by William Hammersley – Ellis.
I have, as long as I can remember, known I was adopted and had always been an extremely angry person. As a child, I would question my adopters on why my mother didn’t want me. The answers were always, that she was too young to bring me up, could not afford to keep me and that my father was a no hoper, who would not stand by her.
Of which proves to be a very different situation that finally surfaces many years later.
“That I was special and they chose me”.
I would overhear discussions about me when my adoptive mother had neighbours over for afternoon tea, about how they could ‘not give up a child’ and ‘what sort of woman she must be to do that?’
My adoptive father to discipline me, which was often, would take to me with a razor strap and lose control. He would grit his teeth and perspiration would run from his brow, as he lashed at my legs until I bled, he could not stop until he was exhausted.
At school and in the neighbourhood I was seen as the bad kid, the adopted kid, not that I gave them any other reason not to, in fact I reinforced their opinion.
When my adoptive couple sent me to participate in the Sunday school at the church when I was around 6/7 years of age and later on in grade three or four around nine or ten years old, my adoptive couple also sent me to participate in the youth club at the local Church of England. The adopters needed me to be a part of the church so they could get friendly with the parish priest in order for him to be a character reference so they could adopt a girl child.
It was this experience that placed me in extreme danger of sexual abuse. The youth club leader had taken a fancy to me and was also the older person who lived in the local milk bar. He spent time with me and made me feel wanted and important, instead of being the bad kid on the block.
I was his mate.
I thought I had a friend.
However his true motive soon showed its ugly head. — picture William Grade 3
The first time it happened, was the night when we were last to leave the youth club meeting. He coaxed me into the old cement toilet block behind the church hall where he started to fondle me, sat me down on the concrete floor then removed my pants and then started masturbating me. Of course I had no idea what it all meant except it was naughty and I was too young to even ejaculate to his disappointment and he was my friend, therefore he was not hurting me. I remember it all so clearly and I kept saying to him, ”Stop, I need a piss, I need a piss.” He got more excited saying “No you don’t,” then he went faster. He should have listened to me. I let go and pissed everywhere all over him and me. We stayed friends after that and he took advantage of my innocence often over the following years .I was a lonely angry child who needed a friend but as we grow older we start to realise why some people want to be our friend. Obviously these experience’s contributed significantly to my trauma as a child and through into adulthood along with my mistrust and unexplained anger.
Over the coming years into my teens and young adulthood I became a victim again.
These events led me into long periods of sexual confusion, thinking I was gay and not really knowing who or what I was.
During one of my return stints back to the adoptive home and while living in the local community between jobs, I recall one particular occasion at around 18 years of age when I had a drunken destructive rage.
One Saturday afternoon I drunk a lot of grog, smoked dope,and went into an extreme rage and destroyed the flat that I was living in. Crying and angry I smashed the glass that I was drinking out of throwing it at the wall, then smashed the empty bottles and swept of all the knickknacks of the sideboard and smashed all the furniture. Then drove my car a Volkswagen bug strait into the front door of the priest’s hou
I had gone to the priest , a few days prior to seek is help with my confusion.
The priest had convinced me that I was gay and that I should accept it, but I felt he also had an ulterior motive he was grooming me into his web.
Strait away he helped me move the car from his front porch before anyone spotted it there, and then took me inside the rectory, where he took advantage of my vulnerability and my drunken, tender disparate and Innocent state.
When he moved up close to me I could feel him breathing and I felt a sandpaper type of scratching on my face from a five o’clock shadow, as he attempted to kiss me. It made me cringe with a sickly feeling. I did not like the feelings he was giving me but felt empty and confused and It did not feel right. That night he took full advantage of me ( I needed my mothers arms, I felt empty inside) and we slept together in one of his bedrooms, this was hell . I needed to get out. I was confused and in despair heavily depressed and not knowing who I was and where to head next.
I did not know why I was angry, I just was. As I grew older, this anger always kept me down.
I had left the adoptive home when I was a young teenager, working and returning in-between jobs, leaving again and I survived in the bohemian world of Carlton, working in a display company, putting my natural artistic skills to work.
I felt empty inside, “a nobody”.
I was self-destructive, expelled from secondary school in form two (Year 8 in today’s language), always getting into fights, often being found bleeding lying in the gutter. I was in and out of jobs, drank a lot and numbed my feelings with drugs, marijuana mainly. For many years. I was stoned from morning to late at night. The self-destruction stage continued into my 20s to late 30s.
I never identified my behaviour with my abuse as a child or adoption but hated my mother for deserting me.
It wasn’t all bad though. I had some great jobs and mixed with some very interesting people, some of whom are still my dear friends today but I did not stay in one place for long. It was not until my 40s that I decided to search for my mum and family. My adopted sister had found her family and pushed me to get my papers, but I did not search for a couple of years after I received them, wanting to but not wanting to, it’s hard to explain.
My anger was in the way
- I wanted to hurt her like I believed she had hurt me.
- She gave me away so she did not want me, so why should I want her?
- She did not bother to look for me, so why should I bother to look for her?
It was not until much later, I found out that she was not allowed to.
That the truth was very different to what I believed.
I was in a relationship at this stage with kay and the birth of our son came along. This was the first time I felt responsibility and love, it was fantastic, my own family.I felt the one sided homosexual experiences that had taken place earlier yon in my life had moved past and entered into the unexplained history books of the past, yes leaving scars and onward unexplained trauma but now i knew that Kay was my true partner
During the pregnancy I had an overwhelming urge to find my mother, to give our child and partner a family and a true heritage.
My adoptive sister came back on the scene. We joined forces, along with my partner and searched through phone books, the electoral roll, made phone calls. Weeks went by with no leads.
One day I was with my adopted sister. She had spotted a phone number that was near her house. We rang it, asked for Gloria (my mother’s name), the person that answered the phone turned out to be my half-sister and she passed the phone to my mother’s husband (her father). I told him who I was and asked if I could speak to Gloria, that I may be her son.
He paused for a moment and said,
“I know about you”
“YES, it was them”
I was overcome with a strange emotion, not knowing how I felt, and then he told me that my mother had died 12 months previously. He said they were going to a memorial service for her, but would stay home so we could come around.
I remember walking into my half-sister’s house, looking around thinking that they did not look too poor to me, but comfortable, conservative, middle class, inspirational, suburban people and me being bought up in a poor working class dysfunctional, adoptive family who survived a hand to mouth existence with two other adopted children, the three of us from different families .
Here we were.
My mother had married an Austrian gentleman and they had two children and a good life, not long after I was born. It was not without its tragedies and ups and downs of suburban family life, but things had worked out for her until she died of heart disease, at sixty years of age.
It was obvious that she was not the type of person that I was lead to believe. Another little white lie by my adopting couple and society. Or was it? A lie is a lie.
“Why did my mother desert me and who was my father became my questions”
Over the next few months I met the rest of the family, an older half-brother who was from her first marriage and there was once a sister who may have been adopted by mum or was hers, but not the first husband’s child. I found out later in an article in the Canberra Times on Trove that she had been the victim of a paedophile neighbour who strangled her and then hung himself in a barn on his farm. A half-sister and two half-brothers. Both brothers were very sceptical and standoffish. I asked questions, made cynical remarks and always felt they knew more than what they were letting on…
My anger got in the way again over the months.
I found I had nothing in common with them apart from looking a bit like me. They were middle class, conservative, well off in my eyes with all the normal suburban family traits and I was angry, cynical, left wing and street wise, with a very untrustworthy mind and jealous of what they had and have and what I did not have. I spent time working with my mother’s husband building a house in the country and living in the caravan with him on site but I walked out on him. We went to meet my mother’s best friend, and attended a family wedding. My half-sister tried to form a relationship with me, but I was just a strange and difficult person for her to cope with. After her coming to a party at our house and her walking into a room where we were passing the bong around, it just got too much for her and we drifted apart.
“So that was the end of that”
I continued hating my mother for abandoning me and in some ways for leaving me a second time, by passing away before I found her, my attitude was
‘the bitch she got out of facing me”
I felt I was the sacrificial offering, to save her two children. She was not a young teenager when she gave birth to me. She was 27 years old (another so called little white lie by my adoptive couple and society). She was going through a divorce and custody of her children.
She would have lost them to her first husband who had taken them from her, at one stage and refused to return them and they stayed with his mother. If he had found out that I existed because of the divorce laws at the time of fault divorce, and community attitudes she would have been branded an adulteress and found it near on impossible to find work and be ostracised by the general community.
I convinced myself that they did not matter and got on with my life, with my new family, but always in the back of my mind,
I wanted to know the truth – I needed the truth.
Twenty years pass,
Life is going good, we have our own business, we own our house, our son is in university and my partner is my best friend and our relationship is solid but I am still an angry person under the surface.
Except for questions that constantly pop up in my mind.
- Why did my mother abandon me?
- Why didn’t she come for me?
- Who is my father?
- What is the truth about my adoption?
I got no satisfactory answers to these questions from my mother’s family twenty years ago.
One day I am at work and I hear on the wireless that there is going to be an apology to the mothers and people affected by forced adoption, at Parliament House Victoria in Melbourne. I had no idea what this was about, but that night before, I said to my partner, I am going to that.
If anyone can tell me what the circumstances of my adoption were, it would be other mothers.
On the day of the apology, my son and I jumped a tram and went to Victoria’s Parliament House. As we approached, I noticed on the steps, all the children’s shoes.
“It seemed like hundreds of them”
As I looked at the shoes, tears just started to stream out, uncontrollable tears.
“I cried all day that day”
“Talk about emotion, I could not stop”
I met some wonderful people there, one of whom was Elizabeth Edwards, coordinator of Origins Victoria, who gave me her card and told me to ring her; along with Brian and Helen, seen in the picture on the Parliament House steps, who have become good colleagues and friends. If I had not have followed my gut instinct or by chance missed it and not gone to this event, I may never have found out the truth to my story. I may never have met Elizabeth Edwards.
I was so proud to have my son by my side that day. – What a day it was!
A couple of days later.
My partner and I went to see Elizabeth Edwards at the Origins Victoria’s office. When she was going through my papers she said that I sound like a ‘fifty pound baby’. She showed me a speech by John Cremean, who was a member of Federal parliament in 1950, that said that babies were being sold from private hospitals in major capital cities in Australia.
“I was born in Avonhurst a private hospital in South Melbourne.”
Well that was it, I had to know.
I wanted the answers.
Was I a trafficked child?
How could my adopters do this?
What part did my mother play?
Did that bitch sell me?
Is that what my mother’s family was keeping from me?
All of these questions going over and over in my head.
My anger with my mother at this stage was boiling over.
First I phoned FIND and ordered another set of my adoption papers as my original set was over twenty years old. The new set proved to be of extra interest this time as these papers included some extra information.
My partner and I started to research.
She went to the computer, searched TROVE and traced the doctors. Our good friend, Rosemary, got in on the search and found out information on my family and is still helping me look for my father through DNA today.
On Facebook I started to call for other adoptees that may have been born at Avonhurst and found one who worked with us through emails.
Her experience was so similar to mine and she contributed so much vital information.
Then I headed off to the State archives, the National archives and State library.
.For two years I searched.
People around me were very supportive, but were concerned that I had become obsessed and that my mental health could become affected.
My mental health was already affected and it was this search that I hoped would resolve it for me.
I could not let go.
Day after day I persisted, two or three days per week sometimes, getting a little bit closer to the truth. I came to a dead end, as the file I thought would have the answer, was full of 1950s pornography underwear ads, not much by today’s standard but shocking back then.
What to do next?
Elizabeth Edwards, Origins Victoria coordinator suggested I should place a Freedom of Information request and see what happens.
Well, from that I attracted the attention of “the man”. The man in the State archives who knew everything.
What took me two years of searching and not finding what I was looking for, he found in ten minutes.
It was the mother lode, six boxes of the government adoption files, and four bound bundles of the State Law Revision files (not our personal ones) from 1916 to 1964.
Every document from memos, policy papers, judge’s opinions, memorandums, confidential letters, conference papers, police reports, and recommendations to the development and changing of the policies and the Adoption Act.
It takes days running into weeks, reading and photographing the files.
One day, I find a confidential letter from John Cremean to the Chief Secretary of Victoria, naming the doctor that my adoptive couple had told me about in their fairy tale stories about ‘how special I was’ and who they went to see in order to get a child to adopt. It was a Doctor Hart. My partner had also found many newspaper articles about him, linking him to the illegal abortion trade. It also named the co-proprietor of Avonhurst Private Hospital, Mr. Allen, as being Harts co-conspirator, that he had reliable information about them being involved in baby trafficking and requested the secretary make some discreet inquiries. It was not Dr Hart, that was my final evidence as he had been named In news clippings,
It was Mr Allen. Only John Cremean knew his name.
This was the final piece of proof I needed.
“I was stunned”
I had feelings of joy, sadness, anger and relief. As I was driving home that night, tears flowed again.
My joy was that I was not mad, Elizabeth Edwards from Origins Vic was not wrong, My partner and our friend rosemary did not waste their time and yes, I had finally found out the truth of the circumstances of my birth and subsequent adoption.
The nurse that assisted my delivery, Sister Allen, was Mr. Allen’s wife who were the proprietors of Avonhurst Private Hospital and Doctor Bretherton, the doctor that delivered me, was in cahoots with Doctor Hart, in the illegal abortion trade. Mr. Allen and Doctor Hart were using Avonhurst for the trafficking of babies for further personal financial gain.
The selling of babies was a byproduct, an adjunct to the abortion business.
The doctors were involved in selling babies for adoption to queue jumping adoptive couples.
They were also paying protection money to some members of the Victorian police. The paying of grafts to police by these doctors was alleged in the Kay Inquiry, into the involvement of police corruption and the abortion rackets in the 1970s where some police did jail time for their part in it, but the majority walked free and furthered their careers and the illegal baby trade was never officially uncovered.
The federal government received reports from the state governments, all denying it ever happened, but newspapers were reporting it and John Cremean was saying it in federal parliament. Adoption agencies would not deny it was happening and they made references to it happening along, with the Secretary of the Children’s Welfare Department,F,J Pittard agreeing that it was happening and the chief secretary Mr Leggatt agreeing with him.
but the police, claimed they could not find indictable proof.
“It may have been years ago but the newspaper headlines have a familiar ring. They tell of high-ranking police masterminding an abortion protection racket, demanding and receiving massive bribes from prominent Collins Street specialists and engaging in an extensive conspiracy to pervert justice”
“An Age editorial at the time concluded: “It would have been naive to suppose that responsible ministers and officials, and successive police chiefs, had no inkling of what was going on.”
Doctor Hart did not attend the Kay inquiry of 1970s as he had died earlier but the doctor who delivered me at Avonhurst Private Hospital was among those named.
However, Doctor Hart was mentioned in evidence given by Mrs Margret Berman who was the person that paid the protection money from the doctors to the police, “that cash was held in Doctor Hart’s Mansion in the basement at Albert Park.
Dr Hart one of the first GP’s to systematically arrange referrals for abortions.
For me,I believe I have proof beyond reasonable doubt.
I have the original receipt that shows my adoptive couple paid, for my mother’s hospital fees which was illegal at the time. I found out that they had borrowed the money from a close family friend and worked for him on weekends doing furniture removals, until he had paid the debt of. His wife who was a teacher was recommended by the adoptive couple and appointed by the court as my guardian, ad litem; who is meant to represent the adoptee and reported to the court that the adopting couple were fit and proper people to adopt.
Talk about a conflict of interest!
A few months later, I was given the opportunity to sit amongst a group of mothers who lost their children to adoption. They talked about how they felt when they left the hospital, empty handed, being told to forget what happened and start a new life. One at a time, they reflected on that moment, standing and telling their stories. I cried again that day as I realised so many mothers, all with the same feelings, that this was the truth, this is how my mother must have felt…Another little white lie.
My half-sister and half- brother find it a bit difficult to deal with the fact that I know more about my mother and our families heritage than they do, or did, and that I don’t hide the negative parts under the carpet or keep them safely locked away in the closet. I tread slowly, but surely in the hope that we can achieve a long and lasting relationship but they are making no moves for that to happen at the moment in fact my older half-brother has told me to stop digging but they do not understand the plight of an adopted person with the need to know the Truth.
Through all our research, I have finally gained a full understanding of why my mother had no other choice.
- I had come to understand the horror for women, who had to prove fault, to get a divorce and how she could have lost her two children, along with being stigmatised and facing hardship.
- I came also to understand the lengths a woman could go to keep her children.
- I now understand how some people, unfortunately suffering infertility,who seek to adopt other people’s children would go to great lengths to obtain a child and why they seek to fulfil their needs for a child as their last resort after all other efforts had failed to give birth to their own. Along with the damage PTSD caused to my adoptive father by war.
- I also came to an understanding of how privileged, greedy, unscrupulous people take advantage of other people’s misfortune innocence and vulnerability.
- Along with it, bringing me to an understanding that governments need to not only set polices, but should also accept the responsibility of the policy failures, as well as enforcing policies that are not adhered to in practice and not simply to sweep them under the carpet.
Governments should listen to the people who try to inform them of its failings.
I point the finger of blame clearly where it belongs, with the privileged greedy doctors, the bad inefficient government policy, their lack of enforcing some of their own policies, along with the greed of some police, as well as predators who take advantage of children and young peoples innocence and vulnerability along with my adopter’s underhanded way of obtaining a child.
I am now at peace with my mother and the adoptive couple. We have forgiven each other in spirit, for things that do not need forgiving. I no longer carry any hatred towards my mother, her family or my adoptive couple.
I tell you this, entire story, so people can understand the lengths, that I as an adopted person, had to go to get to the truth, but should not have had to spend nearly a life time getting there.
‘Yes, I hated my mother for 60 years, but now I don’t.
I know the truth now mum’.
Do I have regrets? Yes.
Do I wish she was alive? Yes.
Do I want to know my father or at least his name and my heritage? Yes.
Would I like the choice of a No Fault, No fee , No Fuss Discharge from my adoption, to live and leave this world with the legal identity and heritage that I was Born to – with the name my mother named me, the family name of my father, not the Legal name and heritage that was given to me by the government and people who bought me and not have to die “AS IF BORN TO” but “AS BORN TO”
However this may not ever happen because my mother passed away before I was ready to find her and had taken the name of my father with her.
Unless DNA is successful in finding a recent relative on my father’s side with the ‘Y’ test and so far after 3 years and 2 different DNA tests this has not come to fruition.
Then the Just recently : The unbelievable happened.
DNA tests come to light thanks to our friend Rosemary’s tenacious and tireless efforts, and refusal to give in, we finally received a positive match from a first cousin Christine, who turns out to be a cousin on my father’s side. Christine’s mother, my aunt and my father’s sister, is still alive at 91 years old and living in a nursing home in Canberra, but unfortunately my father had passed away He had lived in Tuross Head NSW a small coastal town, for many years’ William George ELLIS age 75yrs was buried at Moruya in 1999. Date of Funeral 29/01/1999
Dad never had any children it turns out that I’m dad’s only child. In Canberra Dad married Doris and parented three children a step daughter and two step son’s.( Very different to being a no hopper that was betrayed to me ) It is believed the daughter and a son have passed away and that the remaining son Anthony, is still alive. Did Bill adopt them and if this is so, Anthony would be a legal heir to the Ellis name? This is so important to me to be able to carry the Ellis family name into the future as it would have stopped when dad passed away if he had not adopted the 3 step children . I have been looking for many years for my heritage and bloodline and I was denied the opportunity of meeting him, when he was alive, by members of my mothers family. I would have had a maximum of ten years to find him and get to know him but this was not to be so. Now I have the opportunity to know my auntie’s, cousins and extended family who have welcomed me from both sides of my parents family’s Gloria’s and Bill’s. This is why my chosen name is William Hammersley- Ellis.
I want nothing more than to be recognised and accepted as Bill & Gloria’s son and this is a grand moment to look at the family trees and see me included.
Thank you .
We are planning a family road trip to Tuross and Canberra soon.
Looking so forward to finding out all about him and the type of person he was. He came to Australia landed in Melbourne as a British migrant. He had to pay 10 pounds to come to Australia under a Commonwealth Government scheme. There was much work in Australia, post second World War for tradesmen and being a qualified painter he was highly sought after. He was not a man with significant resources so when asked the question of how much money he would bring with him to Australia, he mentioned 20 pounds (Immigration papers). When filling out his application he was living with his mother and her 3rd husband William John Henry at 445 Barlow Moor Road, CCH, M/C21. Aged 26 years Born around 1925.
1951- Ship – SS New Australia. Left from Southhampton, 15th of February, 1951 for Australia, and the ship record indicates that William George Ellis was aboard and disembarked in Melbourne.
At this time, Gloria ( my Mother) ran a guest house at 34 Coles Crescent, Coburg East (1951/52).
Wally (Gloria’s 2nd husband) arrives in Australia in October 1951 about three months after my conception.
I was born as “William Langdon” ( name of my mothers first husband ) at the “Avonhurst” Private Hospital, Queens Road, South Melbourne on the 26th of February, 1952, two years later to be declared illegitimate. I would have been conceived around May 1951. William George Ellis arrived into Melbourne in March 1951 indicating the conception would have been within three months of his landing in Australia.
On the 12th of July 2019 we set of on our road trip to Canberra and NSW to have a meeting with my fathers family. It was a great success, I had invited them to a luncheon at the accommodation we had hired in Canberra to meet me and my family and friend rosemary it was an amazing feeling my aim was not to be looking for the “long lost family” but instead it felt like I had found “A SENS OF PLACE” I have always felt like the odd person out the bad kid on the block the one that did not belong but this day I felt calm and at peace sounds a bit mushy but that’s how it was hard to explain. We met my fathers sister my aunt her two daughters my cousins , partners, nieces and nephews and they met us what a day it was. The next meeting was to visit auntie Sylvia and uncle Bob Sylvia is a half blood but has similar features to me as well.Now relationships are open to kindle by choice if that is how it pans out , if not there are no preconceived expectations .
Am I still angry about anything, it is with me for allowing my anger from stopping me contacting them earlier.
But would I have been ready then?
‘I don’t know, probably not’
To discharge his adoption.
Judge Hampel granted his wish on 1 August 2019.
To Get help with applying for a discharge,
OR contact Adoptee Rights Australia Group Inc. (ARA),
an organisation began in 2015 to stand for equal rights in law and policy for adopted people.
“My MOTHER WAS FORCED it is TRUE she had NO CHOICE.
Victorian Adoption act 1928 that was currant in 1952
11. (1) It, shall not be lawful for any adopter or for any Restriction on Payments. Comp. 16 & 17 Parent or guardian except with the sanction of the court GEO. V. c. 29 to receive any payment or other reward in consideration of
the adoption of any infant under this Act or for any person
to make or give or agree to make or give to any adopter or
to any parent or guardian any such payment or reward.
(2) Any person who acts in contravention of or fails to
comply with any of the provisions of this section shall be
guilty of an offence and liable for every such offence to a
penalty of’ not more than Fifty pounds.
Department of Human Services stating in a letter that the court records to my adoption make no reference to court sanctioned payments to my natural mother – either direct or indirect.
Receipt that shows the Adopters paid part of my mother’s Hospital fees.
John Cremean’s Speech to the senate Tuesday 28th March 1950