ONE MAN’S SEARCH FOR HIS MISSING SISTER
For over thirty years Colin Elliott has been haunted by a phone call from a missing sister he hadn’t known existed, and now the 82 year old is desperate to find her before time runs out.
Colin’s sister Beatrice May Elliott should be having her 81st birthday this December, and her older brother can’t rest until he finds her.
“It will be her birthday on Monday and I need to know she is alright,” Colin says of his missing sister Beatrice.
“We’ve missed so many birthdays, I want to find her before any more pass.”
Three decades ago Colin was living in South Australia when he received a long-distance phone call from a lady searching for her family.
“She asked me if I was Colin Elliott from Port Fairy, and she also knew my full name and those of my older brothers aas well as our parents’ names,” Colin explained.
“She also knew I had been in an orphanage in Ballarat for a period of time with my brother Brian, so she knew a lot about the family.”
“But when she said she was searching for her mother, and that I also had a sister named Beatrice, I said Sorry Love, but I don’t have a sister of that name, and the phone call ended soon after.”
Colin anguishes over that phone call, for he didn’t know then he did indeed have a younger sister named Beatrice.
Colin was barely 18 months old when Beatrice was born in 1933 in Port Fairy, and he was never aware of her existence.
Only his eldest brother Charlie Elliott knew, and as his mother’s right hand man since their father had left, Charlie felt compelled to keep silent.
At least until some 20 years ago when Beatrice’s name came up, during an interview about the Sheedy and Kane family histories.
Charlie said Beatrice was ‘taken away’ from the family. That he remembered his mum Nellie sitting at the kitchen table in a flood of tears, signing paperwork while the driver for a local doctor stood behind her.
Charlie was only 9 years old at the time but had the memory of Beatrice being taken away to the train station.
Nellie was Ellen Margaret Kane, who married in 1921 to Casey Elliott of Mailors Flat.
By the time of Beatrice’s birth in 1933 Ellen was raising four sons on her own, her husband wasn’t about, both her parents had died and she had nursed her last remaining sister until her death in 1929.
By the time of Beatrice’s birth in 1933 Ellen Elliott was very alone, with four young sons to raise.
So who took Beatrice?
“The Government say they have no record of an adoption, they say they have no record of her being in an orphanage, but I don’t believe it,” Colin says
“I’m sure they can push a button on their computers any place in Australia and find a woman with that name and that birth date and know where she is.”
It was first thought Beatrice went into a catholic-ran orphanage like Colin and two of his siblings did, during the depression years.
In 1991 a younger sibling began a formal search for Beatrice in Government records on behalf of the family but came up empty handed.
“We were able to get her birth certificate, confirming Beatrice’s birth,” Colin explains
“But the Government are telling us they don’t have any other information about her.”
Family members published searches for their missing sister in the local and interstate papers but still Beatrice remains missing.
Earlier this year Colin again pushed for another formal search for Beatrice in Government records but is being told there are no records relating to Beatrice.
So after nearly 25 years of searching all Colin knows is that there is no record of a formal adoption of Beatrice, and that there is ‘No Record’ of her in wardship records, nor on something called the ILP Register and Beatrice is not registered in the the ‘De Facto Adoption Register’.
But what about the mostly untouched 80 linear kms of files sitting in the Public Records Office of Victoria that the state ombudsman got a tip-off about in 2011?
“Despite having had the majority of these records in its archives for over 15 years the department has only indexed and catalogued records relating to 26 of the 150 plus years worth of records relating to wards and institutions it holds.” (Victorian Ombudsman report 2012)
Despite Senate inquiries about the institutionalising of children, and public apologies from Prime Ministers and premiers alike into stolen and missing children, it seems absolutely nothing has improved in the last twenty years for people like Colin trying to get help to find their missing siblings.
And In a bizarre example of conflict of interest the same Government department that approves and permits adoptions today is the same department that is supposed to help with past-adoption searches..
And cruelly, searchers have to apply and go through another whole process and other agencies if looking for family placed in orphanages.
Beatrice Elliott was only about 14 years of age when she first came looking for her family in Port Fairy.
By then her mother had remarried and the family had moved away during the war.
Charlie Elliott said he was working over in Portland when word was sent that Beatrice had come home.
By the time Charlie got over to Port Fairy Beatrice had been sent away.
Some years later Colin Elliott took that phone call from a lady who he now believes was Beatrice, searching yet again for her family.
Colin had moved to South Australia after his years in a Ballarat orphanage, and the phone call about Beatrice was out of the blue.
“My sister Beatrice was looking for me and I didn’t even know she existed.” Colin laments.
“It just eats away at me that I turned her away. It must have been devastating for her, she must have thought we didn’t want her, but I didn’t know.”
It’s Beatrice’s birthday in just a few days’ time and Colin Elliott wants no more to pass before finding his sister.
“I’ll not rest until I have found her,” Colin says
“She’s my sister and she deserves to know her family.”
6th December 2014