National Archives of Australia

“I Didn’t Know Who I Was”: Leonie’s Journey Of Reconnection After Being Forcibly Removed From Her Mother  

Warning: This article contains mentions of the Stolen Generations.  

Leonie Pope was taken as a baby in 1972 after her mother was coerced into signing forms that gave away her rights.  

As the youngest of eight siblings, Leonie’s family have been profoundly impacted by the Stolen Generations. All her siblings, except one, were taken away by authorities.   

Click and listen to the full episode here:  

The Stolen Generations is a dark period in Australian history, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were systematically removed from their families, communities, and culture.  

 Leonie says her mother brought Leonie to the hospital because she was unwell, and her mother was asked to sign forms for injections. However, she actually signed away her rights. 

“She had been coercively tricked into doing that, so when she tried to get me back, that was when she was told that I’d already died,” Leonie said on the LiSTNR podcast, Secrets We Keep: Shame Lies & Family.

Leonie moved to Wales as a child with her adoptive parents, and knew she was Aboriginal from a young age. 

“I was told that I was abandoned, and I was actually told that my mother had passed away,” Leonie said.  

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Leonie’s search to find her family began as an adult, after she’d had children. 

“It was because I’d had children that I decided that I did want to know. I didn’t know who I was. They’re not going to know who they are,” she said. 

Leonie sought out information about her family, which included her sister’s phone number.  

“It was very emotional, and it was very shocking. I started to tell her a bit about my background.”  

It was after contacting her sister Leonie found out she wasn’t abandoned by her mother. 

“(My sister) told me about being Stolen Generation and what that meant. She just told me that that we were called the Stolen Generations and that we were taken away from our parents and we were put in homes and put into other families for foster care.” 

Leonie shares what happened next on her journey on the Secrets We Keep podcast.  

Help is available:   

Lifeline 13 1114  

Gayaa Dhuwi:

If you like to know more about Leonie’s story, listen to our new podcast ‘Secrets We Keep’ below.