Fathers Speaking Out

A Father Speaks

A Father Speaks
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History of Adoption (Dian Wellfare)
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Adoption and the Bible
Adoption and the Ten Commandments
Fathers Rights


Transcript of Interview with Sydney Morning Herald –

Monday September 17, 2012 … 8.30am.


Interviewer – Jospehine Tovey (JT)

Interviewee – Cameron Horn (CH)


This 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:



Also at:



Or it can be found by Google-searching: Cameron Horn Adoption



JT:       I’ll just get you to say your full name, what you do, and your connection to this story …


CH:     Oh ok – a hard question to start off with.


            My name is Cameron Horn. And I’m a writer at Southern Cross Austereo.

            And my 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.


My girlfriend fell 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 the papers.


JT:       How 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.


            So this 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.


            I’ve 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.


            And in 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.


            They were fraud. They were assaults. In our case, certainly assault. Not just physical assault. Assault through medications. Stilboestrol. Assault through breast-binding.


My girlfriend 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 hospital?


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.


            So through 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.


            I only found out 18 years later, that the adoption agency knew about all this as well, when I got my papers.


            So, through that time, I went to the chamber magistrate at Manly Court to see if there was something I could do about stopping this.


            My mother 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.


            So in 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.


            But the 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.


            And then 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.


            But anyway, she signed an adoption consent and from that day for 18 years my baby has just disappeared.


JT:       Did they get your signature?


CH:     No.


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 I 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.


            So it 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.


JT:       Did you ever have the chance to reunite …?


CH:     Well, in 32 years I’ve seen my daughter for 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 services.


            And then 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 mother.


            And so 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 Government?


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 apologies from 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.


            I’m 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.

            And so to come out with some apology …


            You know – 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.


            I personally 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.


            These things need to be tested in court properly. Not run up against a Statute of Limitations all the time in a civil case.


            So an 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.


            But just 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.


            But immediately, the former 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.


            So an 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 meaningless.


            Actually, it’s worse than meaningless – it is re-abuse.


JT:       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 healing?


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.


            A lot 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 – one 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.


            Some 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.”


            You know, 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.


            I think a Royal Commission is certainly overdue in the area of adoption. But that’s a Federal situation.


            The thing 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.”


            It’s 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.”


            Well, 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.


            So an 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 …


            And if 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 by that.


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 …


            Can I 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 my 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 ….


            It’s 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.


            And there are a lot of adopted people who are perfectly happy with their situation.


            But if I steal a car the fact that I am a very good driver, does not exonerate me.

            If I 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.


            Psychologically, 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 happened. 


            And even 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.


            And so 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.


OTHER: 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.


OTHER: What would you say to the social workers that were involved in your situation if you were to see them now?


CH: (LONG PAUSE) I would prefer not to say that on camera.




CH:     I have had a few encounters.


OTHER: 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.”


            So they’re 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.

            So they’re 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 FATHERS … What’s your response to the contention that fathers were not involved or should be involved?


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 a 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 – the men 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 there.


So this person – I 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 right.


And obviously, 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 other 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.


I’d like to just 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.


So, it’s just the constant melancholy about the fact that a really important part of you has been removed.


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, it’s 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, I’d 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?


They’re the things as a father you like to able to just observe – but you’re not allowed.

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