Story transcripts

Update: Open Hearts

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reporter: Peter Overton
Producer: Hannah Boocock

The equation should be so simple. On one side, Ethiopian orphans craving love and security, on the other, childless Australian couples with empty homes and open hearts.

Bring them together and everyone's happy.

Well, that's how it should be, anyway.

Sadly, red tape and mismanagement here in Australia and over in Africa have scuttled the dreams of hundreds of would-be families.

It's heartbreaking for the kids, for the prospective parents and for Peter Overton because he’s been privileged enough to witness first-hand just how wonderful these adoptions can be.

See Peter Overton's 2010 story on the Gavel family here.

Full transcript:

PETER OVERTON: Outside, it’s a chilly Canberra afternoon, but inside, swimming conditions couldn’t be more perfect. In fact, for Eske and Skinny Gavel, who began life in Ethiopia, things generally couldn’t be much better.

ESKE: We’ve been very lucky.

SKINNY: We get a lot of things that we get here, that we don’t actually get over there. So it’s been good, yeah.

TIM: They’re both full of life. Eske is very much a 12-year-old Australian girl. Skinny’s into everything. He loves sport, he loves being involved in every aspect of life, so they’re going really well.

PETER OVERTON: I first met Eske and Skinny eight years ago in Ethiopa. For these young orphans, life was about to take the most dramatic of turns, thanks to Canberra couple Tim and Jenny Gavel.

TIM: Hello. How are you? Aren’t you gorgeous?

PETER OVERTON Well, I suppose you can call yourselves the Gavels from Canberra now.

TIM: We can, yeah.

JENNY: We've got a family.

TIM: They're just beautiful, aren't they?

JENNY: Yep.

PETER OVERTON: Back then, Eske was four, Skinny two-and-a-half, and I’ve watched them grow into proud young Australians. Today, Eske’s 12, Skinny’s 10, and the Gavel family are an adoption triumph.

JENNY: We just forget that we ever adopted them, and as Skinny said, he thinks that he came out of my tummy.

PETER OVERTON: But success stories like the Gavels’ will be no more. That’s because the Federal Government has shut down our adoption program with Ethiopia, blaming red tape and unbearable delays. It leaves 5 million Ethiopian orphans awaiting adoption, and hundreds of Australian would-be parents, like Bronwyn and Scott McNamara, devastated.

BRONWYN: It’s been like something we’ve been visualising and imagining as part of our lives, and that’s just been basically ripped away from us, just taken away.

PETER OVERTON: This Sunshine Coast couple were approved to adopt two children from Ethiopia way back in 2004. But actually getting them would be another story altogether. We’ve watched them wait. And wait.

BRONWYN: The actual process that you go through, and the bureaucracy, make it more complex than having your own biological child.

PETER OVERTON: For eight years they held on, all the while optimistic that one day they’d be parents.

BRONWYN: We have done things with our house so that the kids would have an area to be able to play in, and we’ve put the pool in, and the rumpus room - built a rumpus room upstairs.

PETER OVERTON: Today, that hope is gone, and this is a couple grappling with the prospect of a life without kids.

BRONWYN: While you’re in this process, you not allowed to be doing fertility treatment, or doing anything else. You’re just committed to this process, and that’s what’s so devastating about it. It’s like they’ve stolen - the Governments have stolen from us that prime time of our life, the past eight years, and now the age we are, we really don’t have any alternatives to be able to create a family.

SCOTT: They’ve taken life away from us. They have taken life. It’s wrong.

JENNY: I can’t believe they’re still waiting, and now it’s not going to happen. I have almost a feeling of guilt. Feeling like we’ve got our family, and these other people don’t. And that’s pitiful. That’s very sad.

PETER OVERTON: For the Gavels, there’s deep sympathy for those who have missed out, and gratitude for the fact that they are family.

TIM: We’re incredibly grateful. They’re our family - they’re our lives, to a certain degree, and I couldn’t imagine life without those two kids.

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