by Charmaine Price
In 1972 I was a young eighteen year old. Not quite old enough by law to be considered an adult. Also
I was already an unmarried mother of a beautiful little daughter. I was a very proud mother who had the support of my family.
Of course, I'd gone against the social mores of the time. How dare I be a proud, unmarried mother. My daughter was my life.
The Department of Community Welfare at 12 Murray Street was where I went each fortnight to pick up
my allowance which was just enough to survive on. It was called the Unmarried Mothers Allowance and the officer held my very
survival in her hands. She used to visit me at regular intervals, always surprised that my baby was clean happy and healthy.
Although my daughter had a name written on my welfare file, this caring officer always called her It. My baby was just
one year old.
One day I had been violently attacked and so I moved back home to my mothers, needing time to heal,
instead I discovered that I was pregnant, . I began looking forward to having a brother or sister for my little daughter.
Taken away was any family support with another child, so I moved into a flat. The Department of Child Welfare began the nightmare
that I still live with to this day.
"We can't be expected to give you more money. The Department can't be expected to keep another one
of your children. Give this child up for adoption or lose both." What a fight I put up. I tried to get a job but only a live-in
position was available but - no children. Nearing the end of my pregnancy I found out that I was having twins - along came
the officer aware of my dilemma.
"Give up two or we take three" she says. "You're unable to raise three children, not with your family
The doctors and sisters were wonderful to me, helping me wherever they could. The day I gave birth
the doctor stayed with me so that I could have time with my children. He allowed me to be their mother.
That same day the Department struck again. I can still hear her; "We have two homes. One up north
and one down south." I became hysterical and my friend ordered her out of the room.
The Welfare Officer (I wonder whose welfare, certainly not mine) came in every day to let me know
that she'd get the twins one way or another. After about four days I couldn't handle the pressure so I left hospital, leaving
instructions that the twins were not to leave the hospital until I said so.
I tried to get mum to help me but she was under threat of losing her three younger children as well
as me losing my three if I took them home. I tried everything, churches, another woman from the Department. They all said
the same thing, "We can give these babies a family. You can have more, You will soon get over it."
On the morning of signing the papers (I still find it hard to say "consents" I call them execution
papers because I died that day) I walked into the hospital wearing the same smock I'd worn when pregnant. I was afraid, so
alone, Unemotional until I walked into that room. It was a side ward and all I saw was a silvery table with two blank papers
on it, one chair, cold and empty like my heart.
A woman I'd never seen before came in. She told me her name and said "I'm from the Mormon adoption
agency, sign these forms!" I was hysterical, begging and crying for her to let me keep my babies. She said that if she didn't
take them, the Welfare would. I refused to sign until I saw the babies, to hold and remember them. To imprint them in my head.
Hoping that someone would hear my cries. I kissed them for the last time. Knowing these would be the only memories I'd have
to last me a lifetime.
I heard the wheels of the basinets coming closer. Coming to me so that a faceless, nameless married
couple could have a family - my family.
In came the two beds, Two bundles. One pink, one blue. My babies. My twins. The only twins for three
generations in my family. My heartbreak began again. Gone was the resolve - I'm tough - I'll do it - I wont care. Who was
I kidding? I held my babies and went down on my knees crying and begging to be allowed to keep my children together. These
two precious bundles. My children. The 'nice' lady then said "I'll leave you now and when you've finished just sign the forms
and you can go home, start a new life, get married and have more. You'll forget"
What did I know, I was only nineteen years old, too scared not to sign. How could I fight the Government?
I was'nt Married, it was the hardest thing I've ever done. All alone. No-one to tell me how final it all was.
That day I lost my innocence, self respect and my dignity. To this day I remain afraid of the Department
taking my other children. I'm lost somewhere back in 1973.
But I'm going to regain my self respect, my pride, my dignity by standing up in Court one day (hopefully
not too far off) holding letters that I wrote (one a year for twenty one years. Memories of my life and events that mattered)
Standing up against the Department and the Mormon church who by law should have helped me but didn't.
I am going to stand tall, proud and with dignity, using my maiden name, naming the criminals who have
ruined my life. The truth will come out thanks to Di and Viv who pointed me in the right direction. I can start to rebuild
Di you are a constant support and major component in my life.