Carol Maney never got to hold her baby, or even see him. She didn’t know if she had given birth to a boy or a girl. She remembers her waters breaking and then waking up in an operating theatre with green tiles and chrome. All she knew was that she had gone to bed pregnant and woken with a torn birth canal and stitches.
“I was cold, I woke up, I got off the bed and all this blood went everywhere. The nurse came in and told me off for making a mess. For nine days I had no memory. I think I was drugged the whole time,” she tells The Weekly. And she was traumatised.
When Carol came to, her baby was gone, ripped away. She was 17 years old, alone, without support – a naïve, unformed country girl who hadn’t even known how babies were made. To avoid bringing shame on the family, she had been sent to Elim House, an institution in Hobart, Tasmania, where pregnant girls could avoid the social disgrace of a child out of wedlock – of loose morals – where, for the term of their pregnancy, they could disappear.
Run by The Salvation Army, it was a brutal place. “It was dreadful,” says Carol. “We were treated like rubbish, as if we were nothing, like we were not human. The staff were cold and unfeeling. I don’t think anybody talked to me as a person. I never had a conversation with anyone. You were something they wiped their feet on. There was no counselling or support.’’
Instead, even though they or their families were paying board, the girls were punished for their sins. They were made to work in the commercial laundry, to scrub steps, slave in the kitchen. Heavily pregnant, Carol was cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush just before she gave birth.
She knows of “young women tied to the bed, faces covered with pillows so they couldn’t see their child and bond. There was a whole industry of taking babies.”
Sedatives and anti-lactation medication made it easier to take a child from an emotional mother facing the instant loss of a baby that had been kicking inside her. Carol has no memory of signing the adoption papers. Dr Geoff Rickarby, a psychiatrist, told the ABC’s Four Corners program that the excessive drugs given to these women put them in no state to sign any kind of consent order.
Had anybody asked Carol, she would not have consented to her baby being taken away. These young girls were subjected to immense emotional pressure and coerced. “All those women are told the whole time that you are a bad person and don’t deserve this child. Religion, the stigma of being unmarried, and having a child out of wedlock were all factors,” says Carol.
The girls Carol knew were told they were unfit to be mothers, that they could not support a child, they were inadequate, immoral. Carol gave birth to her son in 1975 with no idea that the Whitlam government had introduced a supporting mothers’ benefit two years earlier. In a less archaic place, she could have had a chance at supporting him.
“It wasn’t even an option for me. It was like a conveyor belt. You just went in and went out. I never got an opportunity to keep the baby. We were like mushrooms put in that place and we had to fend for ourselves. You lost all rights to have any contact and the birth certificate was changed to the baby being born to the adopting family, in what was called closed adoptions.
“It was illegal, I was a minor,” Carol adds, but from the 1950s through to 1980 it is estimated that around 200,000 newborn babies were torn away from vulnerable young women in forced adoptions.
That is a lot of grief, trauma and loss for a lot of people over a lot of years: mothers not knowing where their defenceless children were, not able to protect them, not knowing if they were being properly looked after; and children growing up not really relating to their adoptive parents, struggling for identity. It’s a lot of heartbreak.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The birth of hope
In 2020, the number of children in foster care rose to 46,000, and almost half of those are in NSW. With many moving from place to place with no solution in sight, one inspiring young woman is determined to end the cycle.
Murder in Larrimah
The curious investigation into the disappearance of Paddy Moriarty and his kelpie Kellie in a tiny Northern Territory 12-person community.
Love under fire
Keith Payne VC is an Aussie hero, bravest of the brave, but managing the pain beyond the glory has proved a tough battle for Keith, his unfailingly supportive wife, Flo, and their five sons.
Our happy place
When high-profile political journalists Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales started a podcast characterised by their own madcap friendship, it showed them what happiness is all about.
A patchwork of love
When Helen Comport’s son was critically injured in the war in Afghanistan, she was inspired to gather a community of quilters to wrap our veterans and their families in gratitude.
SLAVERY IN THE SUBURBS
There is a common misconception that slavery is a matter for the history books, but millions of people are still enslaved today – shockingly, some of them right here in Australia.
When Rachel met Deborah
They always admired each other from afar but when Rachel Griffiths and Deborah Mailman finally joined forces in TV’s Total Control they were not only in fan-girl heaven, they became instant friends.
What's really going on with Princess Charlene?
Why has she spent so much of this year away from Prince Albert and their children in Monaco? The word on the streets of this glamorous principality is that Princess Charlene might never return!
WHO KILLED THE BEATLES?
Millions of words and hours have been spent on the break-up of the Beatles. But now, half a century on, the history books are being rewritten, old scapegoats exonerated and new culprits brought to light.
Women of the land
There are so many inspiring women championing courage, kindness and resilience in the bush. Here are just a few who we’ll be thinking of on October 15, the United Nations International Day of Rural Women.
Changing energy markets and evolving technology make it possible to heat, cool, and ventilate homes of any age with (mostly) clean, all-electric power—and less of it. Heating home water, formerly an energy hog, is turning into an energy sipper, too.
Should I text him first?
Weekend in the Park
The 43rd annual Long’s Park Art Festival will include paintings, sculptures and more by over 200 juried artists.
all in it together
The TOH team gives a fire-damaged triple-decker in Dorchester, MA, some long-overdue updates —and its owner the safer, more comfortable home she and her family deserve
MEET DAYS'S RAVEN BOWENS
It’s been such a roller coaster,” reflects Raven Bowens of landing the job of DAYS’s Chanel. “I auditioned for it months back. It was a self-tape and I didn’t hear anything for weeks and so I had kind of given up on it. About a month or so later, I got a call for a chemistry read but I didn’t get the part. I was told it went down to the wire and it went another way and as actors, we hear that often [laughs]. I was like, ‘Whatever, they were just probably being nice’. So I was pretty sad about it and then all my team was hyping me and I thought, ‘You know what? I read Carol Burnett’s book a while back, and in her book she talked about how she couldn’t get arrested, she couldn’t get a job, and she kind of settled with herself and was like, “You know what? It wasn’t my turn. It was that other person’s turn.” ’ So I sent my agents that email and they said, ‘We love this, so moving on.’ A couple of weeks later, I booked THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, so I was in New York and I was doing that show and then DAYS called and they offered me the role. It was pretty crazy.”
You Grew It Alone. Now Can You Lead?
Nnenna Stella, founder of the fashion accessories brand the Wrap Life, talks staffing up with Lisa Price, founder of beauty brand Carol’s Daughter.
You'd Be an Iconic Guest
A ruthless Instagram interviewer brings her knowing wink to cable.
DIVORCING De NIRO: ROMANCE IS BULL!
Swears off women as he accuses wife of spending him into the poorhouse
Gender equity drive in racing
As part of a remix for the coming season of the foiling SailGP series, each of the eight teams are to add one female athlete per team. Teams will be incentivised to include female athletes in rotation for ‘active roles’ and to include women in the sixth position, progressing to ‘practice and/or training in key roles’.
TIGER KING GETS HIS CLAWS INTO NEW BID FOR FREEDOM!
CAGED “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic has continued his fight for freedom — by hiring the lawyer who repped the family of his rival Carole Baskin’s long-missing husband!