Journey of Love and Miracles
“When I’ve thought about telling this story I’ve never been
able to decide where the story actually begins. Does it begin
with my conception or from the day I was born, or perhaps from
the day I was taken to court and charged as a seven week
old baby with neglect…maybe its from the day my foster
parents brought me home to live with their family? There have
been so many different beginnings that I simply don’t know where
it all starts. Through the telling of this story there were moments, too many moments
where I stopped to cry at the feelings of deep sadness that continues to sit just below
the surface. That sadness holds the loss and the grief that even in my fifties leaves me
feeling as though I continue to have a huge missing hole that is the chapter of my paternal
family. That sadness has been a perpetual friend, and sometimes foe, who sits inside my longing
heart. The healing continues to be a work in progress, but the process I can sum up in a solitary
...Aphiemi, a Greek word meaning to, Forgive!
On 7 February 1968 my Aboriginal mother, Laurel gave birth to me at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital, in Paddington, Sydney, putting my conception somewhere in the vicinity of June 1967 give or take 2 to 4 or so weeks. From my birth to seven weeks of age there is a large missing gap in time. I’ve no idea where Laurel took me once leaving the hospital. The story picks up again in mid-March/April 1968, evidenced by the police affidavit and the court documents in my Department of Community Services (DoCS) file. Here’s that story in short…
…Laurel landed in Tamworth March of ‘68 with Baby M, and an unknown man. An argument ensured between Laurel and man, man takes Baby M, Laurel ran screaming into the police station accusing him of kidnapping, as she continued to scream frantically at the police. Man wheels Baby M into police station in pram, police note that Baby M is wearing dirty clothes, has not have been bathed in some time and looks to be hungry. Police attempt to mediate the argument, Laurel continues to scream hysterically at both man and police. Police decide no resolution to be gained, act protectively of Baby M, ask Laurel and man how long they will be in Tamworth and where they are staying, man states they have accommodation arranged by the local catholic priest. Police remove Baby M from Laurel and man’s custody and tell both to come back in the morning to sort the issues out; Baby M is taken home with Police Constable for the night and looked after by his wife. The next morning Laurel and man fail to front up, Police investigate whereabouts with local catholic priest who states that Laurel and man didn’t stay the initial night and haven’t been seen or heard from since. Baby M placed into the care of the Tamworth Hospitals maternity ward to be looked after by nurses until the Circuit Magistrate arrives in town. 7th April 1968, no parents show up for court, Seven week old Baby M has been abandoned and is officially charged with neglect. The words “State Ward” is stamped onto the court paperwork and baby M officially becomes a child in the care of the Minister, a Ward of the State of NSW.
Whenever I recount this part of my origin story I do so with not much emotion attached to it…I could be reading about any baby…
A Departmental social worker came from Sydney to fetch me and take me on the train back to Arncliffe Babies Home, otherwise known as Myee. I’ve researched this orphanage and seen black and white photos from the 1960s, Myee which was built in the mid 1800’s is a two story building with wide verandas on both levels, big rooms with high ceilings and French doors, cots and big buggy style prams lined up in rooms and along the walls of colonial style wide corridors. A Babies Home, in my mind presents something of a conflict. Babies are fresh beautiful new life, are little folks full of love and in need of love, vulnerable, dependent, full of potential and filled to the brim with spirit. Home in my mind as an adult is about security, comfort and warmth a place of love and living, not of course without its challenges, but ultimately a place of belonging. Myee was a holding residence for babies to either be relocated to a Children’s Home for older kids or to go to a foster home. Luckily for Baby M that waits was not long, 4 weeks to be exact. There are no documented records of my time at Myee, no names of nurses or doctors, just a couple of case notes by a social worker to document the fact that I was sent there after the Tamworth drama.
The next part of my story is the continuation of my origin story as told by one very loving and beautiful woman, Mari Egan. She was my saviour and became my mum in every sense of the word. The small village of Leura in the Blue Mountains would be the first place I would ever call home and to this day it is the place that continues to holds all my happy childhood memories…I will forever be connected to Laura. So Mari, a 48 year old house wife married to Bill Egan. Mother of her own three biological children and luckily for me, foster mother to numerous kids of all ages coming and going through the child welfare system. Mari was a lover of life, God fearing, trustworthy, giving and generous, warm, nurturing, adventurous and a women with a hilarious sense of humour. Although she has been gone 14 years now, I will continue to love her for ever, she is a kindred spirit. She took me in as a three month old baby not knowing if I would stay or go, but regardless of what was to come she offered me her arms, her unconditional love, her home and her family to be mine if I wanted them. I wanted them, no doubt about it.
(A whole life lived in these next chapters (not included here) – not without its challenges but thankfully for me, with a happy ending).
Through the years there had been requests for adoption…those requests both coming from me and from the Egan family…but for whatever reason that adoption was never realised, not while I was a kid in care anyway…it did however happen the year after I left the care of the Minister as a nineteen year old. Finally, as an adult I had something that I couldn't have as a child in care…an official adoption and the security of knowing that I belonged to the only family I knew and loved. That could never ever be taken away from me. I was discharged from Wardship at the age of eighteen and Mari continued to be my mum and Bill my dad until the days they both passed from this earth. Likewise, all 4 of my adopted siblings continue to be my family to this day.
Adulthood had a rocky start for me. Head strong, rebellious in nature, no amount of reasoning from parents or family…without fail I was naturally driven to jumped feet first in to everything and anything I set my mind to do. My motto - Deal with the consequences, good or bad later!
Nature or nurture, I have no idea, but as a 20 year old I think I was almost channeling Laurel who had died the previous year in June 1987, eighteen months after Id left care and three month before my official adoption. I hit the road with a backpack and no place in mind to really go. I wanted out of the town I had spent my youth in, Bathurst. It was dead and boring, it had served its purpose and I wanted out from under its stuffiness and from its racism. I hadn't been told I was Aboriginal until I was 13 yrs. old. Reflecting back, everyone else in town seemed to know I was Aboriginal before I did…I guess my looks were a vague give away! I’d actually been told I was Fijian and so Fijian I would continue to be until I was ready to accept my past. To be honest...I didn’t care for being Aboriginal...it simply didn’t fit into my life as a foster kid growing up in a white foster home. I was completely assimilated…no doubt about it. Private school educated, raised by upstanding intelligent parents, musical, creative, opportunities endless…but I needed adventure and off I went.
My big adventure didn’t get me far. To Canberra…where I stayed and Yup, I did a Laurel. Met a man, knew him a month, thought I was in love, fell pregnant, moved in together, got engaged. My first born baby was born in June 1989. ((BAM!)) I got the shock of my life. Never had I ever been hit by a male. The fist came out of nowhere and struck me smack bang in the face. My dad had smacked me as a kid but that was the time and era when capital punishment was used to discipline kids…no different from any other kid or family on the block at the time. I had never even seen my dad hit my mum, never witnessed first-hand violence…I’d never even heard or seen them verbally fight, this was so foreign to me that whether it be shock or disbelief, I buried it, justified it, excuse it, tried to fix it and ultimately is some weird way I felt sorry for him. But I continued to carry on as normal and play happy home maker. My second baby, a girl was born the day after my own birthday. The signs of disaster were everywhere. Alcoholic, gaol time under his belt, traumatised child victim of his own parents alcoholism and family violence = domestic violence in my relationship with him. I lived with my two babies in this environment on and off for 6 years. No More! Not doing it! Not having my kids exposed to this anymore, not having my son learning to be a perpetrator, not having my daughter learning to be a victim. Nope! I cut and run as best as I could.
It’s amazing what happens in life when you completely shut the door on something that you no longer want or need in your life. Not long after I slammed that Door of Disaster did the Great Universal Power of Love gift me with a most precious gift in life. From across the seas Bryan did come, for love!
I have a painting titled 'It’s not a cosmic joke” in my living room. This is ‘OUR’ (Bry and my) painting of life, of love, of challenges, but ultimately it depicts the story of our eternal life together. I shake my head at the crazy crisscrossing that’s taken place in both our lives and that lead up to the ultimate electrified connection between us.
My biggest inspiration in this life has been my foster/adopted parents, Mari and Bill. Amazing people both of them. My mother and her spirit of "go get em - you can do whatever you put your mind to" has been with me all my life and pushed me forward when I thought Id reached the end of the road...many times! My dad, an amazing man...a self taught award winning architectural draftsman who was legally blind even after 2 cataract surgeries and severe glaucoma...he wasn't allowed to drive because of his lack of sight....but he create through his architectural drawings against all the adversity of having almost no sight...and yes, all his houses and building are still standing haa His patience in allowing me to explore my own creative talents both at his work bench in the shed on his architecture equipment encouraged my in my own artistic pursuit and in encouraging me in my creative writing, for which "he always had time" to correct and edited. These are the type of people I wish all foster kids had in their lives.
.......and across the planet, in Canada and the US growing my soulmate on his own journey....
Both inspirational and creative in their own rights!
As a thirteen and fourteen year old teenager I'd hung out week in and week out in the early eighties for the next episode of The Thorn Birds. Can you tell me what Australian female in the early 1980’s didn’t melt over Richard Chamberlin and Rachel Ward in the epic Australian drama The – Thorn – Birds? It had us all on the edge of our seats daydreaming about a forbidden love! I remember one week day when I was fourteen, Id stayed home from school with a head cold…Mum had tucked me into the living room couch with a pillow and blanket, doubling as my sick bed, she put the TV on for me, the only thing on a country TV station was The Mike Walsh Show. Half way though the program, Mike beamed live to LA to interview with Colleen McCullough author of the Thorn Birds novel AND Daryl Duke, Director of the Thorn Birds! Were you kidding me...this was a good day to be sick and home from school!! Oh lordy, I sat there taking in every word Daryl had to say about the characters he was so lucky to know and work with. Sitting there that day I had absolutely no inkling that I would be married to his eldest son in seventeen years’ time. None! But marry Daryl’s eldest son, Bryan Duke, I did…and happily so. Id found my soulmate living on the other side of the planet.
Like wise, my parents, Mari and Bill like to listen to a mixture of music and genre...classical, opera, jazz...Id often heard them talk about Duke Ellington but as an 80's teenager Ellington was not where it was at. I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that my future mother-in-law not only was discovered as a singer by Duke but toured and recorded with him. Bless her heart she is currently the last surviving member of the Duke Ellington gang...still jamming and singing at 93.
Both of these unique folks gave Bry is AMAZING gift of music and acting...writing and creating.
Life has such a funny way of turning things around for not only the better but for a bit of a shove and giggle.
Together we have 5 kids between us. My two children (Nate 30yrs & Sammi-Jay 28yrs) from my first relationship, Bry with his daughter (Dakota 25yrs) from his first marriage and together we have two boys (Elijah 17yrs & Noah 14yrs). Blended families are a challenge but one word links us all together…Family!
All the kids are talented and gifted in their own rights, and with parents and grandparents who are also gifted in their own ways, be it in art, music, theatre or academics...each little bit is a part of them. All these beautiful children are strong and resilient kids doing life on their terms. Good for them, they know they have our love and support doing it.