read as father. The Family Law Act and The Children Equality of Status Act which came in, in the mid-70s, all those Acts combined, by 1980 particularly, but even before that – fathers should have been signing consents, because they were a parent, they were recognised in The Child Welfare Act as a parent, they were recognised as a guardian in The Child Welfare Act. They were recognised as someone who was liable – the first person actually, who was liable to maintain the child. And so therefore had a right to have a say in the destiny of the child in adoption. And so this is very clear in each of those pieces of legislation (which) strengthened those rights.

            So what happened to me in 1980 was clearly illegal because of the precedents. There’s a number of precedents leading up to 1980 and there’s a couple of precedents after 1980.

            So fathers should have been signing consents – especially fathers who were making so much noise about it all as I was. And so the fact that I didn’t sign a consent makes that adoption illegal. It makes it null and void. And you know, there’s 300,000 of these, or probably 150,000 of these in Australia. Right? So, that’s one enormous issue. It’s a volcano going to come to explode fairly soon. Because you can’t have this written in the laws. It’s all in the Hansard. And it’s even in the writings of the adoption industry itself. Alright?

            Just the mere fact of what they did to the girls means that it was illegal. But you add this second layer. And that is why the fathers were being cut out of it, because it did actually add another layer of complication to the process. But it’s in the law.

4C:       But you’re also arguing aren’t you, that they – that children were being illegally detained? Is that right?

CH:      Yes – well, that’s the crux of section 91 of The Crimes Act, that these children under the age of 12 were being illegally detained by fraud. I maintain that it was fraud that was perpetrated on the fathers. It was coercion that was perpetrated on the mothers to actually get that signature on the piece of paper. But it was fraud, because we were defrauded of all our rights and responsibilities that flow naturally from being a biological father of an ex-nuptial child. And it’s all very clear. It’s all written out. A legitimate child, these are the circumstances. An illegitimate child, it says, every person, every  person who is a mother or a person liable to maintain that child, or guardian. Now, under The Child Welfare Act I was both a guardian and a person who was liable to maintain the child.

            The other really important thing to note in all this, is that The Adoption Act has absolutely no jurisdiction at all, in anybody’s life up until the point where a consent in signed. So in all the lead up, during the pregnancy, and then the original confinement, and then up until the adoption act is signed, it is the Child Welfare Act that is the overriding Act. And that’s what you are, as an adoption practitioner, or a social worker, beholden to. And they have just trodden all over that Act, in terms of fathers’ rights. And that is why that particular Act is never discussed by social workers.

4C:       Once the consent form is signed though, there is a ‘get-out-of-gaol’ clause where it says that this consent form cannot be challenged by any other Act of Parliament.

CH:      That’s once it’s gone through the 30 day revocation period …

4C:       Which it has in all these fathers’ circumstances …

CH:      Well, it has now. I’m talking about the actual – no, it actually says that if the consent has been taken in a way that is not appropriate to this Act then it is null and void. I mean, I’m paraphrasing there. And the fact that it doesn’t have the father’s signature on it, and they haven’t gone back to his rights as a guardian …

            Also, it says that anybody can be added to the proceedings while that thing is going through the 30 day revocation after the consent’s been signed. Before the 30 day revocation, anybody can be added to the proceedings, who has an interest in the well-being of the child, for the express purpose of opposing the adoption. Now, there’s a … that’s fraud. If you don’t offer that to a father who’s saying, ‘How do I stop this? How do I stop this adoption?’ Even beyond the consent. Now, I was asking that question before the consent had been signed. But even beyond the consent. That’s fraud if you omit a piece of important information. Right?

            Also, even after the 1967 Adoption Act when all sorts of things were changed, if between the time when the child was born and the consent was signed, Ellen and I had gotten married, that would have stopped the thing dead in its tracks. Right? So there was another mechanism by which the adoption could have been stopped.

            So, all these things – there’s just fraud after fraud after fraud – of these workers withholding information, important information both from the girls and from the fathers in order to get that consent. You know? And then once the consent’s signed, that’s when the Adoption Act comes into play, and only after the 30 day revocation period’s over, can you then invoke, “Oh well, this can’t be … oh another Act can’t be invoked here.”

            But that’s not true either, because there’s actually precedents – F versus Langshaw is one precedent where he did that. He went after that. He went 6 months later and he won the child back. He got the child back – so, you know …

4C:       Ok – I think we’re done? There’s been Inquiries, there’s been apologies. I guess, the Senate Inquiry carries in some senses, more weight than any other. What would you like to see come out of it?

CH:      What would I like to see come out of the Senate Inquiry? Well, evidence. Basically. A finality saying … a kind of admission that, yes, this was done. These adoptions were acquired in a less than ethical, and probably, less than legal manner. That’s number one. Secondly – so an acknowledgement, a real acknowledgement. I don’t want, “Oh, sorry.” I don’t want a pathetic, carefully worded ‘sorry’. I don’t want an apology. You know, the only apology I would accept is a really sincere apology from the actual two women who were involved in taking the consent. An apology from parliament doesn’t mean anything to me. A personal apology? Yeah, from the people involved and a discussion and some real remorse and admission that this is what happened and that they either didn’t realise or they were sorry, or something.

            Beyond all that, I want evidence. Or something I can put in my daughter’s hand, and say, “Look at this darling. This is what really happened. I know everyone’s told you this other stuff. I know everyone’s told you that your parents didn’t care. Or that they just signed you away. But that’s not what happened. And here’s a whole history. And you’re part of it. You know? And this is who you really are.

            That’s what I want. I really want something that I can give to her. And whether it’s when I’ve passed away – just something to, you know, say to her, that we cared.

4C:       Yeah. Good. I had this feeling that – you know, it’s entirely possible I’ve got it wrong – but has the Child Welfare Act  been repealed now?

CH:      Yes – 1987 it was repealed.

4C:       Right. So it was still current …

TAPING ENDS

 

 *Ellen is not the real name of the person involved.

Interview taped late January 2012 at the residence of Cameron Horn.

 For more Stories and articles from Cameron Horn 

Click on the link below  

http://www.cameronhorn.com/the-birthday-card---and-other-award-winning-short-stories.html

 

 

 

 

  

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