Australian Biography - Barbara Holborow

Shot Vision Audio In Point
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Animated Film Australia Logo

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Australian Biography GFX sequence
Fade to black

Music

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Fade up from black
Barbara in court
Super:
Campsie Children's Court
1994
Super over freeze frame:
Barbara Holborow
Born 1930, Sydney
Children's Court Magistrate
Dissolve to:

Barbara sync: We will accept your religion, we will accept your language, we will accept your culture in relation to your dress, your manner, everything, but we will not accept your cruelty to your children. And it matters not to me that it's been happening for thousands of years over there. It will not happen in this country and it certainly won't happen in my court.

Music

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Photo. Barbara as small child

Barbara v/o: I was a very happy child, but I was a lonely child, because I was an only child. My childhood

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Photo. Detail of previous. Barbara as small child

moulded me for what I am now. I mean there was so much love poured on me

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Barbara

Barbara sync: that I've have enough love to hand out to other kids forever. That's where it comes from. I mean it was just too much for one kid to handle.

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Photo. Barbara as child dressed in overcoat and hat. Tilt up to Barbara's parents

Barbara v/o: and really you'd be saying to a parent, look I think you better back off a little. And not put a cardigan on her every time she goes out the door.

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Photo. Barbara and her mother walking down the street

And it was all this coddling. I really was coddled. That's the word.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I now feel so uncoddled, and I make sure I'm uncoddled.

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Photo. Barbara and her mother on street

Interviewer o/s: Were you ever a naughty child?

Barbara v/o: No. Didn't get a chance.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I really didn't. Be naughty -- I was watched 24 hours a day. No, I didn't get a chance to be naughty.

Interviewer o/s: When you were thirteen years old,

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Photo. Barbara's school photo. Slow zoom in to Barbara

you were diagnosed with diabetes. What effect did that have on your life?

Barbara v/o: That was just awful for

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Photo. Barbara's mother and father

Mum and Dad. Dad's brother -- had died with diabetes. So I went to hospital

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Barbara

Barbara sync: with the biggest guilt trip you could imagine. I'd made both the people, who I loved most in all the world, cry. And I'd let them down. But I responded almost immediately to insulin, and I was 13

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Photo. Barbara as young teenager with her mother

and that's been it ever since.

Interviewer o/s: How did you feel about being a diabetic at that time?

Barbara v/o: Different. And at 13 you don't want to be different.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: It was just awful, just awful. I didn't care very much -- I didn't have a death wish, but I just wasn't too sure that life was worth that much.

Interviewer o/s: How did you get over that feeling?

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Photo. Barbara's grandmother

Barbara v/o: My Nanna, the indomitable Nanna, whom everybody was frightened of. I wasn't frightened of her, I just didn't like her. I was in the bedroom crying

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Barbara

Barbara sync: and she came in and she said "What are you crying about?" And I said "Because I'm a diabetic and I don't want to be." And she said, "Well you are, and you can sit down there and cry for the rest of your life, or get up and live your life." And walked out and left me with that little pearl of wisdom. And I thought about it, and I thought, well I don't want to cry for the rest of my life. So I got my act together and went on from then. And I, from that day, I have to say, this awful woman,

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Newspaper article with photo of Barbara and headline 'Living With Diabetes'

Barbara v/o: I have never allowed my diabetes to get between me and where I'm going. Ever.

Interviewer o/s: You were still quite young

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Photo. Barbara and John's wedding photo

when you married John Holborow. What drew you to him?

Barbara v/o: Oh everything,

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Photo. Detail of previous. John Holborow

absolutely everything. He was like no other boy I'd ever met.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: He was so polite, he stood when a girl entered or left the room. He was just so attentive. I loved him from the word go.

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Photo. Barbara in bathing suit

Barbara v/o: We moved into a lovely home, that was owned by John's Mum. And

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I was not her favourite person, marrying her son who was a prince, I quote. And when we came back from our honeymoon, and we,

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Photo. Barbara and John with bridal party

Barbara v/o: we had the wonderful wedding. We came back

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Photo. Detail of previous. Barbara's wedding photo

and she'd moved in downstairs. And so

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I think really the writing was on the wall then. And I found after about six weeks of married life that I was pregnant.

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Photo. Barbara and John. Barbara in evening dress

Barbara v/o: And we were both very excited. And she just made our life hell. But we were trapped.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: And then I just wasn't well. I really wasn't well. And it was a horrific eight months.

Interviewer o/s: Are there particular problems for a diabetic having a baby?

Barbara sync: Yeah. And none of these were being addressed. None of them.

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Archival. Two nurses stand over incubator

Barbara v/o: And I knew I was having a son. If anyone had told me anything different I wouldn't have believed them. And his name was Kim Anthony.

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Barbara. Slow zoom in to CU

Barbara sync: And the night that Kim was born -- he only lived a little while -- and I remember seeing -- the first thing I said was -- and I suppose this says it all -- I said "Poor Mum and Dad." Not poor John, not poor me, poor Mum and Dad. I just felt I'd once again let them down. So anyway, I saw this woman wrapping something in newspaper, and I thought it was my son. Oh, sorry.

Interviewer o/s: And was it?

Barbara sync: Yeah.

Interviewer o/s: That's what they did?

Barbara sync: Mm. And

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Photo. Barbara standing in front of tree

Barbara v/o: anyway I got home and John's mother, who was a renowned pianist,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: played Chopin's funeral march for the whole day. And they found me that night, just before John came home from work, I was clawing the wallpaper off the nursery wall.

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Pan around child's nursery

Barbara v/o: I was in an awful state. So John suggested to his mum that maybe she could move away. Which she did.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I didn't get over Kim's death. I was never counselled. There was no grieving or anything like that. And then I was pregnant with Louise,

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Photo. Baby Louise

Barbara v/o: and immediately I went to a diabetic specialist. And I spent five months in hospital, for Louise to be born.

Interviewer o/s: And

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Photo. Barbara with baby Louise

so when you took her home, and your mother in law was no longer in the house, did things

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Barbara

settle down then to your being a little family?

Barbara sync: Yes, except we had a live in nurse, because I was still very, very weak.

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Photo. Barbara and John. Barbara holds baby Louise

Interviewer o/s: How long did the nurse stay with you?

Barbara v/o: Oh, until John and I

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Photo. Detail of previous. John.

separated.

Interviewer o/s: And what led to the separation?

Barbara v/o: I think that it was

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Barbara

Barbara sync: my childhood back again. We were just being coddled. You couldn't breathe, you couldn't move.

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Photo. Barbara, John and baby Louise

Barbara v/o: And it was all kindness, but every time I looked up

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Barbara

Barbara sync: we had his relations or my relations, through love and kindness, there. It was suffocating. He was at work all day. And John was a very, very placid person. Never saw him lose his temper. Never. And he used to say, "Just be patient." I was almost screaming with impatience. Leave me alone. And I was escaping.

Interviewer o/s: And he didn't want to

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Photo. Barbara and John in evening clothes

escape with you?

Barbara v/o: No! He didn't want to escape. John just

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Photo. Detail of previous. John

wanted a quiet life. So I

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Barbara

Barbara sync: moved home, and Dad was reading

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Photo. Barbara's father

Barbara v/o: the local paper and there was a solicitor asking for a secretary. And Dad said "Do you think

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Barbara

Barbara sync: you'd like to do that?" And I said yep. So I got that job and I worked there for 13 years. And that was

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Photo. Barbara with Louise holding koala

where I studied law from there.

Interviewer o/s: What was it about the law that drew you to it in the first place?

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Photo. Barbara

I think it was the judgments. I just wondered

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Barbara

Barbara sync: at the wisdom of these people. I loved every aspect of it. I loved the wigs, the gowns, the repartee between, between the barristers and solicitors.

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Barbara's certificate to practice

Barbara v/o: I'll never forget the day that I went to the Supreme Court with my father, and Louise, in her school uniform,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: to receive my certificate to practice. It was just the most wonderful day, wonderful. Wonderful day.

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Barbara's business card

Interviewer o/s: You pretty quickly began specialising in children's law. What were the children's courts

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Barbara

like at that time?

Barbara sync: Dickensian.

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Photo. Exterior of Children's Court

Barbara v/o: They came in like sausages, had a stamp put on their papers, and out they went. It was like that.

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Photo. Interior of Children's Court

No one was talking to them. No one -- they had reports I know,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: but the kids didn't know what was in the reports. And the magistrates didn't know what that kids was like. The kids never spoke. They weren't invited to speak. And neither really were the solicitors. Only what the magistrate would allow them to say.

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Photo. Georgian building
Super:
Yasmar Children's Court
Slow zoom in

Yeah, I didn't like it at all. Not at all.

As a solicitor you dealt with a lot of cases of neglect. How did that affect you?

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I took eight of them home as foster children, I know. [laughs] Oh, gee. I, I, I used to bleed for those kids.

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Archival. Brougham. Barbara walks through gate

Barbara v/o: The pain, the suffering. I used to remember my childhood and the love. These kids had never had a kind word spoken

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Archival. Barbara at Brougham. Tilt down to two children playing on grass

to them. That made me very sad. And I wanted a court,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: even then, before I was a magistrate, where we could hone in on that.

Interviewer o/s: One of the children you fostered

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Photo. Woman holding Jacob as toddler

was Jacob, now your adopted son. How did you meet Jacob?

Barbara v/o: Jacob's

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Barbara

Barbara sync: mother was in Elsie's Women Refuge, the first women's refuge in Australia. And I used to do free legal aid for these ladies who'd left, for whatever reason, and were there.

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Photo. Elsie's Women's Refuge

dissolve to:

Barbara v/o: And they started to bring down this Aboriginal child. And the very first time,

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'Elsie' nameplate

he put his arms out to me.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: and we'd never seen each other -- and he put his arms around my neck, and his feet around my ribcage.

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Photo. Jacob as baby. Slow zoom in to ECU

Barbara v/o: And I called him my little koala. And he was mute through neglect. He didn't utter a sound. So anyway, they came down this day and they said well give your

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Jacob as baby sitting beside brick wall. Slow zoom in.

koala a goodbye, because his mum's going into rehab. And I said well how long will that be?

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Barbara

Barbara sync: And they said six weeks. And I said, I'll take him for six weeks, that's nothing. And that was 26 years ago. [laughs]

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Photo. Barbara and Jacob in swimming pool

Interviewer o/s: Has Jacob given you any special insight into what it means to be an aborigine?

Barbara v/o: Oh gosh, yes, he made the famous statement.

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Photo. Jacob in fancy dress. Tilt up to Barbara

It had been raining very heavily and I gave him empty matchboxes to sail down the gutters, and he's out the front

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Photo. Jacob at birthday party

doing this and a little girl she called out, my daddy said you can't come

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Barbara

Barbara sync: into our house any more. And Jay just put another matchbox in the water and he said, why? And she said, because you're black. And Jay said, oh your daddy's mad. I'm an Aborigine, I'm supposed to be black. And you know he wasn't five and I thought, yep, we're doing all right here,

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Photo Barbara and Jacob

Barbara v/o: we'll be right.

Interviewer o/s: Barbara, in 1982 you were appointed a magistrate in the

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Photo. Coat of arms. Zoom out to CU of Barbara in court

Children's Court. What made you apply for that job?

Barbara v/o: Only that if it had been a magistrate in the Local Court I wouldn't have applied. This -- to be magistrate in a Children's Court,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: I could bring about change.

Interviewer o/s: How?

Barbara sync: Oh, gosh. I would get my care court separate from the criminal court, I would talk to kids, I would talk to parents. I would have -- I would never, ever send a kid to a detention centre unless I had a full report, school report, family report.

Interviewer o/s: So you were full of optimism?

Barbara sync: Oh, yes.

Interviewer o/s: Did you have any misgivings at all?

Barbara sync: None. It was like taking on my foster kids. None.

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Archival. Children's courtroom. Pan left as Barbara enters

Barbara v/o: None whatsoever. I knew I could do it. I knew I'd make a difference.

Interviewer o/s: You were particularly interested in reforming that side of the law that dealt with neglected children.

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Archival. Barbara in court

What was available to you in the care area as a

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Barbara

magistrate?

Barbara sync: Zilch.

Interviewer o/s: You could take the child or not?

Barbara sync: Yep.

Interviewer o/s: And if you took the child, what happened to it?

Barbara sync: God knows. I never knew because once I made a decision, that was it. If I put the child into the care of the minister, that was it. It was never relayed back to me except perhaps through a caring district officer. 'Mrs. Holborow do you remember little Troy that you made a ward, you know, remember? Had a broken arm?' 'Yes I do.' 'Well, now he's got another broken arm. The foster father broke it.' I mean that was happening. The majority of foster parents are super but there was a group of foster parents who were in it, I don't know why, who were not super foster parents.

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Archival. Woman walking down street with two small children

Barbara v/o: And with fostering, let me tell you, I would not allow parents to come back every six months, every year and make application to take their child back. Let the child get on with its life. But when foster parents love and care for a child, look after a child for three, four years,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: to then have that child taken away and returned to maybe something that is going to work out with a mum whose prior drug history is frightening. What are you doing to that child? What are you doing? .

Interviewer o/s: In the

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Photo. Barbara with group of men standing outside courthouse

course of your relationship with the law, you saw some terrible examples of inhumanity.

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Photo. Detail of previous. Barbara on steps

Is there any that shocked even you?

Barbara v/o: Yes.

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Photo of injured child

Barbara v/o: One was a little two year old boy who had every main bone in his body broken, every main bone at the age of two,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: and why? Because he got between the de facto and the TV set on grand final day. I couldn't think of the word to describe what I felt about that piece of flesh that was sitting in my court.

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Photo. Badly bruised child

Barbara v/o: There was no word I could attach to him.

Interviewer o/s: While you were a magistrate, you began fostering another aboriginal

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Photo. Mary

child, Mary. What was Mary's story?

Barbara v/o: Mary was fostered at three weeks of age by a white family, and then

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Barbara

Barbara sync: they had another couple of children of their own. Now remember, three weeks. She knew no other family. When she got to seven, they decided to get a divorce. They put Mary on a plane, sent her back to Sydney.

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Archival. Barbara walks towards couple standing on verandah

Barbara v/o: And she went to this establishment which was run by these friends of mine.

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Photo. Barbara with Jacob and Mary

Needless to say, within a month we picked up Mary and Mary came home.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: Then one Saturday afternoon -- my mother had beautiful Royal Doulton -- she started dropping them all over the place.

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Photo. Mary

Barbara v/o: and I said break them. I don't care. I will never send you back.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: If you're doing this to see if I'll send you back, you have failed. I will never send you back. I love you.

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Photo. Barbara and Mary

Barbara v/o: Anyway, I came home from work one day and Mary was 15 and a half, and she'd gone.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: And it all sort of happened because -- and I wasn't wrong but I was wrong -- she wanted to stay in town at the pictures.

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Photo. Mary and Jacob in green uniforms

Barbara v/o: And anyway she stayed there in town. But unbeknownst to me, she'd

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Barbara

Barbara sync: snuck in home up the tree and got in upstairs without me knowing and I sat up 'til six o'clock in the morning sick with worry. And when she came down the next day I was just so angry with her, so terribly angry. And I, I didn't speak to her. I just couldn't. And I don't think I spoke to her for about 36 hours and she just packed up and left.

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Photo. Mary

Barbara v/o: And I walked, like any other mother, the streets of Sydney. You know

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Barbara

Barbara sync: afterwards -- I mean I was sitting on the bench and afterwards any mother that came and said you've got no idea what it's like to go looking for your child, I used to think, my God, don't I?

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Photo. Mary and Barbara on 'This Is Your Life'

Barbara v/o: Now I didn't see Mary again until the showing of 'This Is Your Life', and they found her and I couldn't.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: And...

Interviewer o/s: Now you hadn't attached to the others. But you really attached to her.

Barbara sync: Oh yes. Mm. I love Mary.

Interviewer o/s: So she's really one of your children.

Barbara sync: Yep.

Interviewer o/s: Like Jacob and Louise.

Barbara sync: Yep.

Interviewer o/s: Whereas the others were children you helped.

Barbara sync: Yes.

Interviewer o/s: And what's the difference? What's the difference between having a child that you help and you care about, and having a child that you feel is your own?

Barbara sync: Oh commitment. Total commitment.

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Archival. Jacob walks to Barbara and kisses her, followed by Mary

Barbara v/o: Mary, it was twenty four hours a day for nine years.

Interviewer o/s: What's your relationship with Mary now?

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Archival. Mary

Barbara sync: Well, we communicated again. And she came over and she stayed. But she's gone again. And I invited her, of course, to my 70th. She said she was coming but she didn't.

Interviewer o/s: Barbara, after twelve and a half years as a magistrate, you decided to leave the bench. Why

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Archival. Man walks towards Barbara in court and presents her with flowers

did you leave?

Barbara v/o: Well, everything had deteriorated.

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Archival. Man presents Barbara with flowers. Zoom in to CU Barbara

Economic rationalisation, they were closing down all

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Archival. Barbara with flowers

the alternatives. Closing down group homes. You tell a two year old,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: darling you can't go home with mummy and daddy today because of economic rationalisation. They don't understand it and frankly neither do I. I don't understand it. So I became more frustrated and I believed and I still do and I think I am, I'm doing more off the bench than I could do on it.

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Archival. Barbara exits court

Barbara v/o: I wasn't able not only to help a kid, I wasn't able to help families.

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Barbara

Barbara sync: And I walked off the bench and Doctor Clarrie Clusky approached me and said, will you be patron for Hope for the Children, and I said, what is hope for the children foundation? And he said we have mums who have raised their own children, who volunteer and we put them into homes where the children are under five and we mother the mothers. We show them

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Photo. Barbara with others

Barbara v/o: how to cope. And so I work now 26 hours a day for Hope,

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Barbara

Barbara sync: because I believe in it and it's a service that we can provide.

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Photo. Group of kids sitting at Barbara's feet

Interviewer o/s: Through you're various campaigns for children you've become a well known media figure. How was that regarded when

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Barbara

you were a magistrate? Were you in trouble?

Barbara sync: [laughing]Yep. Yes, yes, I was. I was in trouble from the chief magistrate.

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Newspaper article about Barbara

Barbara v/o: He was terribly polite about it but very stern. I don't want to see your face on TV, I don't want to read your name

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Newspaper headline

in the paper. I could understand that but I couldn't stop. This was a cause bigger than the chief magistrate

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Barbara

Barbara sync: or me, bigger than both of us. This was kids. This was, you've got to realise, I'm an Australian to the marrow of my bones, to the marrow of my bones and these were Australian kids.

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Photo. Jacob with his arm around Barbara

Barbara v/o: If you don't have strong families, you don't have strong communities and if you don't have strong communities we

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Photo. Barbara with Asian family

Barbara v/o: don't have a strong Australia. And it makes me so angry when I hear politicians say with their

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Barbara

Barbara sync: hands over their heart, children are our future. Children are now. Those kids that suicide and those kids that OD have got no future.

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Cover of Barbara's book

Barbara v/o: I want to go on championing kids' causes.

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Barbara

Freeze frame over final word.
Fade to black

Barbara sync: [laughs] I suppose I'll run out of steam and puff, but just making wherever I can, making it better for them, making a difference, because by God it's hard to be a kid these days.

Music

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Fade up from b lack.
Photo of small boys in soccer team
Credits rolls over photographs:
Barbara barracking for a soccer team
Barbara and a group of girls
Barbara and her book
Barbara and a group of kids

Credits roll up:

Interviewer
ROBIN HUGHES

Editor
KIM MOODIE

Director of Photography
PAUL REE

Sound Recordist
TIM PARRATT

Production Manager
JO ROSE

Online Editor
MICHAEL GISSING
LENA BALOUT
DIGITAL CITY STUDIOS

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Research
JO ROSE

Transcripts
CLEVERTYPES

Production Liaison
SALLY CREAGH
KAREN SKEA

Business Affairs Manager
SALLY REGAN

With Thanks To
ABC FOOTAGE SALES
FILMWORLD
FILM AUSTRALIA FOOTAGE LIBRARY
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF Australia
IMAGE LIBRARY, STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
60 MINUTES
FAIRFAX PHOTO LIBRARY
THIS IS YOUR LIFE
WESTMEAD CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
ELSIE WOMEN'S REFUGE

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Produced and Directed by
ROBIN HUGHES

Executive Producer
MARK HAMLYN

Made in association with SBS TV

A Film Australia National Interest Program
© MMI

Fade to black

10:25:35:00
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