My name is Catherine Kearney, I was born in Penang at hospital Bersalin Pulau Pinang on May 5th 1975 and adopted at birth by a Australian parents, Dennis and Patricia Kearney. I have two older brothers Brendan and Shaun who are Australian. I moved to Melbourne , Australia in 1978 and have lived here ever since. Growing up, I never learnt much about Malaysian culture so when I was in my early 20’s I became curious about my birth family, country of birth and culture. Many years later I decided to search for my birth family and have received lots of support from my family and boyfriend.
Two years ago I went to the Dept of Human Services – Intercountry Adoption Service, VIC. This was my first attempt to search for my birth family. They introduced me to the ICASN network which has been helpful by hearing and reading familiar thoughts from other inter-country adoptees.
A friend of Patricia’s lives in Kuala Lumper is helping me with my search and so far I have found out my birth mother was last known to be living in Taiping. In October, 2004, my boyfriend Quinton and I visited Malaysia . This was my first trip back, I was excited and nervous. We hired a scooter and visited hospital Bersalin which made me happy to see. We then went to visit 356 Perak Rd in Georgetown the residential address of my birth mother when I was born. I had a letter translated into Malay (the national language) which said my name and mothers name and I was here searching for my birth mother.
Many different dialects are spoken in Malaysia because of the different nationalities that live there. I am Chinese Malay, the Chinese speak about five different dialects. I showed some locals in two nearby eateries and every person was very helpful asking around who could understand Malay. Some didn’t know where number 356 was, some said it was behind the restaurant somewhere. We rode around for about 30 minutes. I don’t know if I found number 356, but it seems a block of empty apartments have been built. Perak Road is very close to the hospital Bersalin so my birth mother may have stayed there temporarily while pregnant.
We spent five days in Penang and four days in Kuala Lumper (K.L). While in K.L, I called The Star newspaper to place a story in their paper (this is the number one English newspaper in Malaysia ). The editor thought it sounded like a good story and arranged a reporter to contact me for an interview. On the morning I was to fly out, Chow (the reporter) and a photographer came to my hotel The Renaissance, interviewed and photographed me and Quinton. I was asked lots of questions about how I was adopted, did I live with a loving family, why I was searching, what made me search. One question that really got me was “would you move to Malaysia with your birth family?” I thought “wow what a question!” To be honest, I didn’t know the answer. Australia has been my home all my life, could I adapt to the Chinese Malay culture? Would I want to leave Australia , it’s a great place, but the experience of living in Malaysia sounds attractive too. I placed my email address in the story for people to contact me with any information. The article can be viewed at the end of this piece.
I received many emails ranging from those wishing me luck and people giving me phone numbers to contact. One email stood out from the rest, from Su-Yin the niece of Helen, Helen claiming to be my godmother. I showed Patricia the email. Su-yin and I emailed each other confirming information and it turns out Helen is my godmother. Patricia and Helen had a reunion on the phone and are ecstatic to be in contact again. I didn’t find out anymore about my birth family and although Helen isn’t related it’s great having some success from the article.
I feel complete and much happier in myself for visiting Malaysia . It’s not a place unknown to me now. I felt sad seeing the poverty over there and how my life could have been. I haven’t completed my search and my next option is to write to the Chinese Daily paper. Recently I came to a standstill. Do I want to go on further with my searching? The thoughts going through my mind are revolving around “I’ve come this far, why stop now?” Will I have to look after my birth family financially? I’m still curious but I would feel complete knowing what I know now. I’m sure I will come to a decision that’s right for me.