Adoption is multi-faceted and complex. As many affected by adoption grapple with this throughout their lives, it’s never been more important to shine a light on these experiences.
The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centres (PARC) have been supporting people affected by adoption in NSW since 1991 and in Queensland since 2009. PARC has supported over 80,000 people including people who are adopted, parents, siblings, partners and others who have been separated from family by adoption.
As part of its mission to support those affected by adoption, PARC alongside a working group of people with lived experience of adoption hosted the inaugural Australian Adoption Literary Festival on Saturday 4 November 2023.
A Day of Shared Experiences and Learning
Sponsored by the NSW Forced Adoption Support Service and Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care, the free online panel event showcased varied adoption experiences and stories in an Australian context and highlighted the lifelong nature and complexities of adoption.
The festival covered a mix of written genres, with a focus on writing from participating panellists that took attendees through their first-hand lived experiences of adoption.
It began with a panel session with participating writers who have expressed their unique adoption journeys through a variety of written forms. These span both more traditional narrative non-fiction and academic writing, as well as poetry and comic book illustrations.
During this session, researcher and writer Ryan Gustafsson noted the importance of having these experiences expressed across different genres.
Gustafsson highlighted how creative genres like comics and poetry provide unique insights into the emotional side of adoption experiences, especially when it comes to capturing the feelings of those navigating many of the unknowns, which can often get missed through more traditional and academic writing on the topic.
Susannah McFarlane and Robin Leuba, authors of ‘Heartlines’, also attended the festival. They discussed their experiences as a mother and daughter separated by adoption, and the experience of Leuba being reunited with McFarlane almost 50 years after the adoption.
Social worker and adoptee, Jane Sliwka hosted the ‘In Conversation’ panel with Susannah McFarlane and Robin Leuba.<
Additional panel sessions at the event focused on the memoirs and experiences of mothers impacted by forced adoption, the memoirs of adoptees and their experiences with this.
Speaking about what he gained from the process of writing his memoir of forced adoption, author Abraham Maddison highlighted the newfound peace and outlook on his identity he has now, both from getting to know his biological mother, revisiting relationships from his childhood and adolescent years, and reclaiming his original name.
Author and adoptee Susan Francis guided panellists Abraham Maddison, Karen Ingram, and Dianne O’Brien in a discussion of their memoirs and adoption experience.
The festival showcased how writing is enabling people to express their experiences with adoption and how adoption is intertwined with their identities.
For those who couldn’t attend the festival, the Mixed Genre, Mothers, Adoptees, and In Conversation panel sessions can be viewed on The Benevolent Society’s YouTube page.
Why voices on adoption experiences are needed
Sarah Burn, PARC Manager at The Benevolent Society, said: “We were encouraged by the support of the NSW Forced Adoption Support Service and Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care to bring together so many unique literary voices together at the festival to explore the many facets of adoption.”
“The experience of adoption is complex and different for everyone. Processing this is ongoing work for each individual and support is crucial to helping Australians on this journey. The PARC team couldn’t be prouder to help provide a platform for the voices of so many expressing their adoption experiences through different forms of writing.”
Post Adoption Resource Centres
2023 marked the 10th anniversary of the Federal Government’s Apology for Forced Adoption practices. It is also estimated that 1 in 15 people are affected by the process of adoption in Australia. Those affected often seek support at key moments in their life; for instance, adolescence, meeting their life partner, starting a family or the death of loved ones.
The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centres provide information, counselling, intermediary services, therapeutic groups and support to people affected by adoption.
Sarah added: “Our team is dedicated to providing support and guidance to anyone impacted by adoption. Whether it’s someone who is adopted, someone who has been separated from their child through adoption, or adoptive parents and extended family who may be impacted by adoption in some way, there are support options for all who need it.”
If you, or someone you know, is in need of support related to adoption, call The Benevolent Society at 1800 236 762 or visit our Post Adoption Services page here.