My first memory as a 3 year old, was taking a plane trip accompanied by a beautiful Malay Stewardess to my new home in Butterworth, Malaysia. I recall waking up in bed surrounded by toys. It was as if my life had just begun at this point.
I grew up as an only child and it wasn’t until i turned 15 that I decided to apply for a part time job and discovered my parents didn’t have my birth certificate. It was through my search for this that I was finally told the truth of my adoption, having always believed I was a natural child to my adoptive parents.
It wasn’t until I was a young adult in my 20’s that my world was rocked again by a phone call from my Adoptive Mum, asking me to accompany her to meet her long lost Birth Daughter!! I suddenly felt displaced and irrelevant…as if the ‘real’ daughter had returned and I was now redundant. This affected me more than news of my adoption, or perhaps jsut in a different way. I felt betrayed by the first news, realising that the family I knew and trusted had held back this truth from me. It made sense to me that I always had a sense of being different from everyone else in my family and was very sensitive to rejection.
I recall dreaming about having an ‘ideal mother’ who would understand me…even before I knew I had been adopted.
In my adult years, at age 40, was the first time I met a relinquishing mother who helped me to look from the other side of the story and realise the pain that my Birth Mum may have suffered. As a painter, I decided to apply for a grant to research into others’ stories and from this emerged a much broader theme from which I drew inspiration to paint my ‘Adoption Series’ that now feature in my book.
It helped me greatly to identify with others’ stories and help me put together some pieces of the puzzle from my childhood sadness. I had not connected the sense of aloneness or of my fear of rejection to this time in my life.
I then went on to produce my book ‘Touched by Adoption – Journeys Toward Wholeness’ in the hope that others may also make some helpful connections that would lead to a degree of healing and empathy, knowing they were not alone. I gleaned most of the stories from my local community except for a couple of people from the public arena.
It was when I was in my 20’s that I finally found strength and comfort from a new understanding that I had been known from the beginning by a loving God who had been with me through this difficult and sometimes lonely journey. I can reflect back now and see how He has used this for good in my life and made me who I am today.
What is your primary work, focus, or interest when it comes to the topic of adoption?
As an artist I am interested in the stories of identity, uniqueness, relationship and the value in our common stories. I believe that we all have a deep need to be connected to others by finding common stories and experiences that unite us and help us understand our differences.
I also feel we all have a deep need to be connected to our Maker Who loves each one of us as if we were the only ones in existence. His love brings completeness and wholeness into my life.
His Call on my life draws me forward.
Are you working for change in adoption? What are the positives and/or negatives that you see?
There is an exciting ripple occurring in Australian Government right now, bringing State Apologies one after another throughout the country. The only one left now is Queensland. Tasmania is receiving theirs currently.
This is a major step forward in acknowledgement of the damaging past practices of adoption that would see single mothers’ babies torn from their bodies never to be seen again and seeing families lines & lives shattered as a result.
I am hopeful that some healing will begin to occur from this affirmation of the suffering so many have been through, both mothers and adoptees.
What your favorite adoption-related project that you’ve worked on, if any?
Alongside 2 other Adoptees calling ourselves WASH (White Australian Stolen Heritage) and with the support of a group of relinquishing mums (ALAS), we approached the Brisbane Women’s Hospital with each of our stories and were eventually rewarded with the first official apology from a State Hospital that was directly involved in separating mothers from their newborns for the benefit of the adoption system that was in place through the 50’s & 60’s.
Do you have any favorite books, authors, speakers, or any other adoption-related person that you really admire? Tell us about that.
I was inspired by the writer Betty Lifton and her insight into the unborn child…which opened up a whole world I had never considered. My fellow WASH members who had each suffered awful indignities both by the system and their families, through being adopted and also being forced to lose a child. I have been inspired by their drive to see change happen and their sense of humour in the midst of ongoing pain.
Also a fellow Adoption Alliance member, Christine Cole has done a considerable job in researching the archives of those who were forced to give up their babies, completing a doctorate on the subject and petitioning for change.
What do you have to say about adoption?
For me, I did suffer from being adopted both in being sexually approached by my father and by my deep seated abandonment, however i know this also happens in step families. I see the mess of our Foster System and the lack of stablity for these children and wonder whether a form of adoption could be a positive way for these kids to feel they are wanted and that they belong somewhere, instead of being passed around to so many families.
I am not supporting adoption in its past form. Perhaps a form of ‘Kinship Care’ could go further than the old model of adoption.
I am also skeptical of overseas adoptions and am aware of the dangers of it becoming another ‘industry’ where children are commodities in the midst of poor communities at the mercy of the rich. However, I am an advocate for supporting orphans within their communities as much as possible and do support ongoing work by someone I know in Cambodia. This is much more cost effective and doesn’t involve tearing the child away from their roots so a rich western couple can feel complete somehow.
Thank you to Victoria for doing this interview! Check out her book and artwork at her website.