The devastating reunion that created “Love Child” 131



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Sarah Lambert, creator of the runaway hit drama Love Child, still remembers the look on her family friend’s face when her long-lost daughter knocked on the door.

The writer was only eleven years old.

“There was a knock at the door and there was a young woman standing there. She said she was the daughter of my mother’s friend. She had been given up at birth and had been hunting for her mother for years.

“I remember turning around and seeing our family friend’s face; her legs went out from under her. No one knew she’d had a baby – her husband didn’t know, her children didn’t’ know. But there she was.”

In the coming months the friend’s story unravelled but, being a child, Ms Lambert was not privy to any details. Instead, she caught snippets of the story – and it terrified her.

“I heard that she had been sent from Queensland to St Margaret’s [a hostel for unwed mothers like Stanton House in the series] in the Darlinghurst area.

“She didn’t even know if she’d had a boy or a girl. I remember saying I couldn’t believe someone would do that to someone, and Mum said, ‘that’s just what happens’.

“It scared me, the fact that you could have to go through all that on your own and then be expected to move on as if nothing ever happened. It stayed with me at night.”

Ms Lambert says the situation eventually ended the friendship between the friend and her mother.

“Even as a child, I realised we weren’t really supposed to talk about what had happened. There was still so much shame and heartbreak. It was too painful for her to have anyone know – she still felt she had done something terribly wrong.”

Many years later, with a successful acting and screenwriting career, Ms Lambert still held the memory of that family and the devastating reunion. When the Senate Inquiry Report into Forced Adoption was released, she read the accounts of the women who gave evidence and knew their stories needed to be told.

“There were 250,000 women who were sent to places like Stanton House and were forced to give up their babies,” says Ms Lambert. “The people who gave their stories were so brave, [the stories we tell Love Child] are a lot less harsh than it really was for many women.”

3.317.LOVE CHILD S2.Mandy McElhinney as Matron and Harriet Dyer as Patricia.Playmaker for NINE.Photo David Dare Parker


She says it was essential to tell the story from within the context of the time.

“The forced adoption system was government policy and it was practised in many hospitals. It was a ‘clean break’ theory – the belief at the time was, the less the women knew about their babies the better. They were never allowed to refer to themselves as mothers.

“You also have to remember that, for some women, it was the right thing to do. A lot depended on whether you had support from your family, if that was the case, it was somehow easier.”

When writing the series, Ms Lambert was determined for it not to be bleak. By setting the action in Kings Cross in the “swinging 60s”, it was always going to be full of colour and life.

2.056.LOVE CHILD S2.Sophie Hensser as Viv and Jessica Marais as Joan.Playmaker for NINE.Photo David Dare Parker


“What struck me about the time was how women from every background met in these places, spending months together and forming friendships.

“Then there was also this opening up of society, the rise of feminism, the sexual revolution and freedom. But at the heart of that an incredible conservative society where, if you got pregnant out of wedlock, the rules were still the same. My aim was to juxtapose these two worlds. “

In the late 60s and early 70s, the Cross in Sydney was the centre of cosmopolitan Australia. It was beautiful and had a Parisian feel. The crew recreated the hero street scene at Fox studios, while also shooting in locations that had retained the original look.

Ms Lambert stepped back from the series when she fell pregnant with her son Tom, who she describes as her “miracle baby”. She had previously had her daughter Tilly through IVF and had assumed she would not had another. In fact, Ms Lambert was so wrapped up in filming Series 2 she didn’t notice she was pregnant for three months! She continues to be involved in the upcoming series as consultant producer.

As a mother, Ms Lambert shudders to imagine sending her daughter away in shame to have a baby. But she can also understand the parents’ position.

“It’s impossible for us know to comprehend the taboo around unwed mothers. It was hidden behind a veil of secrecy; there was shame all around it. People thought they were protecting their daughters by doing this,” she says.

The most gratifying this, she adds, has been removing the veil, exposing something that affected so many families here, and around the world.

“Any family in the world will have a story along these lines. If not adoption, then parents claiming ctheir daughter’s child to cover up the family secret.”

“[The period of forced adoptions] is such an important part of our history. I thank God my daughter will never have to go through that, but I do want her to understand that it is part of our legacy and to get people talking about these things,” says Ms Lambert.

Has your life been touched by the events depicted in Love Child? Do you think Sarah Lambert has captured the events in true faith?

Love Child Season 2 is out now on DVD & Digital


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I knew a couple of girls that went to homes for unmarried Mother’s, one of them has been reunited with the daughter she was forced to give away. Is was a terrible time, so many young woman were affected.

  2. I know of this story so well. As a trainee nurse in the mid 60’s, there were numerous young women that we knew of being sent to St Margaret’s, who came back to finish their training. They had to work for their stay there. For myself, having a strict, domineering mother, I was made to have an abortion, not knowing that I had any rights to go against what she told me had to happen. In my late 60’s now, I still wonder at times how things might have been for me. In saying that, I have two wonderful adult children who I am very proud of, & wouldn’t change this for anything. In retrospect, things happen for a reason, & we can’t change that, nor would I want to..

  3. Would be interested in hearing comments from girls who were placed in the laundries at the Home of Good Shepherd ,Ashfield….conditions etc. The chapel is magnificent.

  4. Horrific times no gov payments back then!!!

    2 REPLY
    • That’s right, Judy. It WAS dreadful for many.

      However, these days, there are many women who have several babies to different partners, then expect – and receive – Government support, financially. Quite a burden on the Government. Has the pendulum swung too far the other way? Of course, the babies/children are the innocent ones – always.

      I was adopted out at 13 months. My birth mother tried to keep me, but HER mother (my Grandmother) wouldn’t let her take me home, as it would bring disgrace on the family! Also, my Grandfather had died only a few years earlier. My birth mother was very close to her father who, she felt, would never have cast me aside!

      Anyway, I was many, many months old, when I was put into St. Joseph’s Foundling Home in Broadmeadows, Victoria, (to enable my birth mother to ‘get on her feet’ a bit, financially). I was later hospitalised (from the foundling home) with severe gastro. – and even broke an arm, while in hospital! Then, returned
      to the foundling home. My birth mother couldn’t cope with the dreadful stress (which has stayed with her all her life) and she decided to give me up for adoption.

      I met her when I was 41 (I’m now 69). She visited my home many times and met my children, but, in the end, it did not work out. She was a nervous wreck, as her husband would NEVER let me visit my birth family and, when I contacted a half-brother, that wasn’t acceptable, either, even though his wife had us to lunch!

      A birth cousin and I used to enjoy a phone chat a few times a year, but she was told by my birth mother not to accept my calls, and she told me VERY SADLY that she had to bow to my birth mother’s wishes, so as not to UPSET her. So, I don’t see any of them.

      Finally, how sad was it that, about 30 years after I was adopted out, my birth Grandmother told my birth mother that she was sorry that she didn’t let her bring her little girl home, as she didn’t know how badly it would affect her! This, after never saying ONE WORD – EVER – about me in 30 YEARS to my birth mother! Far too late.

      As for my BROADER ADOPTIVE family, BEAUTUFUL, INTELLIGENT AND LOVING. Both my legal parents and two brothers are in Heaven. (They had 3 of their own natural children, much older, but adopted me, as a relative -who was a Nun at the home – told them about me (OLDER BABY), so Mum felt compelled to help!)

    • Thank u Sandra for sharing your story!my adopted daughter found me 18 yrs ago and she grew into a lovely caring person,I can’t take the credit for that.I bought her into the world,but her adopted mum did the hard yards!!

  5. 1965 was the beginning off a very sad life for me my daughter was removed after 12 days during which I had to feed her 4 times a day ,I could not watch the TV show but freinds told me about it , for most girl I came in contact with during my time it was much worse than they made out in the show it was a very cruel time for us girls the boys got away Scott free girls were punished and hidden away out of sight . I was sent 500 miles away from home at18 left with strangers for 7 mth it was a very lonely time in my lifetime

    3 REPLY
  6. This also happened in the 1940’s. I was one of those children. My mother ran off to Sydney she was from a Catholic family so you can imagine their reaction!!!!!!! She managed to keep me, no money, no help.I could write a movie about our life.

    1 REPLY
  7. Very sad, I feel so sorry for the young ladies that it happen to. I am sure if that happened to me my Mother would not have allowed for the baby to be given away. Same as I would not for my Daughter. I think it was all about religion & what people might think, I would have said to hell with them.

    2 REPLY

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