About Evelyn Robinson

My Story

Evelyn Robinson is a mother who, in 1970, was separated from her first child, Stephen, through adoption. Evelyn was unmarried when Stephen was born and was told by many people who were older and appeared to be much wiser and more experienced in life, that the best outcome for both herself and her child would be adoption. Evelyn and Stephen were reunited in 1991 and continue to enjoy a close relationship.

When Evelyn wrote her first book, Adoption and Loss – The Hidden Grief, she wanted to have full control over the content, presentation and marketing of her book. For this reason Evelyn created Clova Publications and published the book herself.

Since Adoption and Loss – The Hidden Grief was first published in 2000, Evelyn has also published a revised edition in 2003, followed by her second book Adoption and Recovery – Solving the mystery of reunion, in 2004, her third book, Adoption Reunion – Ecstasy or Agony? in 2009 and her fourth book, Adoption Separation – Then and now in 2010.

Evelyn Robinson (née Burns) was born and raised in Renfrew, Scotland. She emigrated to Bermuda and later to South Australia, where she has been living since 1982. Evelyn is the mother of five children and a devoted grandmother to her eight grandchildren.

Evelyn has worked as a high school teacher and as a social worker. As well as being an experienced counsellor, Evelyn is also an accomplished educator and public speaker and has presented many training sessions and seminars on adoption loss and recovery.

Evelyn has a wealth of knowledge and experience in relation to the long term outcomes of adoption separation. She has experienced post-adoption services from every perspective; as a client from 1989 to 1993, as a volunteer from then until the present day and as a professional since 1996. Evelyn has understanding and compassion for those who have experienced adoption separation and since she first became involved with post-adoption services in 1989, has given generously of her time and energy to support them. 

Clova is the name of an estate in Aberdeenshire in Scotland which once belonged to Evelyn’s great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Harry Niven Lumsden, Baronet of Clova and Auchindoir. Through him, Evelyn is a direct descendant of King Robert the Bruce, who was king of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329 and famed for his persistence. He famously led Scotland to victory against the English in the Battle of Bannockburn on the 24th of June, 1314. Interestingly, the grandson of Robert the Bruce, also called Robert (later to become King Robert II of Scotland), was also born in Renfrew. Evelyn visited the Clova estate in 1998 and again in 2009. Evelyn chose the name Clova Publications to honour her ancestry and to reflect the importance to her of her family and heritage. 

Evelyn was interviewed about her family history, in 2015, by Informed Planet Radio. Since the interview, Evelyn has traced her ancestry from King Robert the Bruce, back to Offa, King of Mercia, who died in 796.
Evelyn heartily embraces the motto on the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland – Nemo me impune lacessit ( No one assails me with impunity).

Evelyn Robinson, OAM

Master of Arts degree, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 1970

Post Graduate Certificate in Education, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 1984
Bachelor of Social Work degree, Flinders University, South Australia, 1996
Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, Adelaide College of TAFE, South Australia, 2010

Interview: Adoption Activist Evelyn Robinson 2015

More about the Author

1949: Evelyn was born in Renfrew, Scotland. 

1970: Evelyn graduated from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland with a Master of Arts degree. Evelyn also gave birth to her first child, Stephen, who was subsequently adopted into another family. 

1970-1974: Evelyn moved to Bermuda, taught at the Berkeley Institute and married her first husband. 

1974 – 1982: Evelyn returned to live in Renfrew, gave birth to four children and then divorced her first husband. 

1982: Evelyn moved to South Australia with her children. 

1984: Evelyn completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. 

1989: Evelyn joined ARMS in South Australia and was a Management Committee member and Newsletter Editor between 1993 and 1999. Evelyn was a member of ARMS until 2004. 

1991: Evelyn and Stephen were reunited when Stephen visited Australia for the first time. 

1996: Evelyn completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Flinders University, South Australia. 

1997: On the 8th of June, 1997, a letter to the editor written by Evelyn was published in the Sunday Mail (South Australia) newspaper. In this letter, Evelyn raised the possibility of a federal apology for past adoption policies and practices. This is believed to be the first public reference to the possibility of a National Adoption Apology in Australia.

Evelyn provided a training session in the long term implications of adoption separation for students at the Adelaide College of Divinity, South Australia, as part of the Diploma in Ministry course. 

1998: Evelyn presented a training session for social workers employed by Centrelink (now part of the Australian Government Department of Human Services) in South Australia on disenfranchised grief with an emphasis on its relevance for adoption.

Evelyn provided a training session in adoption separation and reunion experiences for staff at the South Australian Department of Human Services in the Adoption and Family Information Service, in South Australia. 

1999: Evelyn commenced employment with ARMS in South Australia as their Counsellor/Co-ordinator.

Evelyn provided a training session for staff at OARS (Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services of SA Inc) in South Australia on loss and grief issues in relation to adoption separation and reunion. 

2000: Evelyn published her first book, Adoption and Loss – The Hidden Grief.

Evelyn also presented a training session for the University of Adelaide, South Australia, to students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Bereavement and Palliative Care. The session was entitled Losses relating to adoption and separation from children.  

2001: In March, Evelyn presented two seminars in Western Australia for ARCS (Adoption Research and Counselling Service Inc) and a seminar for the University of Western Australia. Evelyn was also guest speaker at the AGM of ARMS (Association Representing Mothers Separated from their children by adoption) in Western Australia.

Beginning in April 2001, Evelyn travelled for three months, in her own time and at her own expense, to New Zealand, the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and presented on twenty-one occasions for various organisations. This included presenting a paper at the American Adoption Congress conference in Anaheim, California. Some of these presentations were arranged for a professional audience and others for members of the public. 

2002: Evelyn supervised a final year social work student while working as a post-adoption counsellor at ARMS in South Australia. 

2003: Evelyn resigned from her position as Counsellor/Co-ordinator with ARMS in South Australia.

Evelyn presented at the CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) Retreat in Virginia, USA. 

2004: Evelyn published her second book, Adoption and Recovery – Solving the Mystery of Reunion while working privately as a post adoption counsellor, with local and international clients.

Evelyn travelled in her own time and at her own expense to New Zealand where she presented on ten occasions in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and Rotorua. Separate presentations were arranged in each location for members of the public and for interested professionals. On her way to New Zealand, Evelyn also addressed members of a support group called ALAS (Adoption Loss Adult Support Australia Inc) in Queensland.

In September, Evelyn was guest speaker at the VANISH (Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self-Help) AGM in Melbourne, Australia. 

2005: In April Evelyn presented two seminars in Sydney, Australia for PARC (Post Adoption Resource Centre).

In July Evelyn presented two seminars in Melbourne, Australia with her son, Stephen, for VANISH. Evelyn also addressed a support group of members of ARMS Victoria.

In June Evelyn was interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for a programme called Woman’s Hour. When the programme was broadcast, they described her as ‘renowned internationally as a leading authority on the subject’ (of the long term outcomes of adoption separation).

In September and October Evelyn travelled for five weeks, in her own time and at her own expense, and spoke in Ireland (Dublin and Cork), Scotland (Edinburgh and Renfrew), Canada (Toronto) and in the USA at the CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) Retreat (Pacific Grove, California). Her visit to Scotland included being guest speaker at the 21st Anniversary of the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland, an event which was organised by the staff of Birthlink, who manage the register. Evelyn was also guest speaker at the morning assembly at Paisley Grammar School, where she was a pupil from 1961 – 1967. Evelyn received a warm welcome from the Rector and pupils and donated copies of her books to the school library. 

2006: In October Evelyn presented a seminar with her son, Stephen, in Adelaide, South Australia for the newly-formed, government funded Post Adoption Support Service (PASS). 

2007: Evelyn provided a training session on the long term outcomes of adoption separation for Lifeline (a twenty-four hour crisis and referral line) staff in South Australia. Evelyn married her second husband (to whom she is still married). 

2009: Evelyn published her third book, Adoption Reunion – Ecstasy or Agony?

In September 2009, Evelyn’s knowledge and expertise were acknowledged by the Australian government and a special position was created for her on the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group (NICAAG). This group met on a regular basis to provide advice to the Australian Attorney-General. Evelyn was a member of NICAAG until March, 2012. She is the only mother who has lost a child to adoption to have been appointed to NICAAG, which ceased to exist in 2013.

In November, 2009, Evelyn presented at an adoption forum in Canberra, Australia, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the support group Adoption Mosaic. While in Canberra, Evelyn was also present in the Great Hall at New Parliament House for the government’s apology to the Forgotten Australians and the Child Migrants. 

2010: Evelyn published her fourth book, Adoption Separation – Then and Now.

In May, Evelyn contributed to the Monash University History of Adoption Project. Evelyn also submitted a copy of Adoption Separation – Then and now.

In the Western Australian Parliament, on the 19th of October, 2010, an apology was delivered to those who had been adversely affected by past adoption policies and practices. This was the first time in the world that a government apologised for adoptions. Evelyn was present for this important event and was accompanied by her son, Stephen.

After the apology in Western Australia, the Movement for an Adoption Apology (MAA) was formed in the United Kingdom and Evelyn accepted their invitation to be their Honorary Consultant. 

2011: In October, 2011, Evelyn was invited to give evidence to the Australian Senate Enquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. Evelyn also submitted a copy of Adoption Separation – Then and now. 

2012: In February, 2012, Evelyn was invited to contribute to the National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Experiences conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Evelyn also submitted a copy of Adoption Separation – Then and now.

On the 29th of March, 2012, the South Australian government announced that they would make a formal apology to those whose lives had been adversely affected by past adoption policies and practices. The apology took place on the 18th of July, 2012 at 11.00 am. Evelyn was present for the apology and was accompanied by her husband, Neil, her daughter, Lisa and her son, Stephen. Evelyn had represented the community as a member of the adoption apology working group, which advised the Premier and the Minister responsible for adoptions. The Premier, Jay Weatherill, publicly acknowledged Evelyn’s contribution.

In June, 2012, Evelyn was interviewed by Tricia Fronek for ‘podsocs’, which is a web site of podcasts for social workers. 

2013: In the lead-up to the National Apology for Forced Adoptions, Evelyn and her son, Stephen, were interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for a current affairs programme called The 7.30 Report. The programme was broadcast on Friday, 15th March, 2013. The segment was entitled: ‘Women who fought for adoption rights’.

On the 21st of March, 2013, at Parliament House, in Canberra, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, issued a formal apology to all those in Australia whose lives had been adversely affected by past adoption policies and practices. Evelyn was consulted by the Federal Government and assisted them in formulating the apology. She is proud to have been able to assist in converting the private pain of mothers who have been separated from their children by adoption into a very public issue. Evelyn attended the apology with her son, Stephen, as invited guests of the Attorney-General’s Department.

Evelyn was appointed to the Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group, which was a panel of experts who advised the Federal Government on the implementation of the commitments made at the time of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions. The group met regularly from July, 2013 until December, 2014.

Evelyn was also invited to be a member of an expert group to assist Vanish, in Victoria, Australia, to develop a training programme to increase awareness of adoption issues among professionals. Interviews with Evelyn were included as part of the training materials. 

2014: In March, 2014, along with other members of the Forced Adoptions Implementation Working Group, Evelyn was invited to be present in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, at Parliament House in Canberra, when speeches were made in reference to the first anniversary of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions. Evelyn was also present at the unveiling of the Apology Parchment which will be on permanent display in Parliament House. 

2015: In January, Evelyn contributed a submission to the review of the South Australian Adoption Act, which called on the South Australian government to phase out adoptions completely and replace them with Guardianship Orders,

In March, Evelyn was present as an invited guest at the launch of the Forced Adoptions History Project at the National Archives in Canberra.

Evelyn also attended a meeting at the invitation of the Australian Psychological Society to assist them in preparing their training module on post-adoption loss and grief. Evelyn donated copies of her books.

In April, Evelyn was one of the presenters of a training session in Canberra for staff who would be working on the new National Intercountry Adoption Helpline. 

2017: Evelyn was named in the Australia Day Honours List and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the community and in particular to family members separated by adoption. Evelyn attended the award ceremony with her husband, Neil, her son, Winston and her daughter, Lisa. 

2018: The South Australian government announced that following the recommendations of the Review of the Adoption Act in 2015, their policy is now to move children in foster care to guardianship relationships.