Dear Mum and Dad

by Jen Etherington, born as a First Nations Canadian and adopted into an Australian family

Dear mum and dad,

It’s been 34 years since you left this planet . How I wished all my life that I could have met you. I am not sure when the last time you ever got to see me was. I’m sure you didn’t think it was the last time you’d ever get to see me though. I know you guys knew where I ended up. I know dad knew my dad who adopted me.

Kerry and Steve (mum and dad) are two of the most amazing humans you could ever meet. They are, I believe like yourselves, loved by pretty much everyone they meet. I got a little brother from Kerry and Steve when I was three years old. His name is Josh and we got along so well when we were kids. We had very few fights. I like to think it’s a great combo of our personalities as well as being raised right by Kerry and Steve.

You’ll be happy to know I had an amazing childhood. When I was 7, we got another little brother named Brody. BroBro and I were more alike because we are both more social and extrovert. Josh, Brody and I got along very well. Kerry and Steve raised us with great values. We were raised and moved close to the Theravada meditation centre on the east coast of Australia. I met some wonder children there who I consider cousins. I figured if I was adopted I was allowed to adopt my own family too.

I had a few difficulties in childhood including merciless bullying for racism as well as objectification. It was always by a kid named “Johnno” regardless of where I went . I was lucky to have strong friends around me to help me not let it destroy my personality.

We grew up having almost every holiday with the whole family because it was important to them to have a lot of family time. We went on wonderful holidays camping, staying at beachside caravan parks, went to milestone expos like expo 88 with family and stayed in a lovely house. We did get to Canada for many holidays because Steve’s mum lived in Victoria. I know Kerry’s dream for me was to meet you when I was ready. I know she was heartbroken when she heard the news you died. I was confused. I knew I was adopted all along because I looked different to Kerry, Steve, Josh and Brody. When I was asked if I wanted to go to your funeral I was 9 years old and not sure how to process it and now regret I didn’t get there.

I had a pretty good school experience aside from bullying and sexual abuse. I am told I am smart like dad. I rarely put effort in to using the intelligence. I’m not sure if it’s self preservation to not stand out any more than I do.

There was a third person who raised me and she was amazing. She was my Aunty, Nanette. I loved her so much and she was an incredible person. Even before caller ID on phones I always knew when she was calling. Nanette also gave me away at my wedding. My wedding was 20 years ago two days ago. The man I married was not a nice person. I had a lot of abuse from him. We luckily separated 10 years after we met. I didn’t have children and I had therapy for 12 months on that. I struggled to be ok with if I ever had children. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to lose me and I was so worried I’d relive that experience and what it was like for you.

I’m not sure where my empathy comes from but it’s a blessing and a curse. I did have two miscarriages and only the second one I heard the heartbeat. This is a photo of me yesterday at work. They had harmony day and they put up our totem.

I have so much I wanted to ask you and tell you. I love you mum and dad. I have a wonderful family now – my mum and dad (Kerry and Steve), my brothers , my nieces and nephews and my partner James. My Aunty sadly passed away but I’m so grateful I got time with her.

Read Jen’s previous blog: Money never makes up for what I’ve lost as a First Nations Canadian


First Nations in Canada

Over 200 stolen First Nations children found in Canadian unmarked grave

The Stolen Generations – Canada and Australia: the legacy of assimilation

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