"Here I am" were the first words Dawn Smallpage's son said to her on the day they met at Cairns Airport in 2017.
They were last together 48 years earlier, when it was parting words shared between mother and son.
Mrs Smallpage, an unwed 17-year-old woman from Wangaratta, was being forced to adopt her child.
"I was looking down at him and said, 'You know, little man, you'll make somebody happy'," Mrs Smallpage said.
The now-Wodonga woman was a wife and mother to two further children when she travelled to the Community Services department in Melbourne to apply for information about her son's adoption.
That 1998 meeting did result in contact being made on behalf of Mrs Smallpage, who was told that for now, her son did not wish to be contacted.
The impact this had was clear to those around her, including Merle Kelly who had met Mrs Smallpage through a support group.
"When we first met, she had severe depression," Ms Kelly said.
"We helped her to develop enough confidence to tell her children.
"Dawn's depression was more manageable after that. She got more courage and wrote a story and told her church group."
At the time, the two women were the only members of the VANISH support group who had not been reunited with their children.
"The group had started after an inquiry to change the legislation in NSW," Ms Kelly said.
"We must have had 30-odd people turn up."
Although the Adoption Information Act 1990 was repealed in 2003, a veto preventing Ms Kelly from contacting her daughter remained valid.
Ms Kelly and her daughter have since connected, but the wrongdoing they suffered has never been appeased.
"I was married, and then six weeks before the confinement date, I was told that he had a wife and three kids, so 'tough luck'," she said.
"When I went to the courts about it, I was told the marriage was bigamous so you can't get anything.
"I could have gotten a deserted wives pension, but I was given the wrong information.
"The hospital did a lot of wrong things; they allowed him to go and see the baby, and I wasn't allowed to.
"From my child being born to the adoption paperwork going through the Supreme Court was 42 days.
"The average was 18 months."
Lyn Cardwell, like so many young women, was not given 30 days to consider the adoption before signing paperwork, as was obliged in 1969.
When she later sought information on her son, she was deliberately misled to believe he was adopted out in Sydney when he was in fact living nearby.
"I lived in Albury at the time with my parents and I was 17," she said.
"The chap I was with, who I'm still good friends with, came in and talked to Mum and Dad.
"They agreed to let us get married - not that they were happy about. And he just got cold feet and backed off.
"Mum and Dad heard about a place the Salvation Army ran in Sydney - and they put me on a train.
"I'd never been away on my own before - it was a terrifying experience.
"They told all the relatives back home that I'd gone to Sydney to learn dressmaking off my Aunty who took me down there, and it wasn't really a lie."
Margie Broughton was at the same Salvation Army home as a 16-year-old.
"It was one irresponsible moment, and I fell pregnant ... I hid it for seven months," she said.
"I was terrified they would put me in the bad girls' home, because the bad girls' home at Paramatta was notorious.
"I realised what I had to do, I just knew that there was not going to be any other choice.
"Somebody said to me once, 'Oh well, I wouldn't have let that happen to me'. And I said, 'Well, that's all very well, because you're six years younger than me; it was 1967 when it happened to me, and by 1973 Gough Whitlam had brought in the supporting mother's benefit.
"I said, 'You didn't come out of a tiny little village where everybody knew everybody. And you didn't come out of a Catholic background'.
"So no, there wasn't an option."
It was these powerful social and institutional forces, which gave young women no choice or resources in keeping their children, that a 2012 Senate Inquiry recognised.
Forced adoptions between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s "occurred when children were given up for adoption because their parents, particularly their mothers, were forced to relinquish them or faced circumstances in which they were left with no other choice".
The experience is so diverse and complex that the Senate recognised in 2012 the very terms used to designate 'birth mothers' and 'adoptees' are contested.
For Helen Nicholson, who has also been supported by VANISH, her experience as an adoptee varies significantly to those of mothers.
"I have suffered from depression nearly all of my life due to my adoption experience," she said.
"It wasn't until I connected with VANISH in 1991 that I was validated and acknowledged in my feelings of worthlessness, isolation, despair and of being unloved.
"They assisted me with a successful reunion with my birth mother.
"I found out that after I was born, she was allowed to nurse me for an hour and then 'ripped out of her arms' and told to go home and get on with her life."
The same comment was made to one Border woman whose pregnancy was the result of a rape.
"It was decided the best thing I could do was to go to Melbourne, away from small town gossip and get into an agency in Fitzroy," she said.
"The agency took only 16 girls at a time; we couldn't use our names and we were told we were lucky to have a place such as the agency.
"There were all the usual reasons of what is best for baby and what we couldn't provide.
"When I was taken to the Royal Women's Hospital ... I was so frightened.
"When I first looked at my tiny baby daughter, I marvelled at how perfect she was and I also realised for the first time that she was mine ... I wanted to keep her.
"I was allowed no contact with my daughter during the next two days, until the ambulance ride back to the agency, when I actually held her in my arms and cried all the way.
"On the sixth day after my daughter was born, when I had 30 days, to change my mind, her adoptive parents came to get her and I've never felt such despair."
Mother and daughter are now in each other's lives and happy.
But something that never leaves is the memory of "shame", "that you're dirty and you've done something wrong".
Behaviour upholding secrecy and discrimination continues to affect many of these Border women; Ms Nicholson has been told by psychiatrists "they don't believe" in adoption trauma.
It is these responses and services provided to those who endured the past practice of forced adoption that the Parliament of Victoria will examine.
The Legislative Assembly's Legal and Social Issues Committee will come to Wodonga to hear from people like Helen Nicholson.
"I hope (as a result) they continue funding for VANISH, number one," she said.
"And number two, that there is acknowledgement.
"Adoptees have fallen through the cracks, and there's a lot of us coming forward now saying, 'Hey, what about us?'
"There's 250,000 of us out there."
Six of those 250,000, from different parts of Australia, have found their mothers - all in Albury-Wodonga.
Their journeys may have been varied, but their contact has brought great relief.
For Mrs Smallpage, receiving an email from her son in 2017 inviting her to visit Cairns was a major life event.
"Arriving at the airport was huge," she said.
"My son and his partner had approached another lady, asking her as to what her name was.
"This good looking man approached me and said 'I must look a bit different now'.
"I was very proud of how I held it together.
"For me, the waiting game was over. I could only think of just how lucky I was to have met my son after 48 years."
Committee hoped to be a turning point
A community organisation providing post-adoption services hopes a Victorian inquiry will bring forward those who have not previously shared their experience.
After the Victorian government apologised for past practices, VANISH was funded to form regional support groups.
That funding finished more than three years ago, but the organisation has maintained a group in Albury-Wodonga due to its benefits.
VANISH manager Charlotte Smith hoped the stigma and secrecy surrounding past adoptions would change.
"After decades of advocacy by victim and survivor groups, there is still no recourse for people who want justice and unfortunately, support and advocacy services are not well-funded," she said.
"Many mothers report that their child being taken for adoption was the most traumatic experience of their lives.
"Research shows their grief intensifies over time, yet they often get told it is in the past or was for the best.
"Fathers also describe their grief and pain over losing their child."
The committee held two regional hearings, in Bendigo and Geelong, in March and it was only through contact made by Border people that a Wodonga hearing was added.
It will take place on Tuesday, May 18 at The Cube.
Committee chair Natalie Suleyman urged people to get in touch about presenting.
"At this hearing, we will be taking evidence from people who were affected," she said.
"It is an important opportunity for community members to provide information that will enable the committee to assess what support has been provided and to make recommendations going forward.
"As we are dealing with sensitive issues, we will ensure that the hearings are conducted in a safe and supported way."
A senate inquiry established in 2011 found that government and non-government institutions used deceit, coercion and force in the 1950s, '60s and '70s to remove babies.
Ms Smith said "babies were separated from their mother and family and adopted to strangers or put in orphanages".
"Many adopted people and state wards report feelings of abandonment and suffer from fear of rejection, relationship difficulties ... (and) over-achievement or over-compliance," she said.
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Ms Smith hoped the parliamentary inquiry would result in "better services to people affected, including counselling, search assistance, support groups, advocacy and legal aid, as well as a sensitive redress scheme and the removal of the statute of limitations so victims and survivors can take legal action".
A submission by Adoption Origins Victoria also called for a 2012 recommendation to be upheld which stated "formal apologies should always be accompanied by undertakings to take concrete action that offer appropriate redress for past mistakes".
Adoptions Origins Victoria also noted "the rise in known adoptions in NSW since the Senate inquiry" and stated "governments must provide supports for children to grow in their own families".
- For support, contact VANISH on 1300 826 474
- The Committee is asking people who wish to speak to register beforehand by phoning (03) 8682 2843 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.