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RIP Von Hughes

Von, right, and her daughter


Lost Daughters is sad to announce the passing of one of our long-time members, Von Coates.  Von was one of Australia’s stolen babies during an era which mirrored that of the “Baby Scoop Era” in the United States (and worldwide). She was instrumental in the official apology issued by the West Australia government. She stood unapologetically by the wronged mothers as they refused to accept. 

She was a pioneer in establishing Post-Adoption support in W.A. She was also a tireless advocate for bird populations of her homeland and for justice everywhere. She lived a long, fulfilling life. She will be missed. 

ETA: Von’s family has asked for donations for a mental health fundraiser in Von’s honor: 

Her death on May 17, 2020 has been devastating to family, friends and the online community 


By Trace Hentz, Blog Editor 

Every adoptee I know wants to understand why we feel the way we do, and know that we are not alone. 

Von Coates Hughes in West Australia was one of my best teachers and she was an outspoken adoptee.   She gave in-depth, easy-to-read insight and had the words when I would struggle with how to explain how I felt about being adopted.  

Von had a blog on blogger (Once was Von) and someone reported it -- so it was taken down. What the HELL??? Criticizing the adoption industry and propaganda was dangerous, we soon discovered - and Von and I discussed it via email. 

She came to my defense many times.  She would openly argue with first mothers/birthmothers and adoptive parents on Facebook - battling as if there was only one victim in the adoption game.  She made many comments on American Indian Adoptees blog and interviewed me for her blog. 

Von was also a contributor to LOST DAUGHTERS blog.  Out of necessity, Von moved her blog to wordpress. 

Below: this was her first post in 2012. 

It’s Just A Stage I’m Going Through! 

This entry was posted on February 29, 2012, in adoption, tagged adoption.

I’m a cat person, a Greyhound person, a goose person – well, let’s just say an animal person or an ‘everything that lives and moves person’ and then some.  I love fossils, rocks, gemstones, crystals, mushrooms, toadstools, lichens and all the non-green plants.  Yes, I even love spiders and have a large Huntsman named Mathilda living in close proximity. Freaky! It’s not normal in the eyes of some, but then I’ve got adoption to thank for that. 

My beloved maternal aGrandfather was the same.  He loved and was fascinated by everything that moved, didn’t move, lived or had lived. He was born in Victorian times, so was also a collector, kept a pair of chimpanzees and a Cassowary in the garden. Every Summer he camped out with his geologist mates from the city museum so that they could collect fossils and set up the collection which is still on show today, still neatly labelled with the source, which reminds me of him every time I visit! 

I have photos of those times, taken long before I was born, when my amother was a child raised to a life of respect for living creatures and a love of the area I took my family to live in decades and decades later, long after she had died. Continuity happens in families, whether they are biological families or adoptive families. Adoptees if they are lucky enough to experience reunion can connect with the bits they wish to, not the bits they don’t.  Sometimes, just sometimes, we have choices others do not. 

Does it make up for not having a choice about losing our mothers, the trauma of adoption? Of course not, nothing ever does. It can’t even be viewed as compensation; often too complicated or fraught for that, but at least it is choice of a sort. 

Mainly of the “I choose not to take any more of your shit” variety or “I choose not to go to this funeral” or take on a poisonous sister-in-law who hates our guts for being born and then turning up late to the party.  At least we can choose not to let these people and situations abuse us, make us victims and categorise us. 

In four lifetimes I’ve seen a lot of that!  Each part of my life as been so very different, it feels as if I have had four lifetimes so far, with another yet to come; not completely coinciding with Brodzinsky’s five stages of the adopted life, but fairly close, with some overlaps. 

I have no anger about my adoption, I don’t hate anyone, although I believe some of them could have behaved much, much better.  I’m not bitter. I refuse to let anyone define my life, what it has been, what it is now and what it will be. 

I do not believe adoption is ethical or the best we humans can do for children and families, for those living in the poverty others created, manipulated or unsupported for the gains of others.  

I will not ever allow a group of damaged mothers to define what adoption is to me or stand by while they tell other adoptees what adoption is or is not for adult adoptees. Not in a million years. 

That is abusive, unacceptable and these days very ill-advised. 

Adoption and the adoption industry needs to clean up it’s act, get real and begin to be about finding the very best families for the children who have to become adoptees because their parents cannot, should not or will not raise them. It needs to stop being about baby selling, commodification of human lives and filling orders, greed, profit and lies. 

Easy?? It could be with the right commitment, intentions and goals and a true belief that is is about the best interests of children and not adults. 

Go read her blog - from the beginning. Von made us smart. I will miss her so much. My heart is broken. 

This is the bio on Lost Daughters: Von --Life &Wisdom 

Columnist Von is an Australian adoptee of the forced adoption era and has lived the adopted life for 66 years. She is known by her family and dearest friends as someone who takes no prisoners and has a horror of bigotry and injustice. She is a strong believer in the rights of children, the power of love and the medicinal powers of chocolate.  She speaks her truth and often describes herself as an adoptee who is 'out, proud and loud".  She had the benefit of Yorkshire genes for direct speaking and Somerset genes for perseverance. The Grandmother in her avatar she never knew but has taken as a role model and an inspiration. She is still waiting to be told she is not the oldest blogger on adoption in the blogosphere. 

Von blogs: The Life of Von.  She was also known as Elizabeth Ann Hughes. 


For adoptees, the right to know, the belief in the fundamental human right of knowing who we are, where we came from and who our people are, keeps many of us moving forward, steadily, sometimes haltingly, sometimes fearfully and in trepidation and sometimes with confidence and always with the knowledge that we are right to want the truth, to clear away the lies and to hold liars and abusers accountable.  Adult adoptees won’t be going away any time soon, nor will they be keeping quiet or allowing gains to be lost.  We have everything to gain – we already lost everything when we lost our mothers,our identity, our history and our names.



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