AMONG the piles of paper and files that put together the jigsaw of his fragmented life, two documents stand out.
One that reads: “an order may be made for the adoption of the above named male infant son’’ - amended with an arrow and the prefix ‘un’ before named.
A prefix that removed any personal aspect of his life. Two letters that took away all that he was and who he was in the world.
He became a boy child with no name, about to change “ownership’’ in the County Court.
The second is a piece of paper that tells of his mother’s ‘distant’ nature at the time of his birth.
“She knew what was going to happen,’’ he said.
“It’s all cold, medical stuff from when you were born, baby unknown’s weight, baby unknown…. baby unknown.’’
That baby was born in Melbourne on July 16, 1957, as Bobby Maguire.
He was a much-loved son, born into a big family with three older sisters and three older brothers.
By the age of six weeks, he no longer had a name. He then became known by a different name, before again being called Bobby Maguire. That went on for 14 months until his new name became permanent. He was no longer little Bobby.
Bobby Maguire’s original birth certificate was stamped ‘cancelled’ and he was issued with a sixth schedule certificate, giving him a new name and new identity.
But it was an identity to which he could never relate.
An identity that was fought for the first 14 months of his life by Bobby’s parents, who did not want to give up their son.
Bobby’s father was wounded during WWII and contracted scrub typhus.
“It got to a stage where he could not work any further, so he applied for the TPI pension and with that he had to look for a new home because they couldn’t afford to keep the family home,’’ Bobby said.
The family was offered a war service home on the condition that any further children be removed for adoption.
“He had served his country and then had to relinquish his children,’’ Bobby said.
Bobby and a brother born three years earlier became the “property’’ of the Mission of St James and St John after their birth.
That brother was returned to the family several years after his adoption, because his adopted family no longer wanted him. At that stage, his parents had housing and his brother was able to return, but Bobby was living with his adopted family and being raised in a world where he never felt he belonged.
His adopted father was a minister and on the board of the Mission of St James and St John and moved a lot because of his role as a clergyman.
One of Bobby’s first memories was being thrown down a flight of stairs, leaving him with a lifetime fear of heights.
“The adopting mother … was not very good at doing that mother thing, the hugging, things you would expect from a parent, none of that,’’ Bobby said.
“Dad was a vicar, but a vicar that had a hard heart, he was very harsh, very strict.
“You did anything wrong, you were belted – I remember being choked, being thrown through a Sunday school window as punishment in a fit of rage, I remember him grabbing me and I think that was when I first realised I was different.
“I started formalising in my mind I wasn’t part of the family.
“There was a woman there, who said ‘well that’s the way that little bastard should have been treated, you did the right thing vicar’.’’
Bobby was at the age where he had a concept of what that word meant.
He knew he didn’t fit in: he didn’t look like his family, his mindset and way of thinking were different.
“My memories of my childhood are of loss, always a sense of loss, always a sense of isolation, always a sense of ….going to family events but I don’t feel like I belong there and nobody’s told me I was adopted,’’ Bobby said.
“I don’t look like them, don’t do the social thing with them because my mindset, my way of thinking, my way of doing is different to theirs.
“The whispering words in the background, people saying ‘him, him, him’ and you’re not knowing why they’re saying that.
“You’re left out of every internal, very close family things and that extended right through teenage years – I found it quite distressing.’’
But on that day when he was thrown through the window, Bobby knew. He was about 14 or 15 years old, and old enough to know something didn’t feel right.
“By then you know enough about what’s going on, and something clicks – ‘hang on, I’m not one of those people’ and you start asking questions - of course, I never got any answers.’’
The answers would come many years later. But Bobby has never been told by his adopted parents that was the case.
“It was not the ‘done thing’ to tell me, because it happened so often,’’ he said.
“It’s like you were a piece of property, you weren’t a human being.
“It was another family member that ended up admitting the truth to me,’’ he said.
And that was long after Bobby started searching for answers; long after he started asking questions as a young teenager.
“Being a teenager you become a young adult, you become rebellious and do different things in the world, you become dependent as a person and so those things are repressed, you put them aside,’’ he said.
“But at the same time you act out, you have behaviours in your life, you can’t form relationships easily, friendships are very tenuous because you have a lack of trust
“You feel like you don’t belong, not even to your family but to society in general.’’
The catalyst to seek the truth was after Bobby had his own family and he wanted his medical history.
After several years of heartache and searching, Bobby learnt his birth name.
It was luck that would then reconnect him with his family.
Bobby was on the internet one day, chatting to like-minded people about music, when a person with the same surname appeared.
He kept seeing the name in the following weeks, and eventually sent a message asking if that person was related to a name he knew to be one of his brothers.
“That night, I got a message back saying ‘yeah, why?’
“I said 'I think I may be your uncle'.’’
Fortunately, but something which is not the case with many people seeking their birth families, the person at the other end of the email was receptive and said they would contact their father.
“The next minute I got a phone call from a man saying you better come down and see me and bring any evidence, which I did,’’ Bobby said.
And so began Bobby’s reconnection with his family.
His eldest sister had left home before he was born and the others could not remember their mother’s last two pregnancies.
“My eldest sister remembered mum being very sick for about four months, and she always thought it was a gall bladder thing, she said mum went into hospital for an operation.’’
Bobby is now close to his two sisters, and was lucky to form a close bond with his third sister before she died.
He shares different relationships with his brothers, one of whom he sees little of, another to whom he shares a close bond and the third has taken a long time to form.
“It’s taken a long time with him … not knowing I existed, he felt he had been lied to all his life by mum and dad,’’ Bobby said.
“It’s a personal quiet communication, a sense of knowing we both did lose something in life.
“But my deceased sister when we met, we knew we were brother and sister, it was unconditional love the second we met.’’
Bobby says life is now complicated, but he loves it.
After meeting his siblings, one of his brothers asked him away for a weekend. When he arrived, Bobby was surrounded by 60 people he had never met. Cousins, nephews, nieces.
“That’s confusing again – this new world, new family … which is your old family,’’ he said.
Bobby had long moved on from his adopted family.
He cared for his adopted sister and her children before her death “because she was not being helped’’ by their adopted parents, but felt nothing to his adopted mother and father beyond that.
“She is still alive in a nursing home and I’ve done all that for her, she is an elderly person who should have decent final years even though personally I don’t love her,’’ he said.
“Maybe I’m saying to her ‘I’m giving you something you should have given to me as a child … I’m giving you respect, I’m giving you dignity’.’’
But despite meeting his new “old’’ family and moving on from his adopted life, Bobby doesn’t “think you can complete the story, there’s still mysteries out there”’.
And he believes support groups such as Vanish are there to help those trying to find their way through that.
“For three or four months the world can be good, but mothers’ day is a bad news day, birthdays are a bad news day … birthdays are a reminder you were taken away from your mother.
“I’ve got mum’s eulogy from her funeral, no mention of me and things like that.
“No two stories are the same, but there are others out there in the community that if you do feel isolated because of an adopting experience, you have other people there who want to talk with you, help you, show you how to search for family,’’ he said.
“You don’t have to do it on your own.’’
The Bendigo support groups will meet from 2pm until 4pm on the following Saturdays at the Bendigo Neighbourhood House in Neale Street, Kennington: Adoptees only (adults over the age of 18): June 14 and Sept 13. Mothers only (also known as birth mothers or natural mothers): July 12 and October 11. Mixed group: (adopted persons, mothers, fathers, adoptive parents): August 9 and November 8.
* For information about the new support group, contact VANISH at www.vanish.org.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9328 8611 or 1300 VANISH.
AS a new adoption support group sets up in Bendigo, one man shares his story with NICOLE FERRIE. Bobby tells of being lost in a world where he never felt he belonged.
You feel like you don’t belong, not even to your family but to society in general