I was born Richard Charles BERTRAM on June 8, 1943. On October 12, the County Court consented to my adoption by Herbert and Linda CAROZZI, and I was Barry William CAROZZI from that day forward.
I’ve been looking over my Adoption papers, and trying to better understand the process of adoption, as it unfolded in those days, more clearly.
There were several critical dates:
June 8, 1943 Richard Charles BERTRAM born at The Haven Fitzroy
September 11, 1943 Gwendoline Esther BERTRAM signed a consent form, consenting to ‘the making of an Adoption Order in favour of the petitioners, Herbert Garrie and Linda Robina May CAROZZI. The consent form noted that my mother agreed to the following:
‘... that in particular I understand that the effect of the Order will be to permanently deprive me of my parental rights and I hereby consent to the making of an Adoption Order in favour of the petitioners.’
September 27, 1943 My adoptive parents, Herbert and Linda CAROZZI, officially applied to adopt me. The papers include the following statements:
The said infant is the illegitimate son of GWENDOLINE ESTHER BERTRAM and was given into our care by the matron of “The Haven” Maternity Hospital at North Fitzroy in the State of Victoria on the Eleventh day of September, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Forty Three. ...
That we desire the name of the infant to be BARRY WILLIAM CAROZZI.
The documents are also precise about several matters:
First, that ‘No insurance has been affected on the life of the said infant.’ This was presumably to protect the ‘said infant’ from being disposed of for financial gain.
Second, my adoptive parents declare that they ‘have not received or agreed to receive any payment or reward from any person or persons directly or indirectly for and in respect to the adoption by us of the said infant.’
Third, ‘No previous Adoption Order has previously been applied for or made with respect to the said infant.’
And fourthly, my parents declare that ‘We have not previously adopted an infant.’
September 27th All ‘parties concerned are directed to attend the County Court on a ‘date to be fixed’ for the hearing of the application to adopt.
On October 5th, the date for the hearing was set at ‘the 12th Day of October 1943 ‘at the hour of ten o’clock in the forenoon.’ On that same date, Judge W.H. Magennis issued an order naming the Rev. William Henry Clay as interim guardian of the ‘said infant’.
The order from the County Court legally sanctioning the adoption is dated October 12, 1943. And so, in the space of a month Gwen relinquished her parental rights and I was adopted. The papers mention that
... the JUDGE being satisfied that it is for the benefit of said infant that he should be adopted by said applicants and that all the requirements of the Adoption of Children Act 1928 have been complied with
Judge Magennis orders that the Adoption ‘be authorised’. He further directs that
...the Governement Statist shall cause such birth entry or entries to be marked with the word ‘Adopted’... IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the name of the infant shall be BARRY WILLIAM CAROZZI.
The picture now seems clearer. At some stage between my birth and the legal papers, Herbie and Linda discovered that a child was available for adoption. My mother, Gwendoline, stayed with me at ‘The Haven’ for three months. Perhaps she was undecided as to what she should – or would – do. Or perhaps she was waiting for suitable adoptive parents to emerge.
What is clear is that on September 11th I was handed into the care of my adoptive parents. My cousin Thelma, then a girl of 6 or so, accompanied my Uncle Ken – who drove my dad’s car, and my parents, to The Haven. She recalls it as an exciting day.
There are so many unanswered questions. How did Linda and Herbie come to know of my existence? I know little about the nuts and bolts of adoption in the 1940s. While the process was quite formal, I’m not sure what went on behind the scenes. Perhaps there was a ‘bush telegraph’ within the Salvation Army. My adoptive mother, Linda, was a member of the Moreland Salvation Army; perhaps someone at the Haven alerted officers in the Army about children available for adoption. That could be a fruitful area for research in the coming months.
There is a photo of my father, smiling broadly while he held the ‘said infant’ in his arms. I’m guessing that that photograph marks my arrival at my new home: 82 Reynard Street, Coburg, where Herbie and Linda had lived since their marriage in 1936, and where they would remain until the late 1980s.
Their petition for adoption includes the following sad statement:
There is no issue of our marriage and out legally qualified practitioner has advised us that he considers the prospect of issue as being exceedingly remote.
September 11, 1943
The records show only the surface of things, of course. The language of the times was formal. Terms like ‘said infant’, ‘prospect of issue’, and especially ‘illegitimate son of’ – the legalese of that time – masks the underlying realities: the desperate wish of a married couple, unable to have children; the harshly moralistic attitudes that forced a young woman to guard the secret of her pregnancy and hide – possibly for ever – the identity of the father, and to relinquish her child.
My Aunt Joan Young (nee BERTRAM) – my mother’s younger sister – finds it very hard to believe that Gwen would have given up a child.
‘She loved kids. She was a wonderful mother.’
What I do know now is that Gwen stayed at the Haven for almost 100 days – those critical first three months of my life, and left three days after I was taken home to Reynard Street by my mum and dad. I became Barry William Carozzi, and for 66 years knew nothing of the true circumstances of my birth.