Heartlines : a novel and, A study of the cultural context of adoption between 1950 and 1980 with particular, but not exclusive, reference to the Australian birth mother and her relinquished child : an accompanying essay

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jill Durey


This thesis deals with the loss experienced by all participants in adoption, especially during the period 1950 to 1980 and with particular, but not exclusive, reference to the birth mother and her child. The work is in two parts, the first being a contemporary novel, 'Heartlines', written in the form of a fictional memoir from the point of view of a woman in her early forties who suddenly is confronted with the daughter she relinquished twenty years previously, and whose existence she has kept secret from her husband. The novel deals with the difficult relationship that develops between mother ann daughter and the adjustments the main character must make in her realisation that the young woman who has come back into her life is not the person she had imagined her to be during the years since she was forced to give her up for adoption. Part Two is an essay that puts into context the cultural background of the period studied, the stigmatisation of women who bore ex-nuptial children and how the society in which they lived left them few options other than to abandon their infants to strangers. It deals with the consequences for young women following a lapse of judgement that would have repercussions for the rest of their lives. Many of the women who relinquished babies during the period are believed to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their experience, and remained in an ongoing state of pathological grief.

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