Forced apart at birth
FOR most of her life, Leonie Bingham thought she was given up at birth because her mother didn't want her.
"I just believed that I was unwanted," the Stony Chute woman said.
"I was lucky because I was adopted by a wonderful family, and my foster parents told me that I was adopted from a young age, so I always knew.
"My foster mother said that when I was ready, she would help me find my birth mother."
Ms Bingham had no idea that her mother was one of thousands of young unmarried women who, between the 1950s and 1970s, were forced to give up their babies.
Many of these girls were threatened, drugged and punished.
A Senate committee report this week recommended the Federal Government formally apologise to the women and children affected by forced adoption practices.
For some it is too late.
But luckily for Ms Bingham, she now enjoys a good relationship with her birth mother.
She first started thinking about finding her mum when her foster dad became ill with cancer.
And then, when she had her own daughter, reality set in.
"I knew I needed to find my birth mother and learn about our family health history so that I could take better care of my child," she said.
"I rang the Benevolent Society and asked them to help me."
Seven years ago Ruth Smith, the mother, and her daughter had their first phone conversation.
That turned into weekly chats, followed by a week-long visit.
Now the two women talk twice a week and see each other regularly.
Ms Bingham says it has been an "amazing and emotional" journey.
Ruth remembers little after arriving at Crown St Women's Hospital Sydney on June 30, 1967 aged 16.
"She was drugged throughout the birthing process and for the ensuing week she spent there," Ms Bingham said.
"She remembers being forced by someone to sign some papers. She asked to see me, they said no.
"Ruth did not want to give me up, but she had no choice.
"Until the Post Adoption Resource Centre found her for me nearly seven years ago, Ruth had no idea what had happened to me.
"She said she had thought about me every day of her life.
"Where once I felt anger at being abandoned, I now feel empathy and compassion for my birth mother.
"We are uncannily alike, our voices, mannerisms, expressions, height, shoe size ... incredible!"