– Jospehine Tovey (JT)
– Cameron Horn (CH)
interview was quoted on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday September
18, 2012. It is also featured in part on the Sydney Morning Herald website at:
Or it can be found
by Google-searching: Cameron Horn Adoption
I’ll just get you to say your full
name, what you do, and your connection to this story …
ok – a hard question to start off with.
is Cameron Horn. And I’m a
writer at Southern Cross Austereo.
linkage to this issue is the
fact that I was a father who lost a child to adoption in 1980.
JT: You want to just start by talking us
through that story.
CH: Well – my story is not that dissimilar to
most other people’s stories.
pregnant – we’d been going out together for a couple of years. She fell
pregnant in late 1979, just before, I think, doing the HSC.
She had our child
in April 1980 – and in that time she had been locked up by her parents, in her
bedroom for about 3 months. We had very little communication. We were not in
any way thinking about losing our child. And then when she had the child in St
Margaret’s Hospital I was in and out, visiting and so on.
I guess I could
summarise the whole thing by quoting the social worker in her notes who said,
“Cameron wanted to keep the child.”
So there was never
any thought of adoption in our minds. On a couple of occasions I was in the
hospital and intercepted the social worker trying to get my girlfriend to sign
old were you?
CH: I was 20 and my girlfriend was 18. On the
first day she was in the hospital her father came in and assaulted her and
slapped her around, and some members of my family happened to turn up just
after that, and they sort of pulled him off her. I find it interesting that
no-one in that maternity ward came in to her to find out what was going on. My
family could hear her out on the street screaming for help.
was the sort of stuff that
was going on. So, while in my case it was certainly coercion and so on was
allowed by social workers who should have been mediating some sort of solution.
maintained since that day that
apart from coercion, the lack of choices, the lack of informed decision that
was made – this is universal as we know now from the couple of Inquiries – the
Senate Inquiry and the New South Wales State Inquiry, that there’s not a single
case of a social worker availing a girl of the numerous alternatives to adoption.
It was just adoption, and that was it.
my particular case, I was
actively asking, “How do I stop this? How do I stop this happening?” And they
gave me all sorts of false answers. They gave my girlfriend absolutely no
alternatives. And at the end of the day, when you look back on it, it wasn’t
social mores of the time. They were crimes.
were fraud. They were assaults.
In our case, certainly assault. Not just physical assault. Assault through
medications. Stilboestrol. Assault through breast-binding.
wanted to breastfeed our daughter. And a note I saw recently said she WAS
breastfeeding our daughter. And yet, they still breast-bound her for a week
when she had milk flowing everywhere. It was just criminal. What happened –
that’s a criminal assault, being subjected to that. I was subjected to fraud.
JT: When was the point when you realised that
your baby was likely to go up for adoption? Was it before you went to the
CH: There had been adoption workers sneaking
around. As I said, our baby was born in April. The 3rd of April.
Probably January I got an inkling that my girlfriend’s parents had this on
their agenda. And the limited communication that my girlfriend and I were
having at the time – we were actually passing letters through a small
ventilation window every night. I would go down there after work and stand
there and hold hands through the ventilation window. In the rain and the wind.
these letters I
discovered that there had been social workers - adoption social workers - to
the house. She’d been to see the Catholic Adoption Agency. Sometime in
February, I went to see the adoption agency myself. I basically said, “This
isn’t happening. We’re going through this charade for the moment,” because I
knew that my girlfriend had been assaulted at home.
found out 18 years later,
that the adoption agency knew about all this as well, when I got my papers.
that time, I went to the
chamber magistrate at Manly Court
to see if there was something I could do about stopping this.
put forward a plan that
she would adopt our child when it was born. The agency said she can’t do that.
And again it wasn’t until 18 years later I was getting my documents I
discovered that no-one – my mother or anyone else – didn’t have to adopt our
own child. She was my child.
that January, February, March,
April time and of course in the hospital as well, I was in and out of the
hospital at that time, adoption was becoming more and more on the agenda.
Certainly not on our agenda.
way it was being sold was
that my girlfriend was being told that this would just give you 30 days to
decide what you’re going to do. For her that looked very attractive in this
unbelievably pressurised situation.
on one occasion, I was in
there, every second day, or a couple of days in a row and then I’d miss a day
or something like that – and twice I walked in while they were trying to get
her to sign, and stopped it. And then, sometime I wasn’t there, she’s … to this
very day I don’t know how they got her to put pen to paper.
she signed an adoption
consent and from that day for 18 years my baby has just disappeared.
JT: Did they get your signature?
JT: Or ask for it?
CH: One time when I came in and intercepted it,
I looked at her and I looked at the adoption social worker and I said, “This is
wrong. This is completely wrong.” And the adoption worker just looked at me and
said, “Oh did you give your baby a name?” It was sort of almost like giving up
something to even give a name. We had given our baby a name months before, even
before she was conceived I think. And so then the adoption worker said to me,
“Oh you can sign too if you want.” Which I now know – if I had signed as well,
that sort of, would have secured things more.
The fact that
didn’t sign leaves this whole thing open because I should have signed. The law
by 1980 especially, fathers were being defrauded out of their fatherhood by
being basically cut out of the process.
But there were
various Acts – various legislative Acts in place by that time. The Child
Welfare Act, The Adoption Act has some clauses in it, and the Children Equality
of Status Act were all in place. And precedents had been set in court. In fact,
the social worker who took my baby had actually lost a case to a father, and
then, to the New South Wales Inquiry, denied that fathers ever had any rights.
was clear that they were
acting consciously to streamline their processes to just get product. And I
don’t use the word ‘product’ lightly. Adoptees are not product. They’re
somebody’s child. But that’s how the adoption industry saw it – just pure
supply and demand. And by 1980, supply had dropped off but demand hadn’t. So I
feel that once they got the sniff of a baby, especially a white Caucasian
Australian baby …
I mean they rang
the adoptive parents after the 30 day revocation period and said, “We found you
a child, but it’s got red hair.” You know? And then, there’s a few other things
I won’t say, but that just shows their attitude. It was just product to them.
you ever have the chance to reunite …?
CH: Well, in 32 years I’ve seen my daughter
probably a total of about 5 hours, around the time that she was 18. On her 18th
birthday, I was at Births Deaths and Marriages at 8 o’clock in the morning with
all my papers in hand, all the required money and identification and all the
rest of it. That’s another interesting thing, they make us pay for all these
contacted her and that was
a whole story in itself but it went pretty badly. If you ask me I call it a
disaster. I think father-daughter reunions are fraught with all sorts of
dangers anyway. And I think in a sense she is still disappointed that her
mother hasn’t made contact. She was disappointed it was her father not her
I think in the last 14 years
I haven’t had any contact at all – apart from just those few hours back when
she was 18. That was pretty much it.
JT: What does the apology mean to you? Are
you pleased that there is an apology coming from the New South Wales
CH: Well, if I could be blunt, we don’t know
what’s going to be in the apology. I’ve had a few phone calls and indications.
And if what I suspect is going to be in the apology, or more importantly,
what’s going to be left out – then quite frankly it’s a joke.
the other state governments – West Australia, South Australia, ACT – have been basically
re-abuse. And if the New South Wales
apology is anything like that, then it is just re-abuse. And I said that to Pru
Goward. That any apology that doesn’t admit crimes and culpability is faulty.
It’s a faulty statement.
wondering what other crime – and
these were a series of crimes, frauds and assaults and coercion and so on – if
you conducted any other contract the way these contracts were conducted, it’s
just a litany of crime after crime.
to come out with some apology
– if I stole your car and
wrote it off – or even if I stole your car and took really good care of it, do
I turn around and just say, “Oh sorry?” You know – what would the police do? If
I burnt your house down? And that’s basically what’s been done, to some extent
what’s been done to us. We had our lives burned to the ground and we’re parents
of missing children, and people just rock up and say, “Sorry”? You know – it’s
like, “Sorry your dog died.” It just does not cut it.
want prosecutions of
these people involved. Not everybody wants that. I don’t want to see someone go
to gaol. Although there is a ten year gaol sentence attached to this. But if I
was successful in prosecuting someone – and honestly, if I was a single agent,
if I didn’t have other people to consider, I’d have done it a long time ago.
things need to be tested in
court properly. Not run up against a Statute of Limitations all the time in a
apology is really pretty weak.
And I’m not impressed with a man delivering the apology either, in Barry
O’Farrell, basically the state’s chief accountant. A written apology that
actually showed some real contrition from the two women, the two social workers
involved addressed to my ex-girlfriend and to my daughter particularly, I think
that that carries some weight.
on that score, the Catholic
Adoption Agency came into the Parliament House. I happened to be working in
Parliament House at the time – and they came into Parliament House and they
apologised and they called themselves “the offending party” and there’s some
interesting wording in that apology.
Principal of the Catholic Adoption Agency wrote to the Parliament House Inquiry
and repudiated that apology, saying she had nothing to do with it. Well, she
was up to her eyeballs in it.
apology from the right people,
maybe I’d be somewhat interested. But a really carefully worded apology that
tip-toes around the culpability, that tip-toes around criminality is
it’s worse than
meaningless – it is re-abuse.
Is there anything – you mentioned
criminal prosecutions – is there anything else that you feel the Government
should do at this stage, to assist people like yourself, to some ways towards
CH: Well, the guys in the control room might
want to get their ‘bleeper’ ready. Because the other day we were talking to Pru
Goward and one of the mothers – I’ll quote the mother verbatim – she looked Pru
Goward in the eye and said, “Look, we’re all fucked in the head.” And that’s
what’s happened. And there’s almost no amount of counselling that can help.
of the mothers are calling for
counselling, the adopted people are calling for counselling as well. I guess
that’s something. And specific counselling, Specialist counselling in this
area. Because it’s different to anything else. It’s different to
a death. It’s different to
the loss of property or the loss through other sorts of crimes. It’s just not
going away. The point is that my fatherhood over my daughter was defrauded from
me yesterday, today, it’ll be defrauded from me tomorrow. It’s ongoing. And the
pain of this doesn’t decrease with time. It actually gets worse because you
learn more and more about what’s been taken from you.
So I guess –
of the problems too is that when they throw money at counselling, the people
who step up to perform the counselling are the former perpetrators. Last time
this thing came around a whole lot of money was thrown at PARC – Post Adoption
Resource Centre. Well, PARC is derived from the Benevolent Society, who were
previously an adoption agency. So that’s sort of almost like re-abuse as well.
So it’s a really tricky thing to say, ok – services for people who’ve lost
children. Services for children who’ve been removed who are now adults. It’s a
real tough one.
genuine contrition on the part
of the people who did this might help. But I’m not holding my breath as I just
explained. And an apology that actually said, “Yes, these were crimes. And if
the police receive complaints about this then they are to take them seriously.”
we have a lot of things
coming out now about crimes that were committed against people decades ago and
the police are starting to take them seriously. In fact, last night I saw a
policeman himself on the TV crying over some of the stuff that had been done by
people – through the Royal Commission.
a Royal Commission is
certainly overdue in the area of adoption. But that’s a Federal situation.
that really hurts I think
is that no-one believes us. And so, you say to someone, “I had a child taken
from me.” And they go, “Wow. That’s bad, tell us about it.” And so you’ll tell
them the story how it all happened and, they’re like, “Oh wow!” And then
somewhere along the line the word ‘adoption’ is used and you can see … “Oh
that’s all it is.”
reporters, it’s media folk,
it’s politicians, it’s people you talk to at the barbecue, it’s your own
relatives, it’s your wife, it’s your children, your mother. You know – as soon
as the word ‘adoption’ comes into it, best friends – they glaze over … “Oh! Ok
it must have been legal. Oh it must have been alright. Oh well, you signed a
piece of paper.”
actually, I didn’t sign a
piece of paper. And all the papers that
I’ve seen, and all the stories I’ve heard, those pieces of paper were signed
under duress as a result of fraud.
acknowledgement of crimes.
Some people talk about compensation. I say, well how much money are you going
to give me to make up for the loss of my baby? You know – are you going to give
me ten million dollars? I know people who’ve received sums in the very low tens
of thousands as compensation. And that to me again is just … what can you give
someone to make up for …
I received a ten million
dollar sum I’d certainly hand some back to the other two people in particular
who are involved in my situation. There’s no amount of money or compensation
you can get – it’s just blood money really.
JT: Before when I was talking to you, you
said that adoption is the perfect crime. Can I ask you to explain what you mean
CH: Well, adoption is the perfect crime because
the victims walk away thinking that they were responsible. And if you can
perform a sting like that, with a multiplicity of criminal acts, then that is
the perfect crime. And so there’s been a lot of propaganda and a lot of
education of society at large that this was a benign act. This was a benevolent
act. In fact, it was an act of torture. Particularly on the women. It’s only
just like now – like, my daughter is 32 years old, and we’re just (now)
starting to talk about this. And I was in one of the later stages (of all
this). We know of cases from the 1920s. The peak periods were from the mid
1940s through to the mid-1980s probably. We’ve got cases right up to the late
1990s. And I suspect it’s still going on. This sort of coercion and lack of
choices. But in the end they force the girls to sign a piece of paper. So
therefore, they walk away thinking …
give you an example? I have a
cousin. Well, I HAD a cousin who went to an early death. And she was put
through this experience as well. And her boyfriend was bashed by her alcoholic
father who happened to be the Australian Services Bantamweight Boxing Champion.
So you can imagine the mess he made of that young boy. And that boy’s counted
as a deserter. My cousin was carted off to Queensland and stood over by her social
worker aunty. The child was taken from her at birth – basically out of her womb
into another room. And my cousin sat there for 5 or 6 days maybe longer,
bawling her eyes out saying, “I’m not signing anything until I see my baby.”
They would not bring her baby to her until after she had signed. Right? They
said to her, “If you sign we will bring you your baby.” So she signed. They showed
her the child through a window. That was it.
35 years later
cousin was still saying, “I signed a piece of paper. Mine was legal. As sad as
it was, that’s the way it was done.” She was dying of cancer at the time, so I
didn’t have the heart to tell her, “Did they offer you any alternatives? Did
they go through the process they should have gone through by law?” So there’s
someone who has gone to the grave thinking ….
the perfect sting. The perfect
crime. And the fact that society at large thinks this is a wonderful thing. And
I don’t want to talk on behalf of adopted people, they can speak for
themselves. But I see a lot of adopted people who are rising up saying, we’ve
had a lot stolen from us, even if we had the perfect upbringing.
are a lot of adopted people
who are perfectly happy with their situation.
I steal a car the fact that I
am a very good driver, does not exonerate me.
receive a stolen car, and I get
stopped by the cops, I don’t jump out and say, “Oh yes but I’m a very good
driver. I’ve taken very good care of this car.” That’s not the point. The point
is something’s been stolen. And this is a person. This is a heritage. It’s a
whole back-story. It’s a whole ‘who-am-I?’ Probably one of the most basic
questions anyone ever asks. And adopted people don’t know.
the worst place you
can put someone is in a place of not knowing. And we as parents have not known
what’s happened to our children. The mothers have had their babies taken in a
violent manner, in a fraudulent manner and they’ve never known what’s
a so-called ‘open adoption’
you get the “pleasure” of watching someone else raise your own child. The
“pleasure” of them raising your child in possibly ways, that you wouldn’t agree
with or whatever.
it’s not the point of how
well did it all work out? The point is, it’s a crime because of the acts of
theft, acts of fraud, acts of coercion and those kinds of criminal acts, which
are completely outside the law – so an apology means nothing.
Are you in contact with the adoptive parents of your daughter?
CH: I wouldn’t say I’m in contact with them. I
had some contact around the time of the reunion in 1998, and maybe a couple of
years after that when issues came up. There’s been a few letters backwards and
forwards. I send two letters a year to my daughter every year at least,
sometimes three, but I’ve never received a reply. I’ve sent letters to the
adoptive parents begging for photographs, pleading for any information on how
she’s going, but never receive a reply. So I wouldn’t call it contact.
What would you say to the social workers that were involved in your situation
if you were to see them now?
(LONG PAUSE) I would prefer not to say that on camera.
CH: I have had a few encounters.
And what were they like?
CH: Well, I was working at Parliament House at
the time. One of the social workers was giving evidence and then came and sat
down next to me. And I eyeballed her with a few of the clauses from the law
where she clearly didn’t know what she was talking about, and that was that.
And then the next day, I got a phone call from her co-writer, asking me for my
story for their book. I then went down to the office of the Inquiry, and asked
them how she got my phone number. And they sat me down and said, “Yes we just
had a phone call from the actual social worker. She’s threatened your job
because you attacked her at the Inquiry yesterday.”
the sorts of people we’re
dealing with. This is the same person who repudiated the apology given on
behalf of the Catholic Adoption Agency.
the sort of people we’re
dealing with – so there’s not a huge amount of contrition there. So as I said,
they’re not the sort of people that I would like to let you know how I would
deal with them if I saw them again.
INAUDIBLE QUESTION REGARDING
What’s your response to the contention that fathers were not involved or should
CH: Well, in many ways there are two classes of
fathers. There are those that didn’t do the right thing by their girls and they
tend to be the ones that are talked about.
But there are
whole range of other men involved. And surveys of Origins members shows about
70% of the girls who are members of Origins were in long-term relationships
with the men who sired their child.
So yes –
were basically cut out of the process. A lot of the men were physically dragged
away from the hospitals or the lie-in homes. This sort of thing. They were
threatened with police action. A lot of them ended up suffering police action.
And then, by 1980,
there were men like me who got the chance to go into the hospital and we always
hear about, “Oh well the adoptive parents were the ones that changed the pooey
nappy” … no – I was one of the first to change the pooey nappy. So if that’s
all it takes to be regarded by a child - well, you know, I’m one of the first
So this person
was going to say, it’s like having a limb amputated, but it’s worse than having
a limb amputated. It’s like having a part of your body removed without your
consent, and attached to somebody else, and you know it’s just not working
she’s a really important part of me, and yet, I know nothing about her. Where
she is, or how she’s doing, or what she looks like.
So – I have
children, and so I know what it’s like to be a father and so you learn more and
more about what you’ve lost.
have a civil relationship with her. I know that all that has been stolen from
us can never be replaced. But just a friendship would be nice. But that doesn’t
seem to be forthcoming.
constant melancholy about the fact that a really important part of you has been
The other thing
too is like this second generational effect as well. My second daughter – this
has really affected her. That she’s not the only daughter in dad’s life. And to
see a lot of similarities between my second daughter and the one that’s been
taken – from what I know of her – and my mother. It’s really that there’s a lot
of traits … you know, when I met my (first) daughter in 1998, it was like
talking to my mother! And that’s quite strange. It was like talking to my
mother who looked like my ex-girlfriend. So that was bizarre.
Also, I know,
a fairly odd character. My mother’s an opera singer. So she’s a theatrical. My
(second) daughter is going into the media, so she’s sort of got this
theatrical, artistic side. And then my stolen daughter in the middle – she
doesn’t quite know how to handle herself. Her adoptive parents aren’t really
across this strange personality which is very strongly from my mother.
So, you know,
just like to give her a few tips on how to deal with this strange personality.
It has been
interesting to see my second daughter and how she’s grown up. And me knowing
how she thinks, it’s really helped her come to terms with who she is.
So all those
fatherly sorts of things are just completely eradicated. There’s no way my stolen
daughter would ever take any advice or anything like that from me. So, just to
know how she is. How she’s fairing. Not just in a monetary sense or even just
health-wise. How does she fair in relationships? How does she fair with
friends? How does she fair just getting through the world?
as a father you like to able to just observe – but you’re not allowed.