DI WELLFARE, 1950-2008

Sad news out of Australia.

On Tuesday, internationally renowned first mother activist Di Wellfare passed away reportedly after a fight with pancreatic cancer. Di was the founder of Origins-New South Wales. She was a pioneer, a fighter and a visionary. A woman and mother to be reckoned with. She changed the face of adoption Down Under and beyond.

Di and I used to go at it on alt.adoption. She was really good at pissing off people on our side. I can only imagine what she did to the other side. But Di didn’t care what people thought–a trait we should all cultivate. Most of our clashes were about strategy and her occasional odd ideas about American history.

One of Di’s most famous pronouncements on alt.adoption was about monkeys. It remains a running joke there:

Don’t flatter yourself too much about parenting. It hardly takes intellect, just instinct. Even monkeys do it hanging upside down in a tree, scratching their bums at the same time. In case you still don’ get it, which you obviously won’t, it means: dont’ think you’re superior because you parent. Even monkeys do it.

…you sure you can’t hang upside down in trees?……oh nevermind.

You’d never get it.

A sentiment, which, of course, I am in total agreement. It probably played a part in our truce. We stopped bickering a few years ago when we started to write privately off-and-on away from alt.adoption. I warned her about safe haven schemes coming to Oz. She’d assured me it would never happen on her watch.


Through Di’s tireless work, the government of NSW offered an official apology to women whose children had been taken from them and put up for adoption for no other reason than than they were young and unmarried. I suspect the apology was just a first step for her. Di wrote:

Along with the perpetual violation we felt in having so-called adoption professionals and others justifying and exonerating themsleves of their own complicity in this scandalous practice, that had preyed upon our vunerable state when we were too young, and too oppressed to know how to fight this wicked system, by hearing adoption of newborns now being referred to as a social phenomenon of a social era that is passed – rather than the illicit raping of babies from their mothers that it was – we decided enough was enough.

With everyone adroitly avoiding the truth, at our expense, we realised that by remaining silent we had inadvertantly become the “keepers of the lie” and we knew that until mothers began speaking out publically about our abusive and inhuman treatment – the myths, lies and deceit upon which adoption has thrived, would continue to harm the emotional well-being of our children, and we as their mothers would be colluding in our own abuse.

Having researched, we discovered that losing our babies had been entirely avoidable had our legal rights not been contravened. So we made the illicit adoption practices the focal point of our organisation. The law was the only weapon we had to force people to bother to listen to us, and not continue to minimise and dismiss our plight. It was really our cry for acknowledgement of the trauma we were experiencing as a result of these practices.

You can read a memorial to Di here

Robin Westbrook has also posted a memorial to Di, here

And here’s another one. with a picture.

NOTE: If anyone has a picture of Di they’d like to share with me, I’d like to put it up here.

33 Replies to “DI WELLFARE, 1950-2008”

  1. Di Welfare,

    Was a wonderful woman who truly fought a great fight against the rape of mothers
    she was one of the most articulate and intelligent women I have ever known. Austrailia is a better place because she pretty much brought adoption to its knees. I can remember those times at alt and all the insults many of those members threw at her!!

    The whole time she responded back making her points again and again. Telling the truth till she was blue in the face.

    To bad the truth can’t and hasn’t been heard here in U.S. as adoption is a horrible act and should be stopped. There is too much money to be made off of moms and babies..and so many that want a baby, any baby to pretend that they are moms.

    I hate adoption and what it does to mothers that have had their babies taken it shortens their lives as the stress, pain, is way to much to live with.I wonder how many mothers and children have died because of adoption? The better way of life. What a joke.

    Obviously, Di was another one of adoptions victims. But of course, the mother is always expendable its the baby that’s the profit maker.

  2. To be fair, Anonymous, Di was quite capable of issuing her own gratuitous insults on alt.a. And not always when she was defending her position either.

    “Obviously, Di was another one of adoptions victims. “
    True, but her strength was that she rose above that victim status, and channeled her fury into effecting change for others. She was quite a woman.

  3. Kippa,,

    So was Dian an adoption victim or not in your humble opinion?

    I would not call her a victim!!!

    She was a crusader who took the issue of stealing babies from mothers and STOPPED that in her country.

    To be fair..

    I remember the attacks on her at alt. She withstood them all but most appalling is the attacks from some mothers that not only had a baby taken but adopted too.
    I am sure you know what I mean.

    Right,,,Kippa to be fair.

  4. I knew enough about Di to know that, if she did post insults, they were probably well deserved from her point of view. I know that RH, slithering out of his hidey-hole, who hates with gusto, was and is a total jerk towards Di and needs to be silenced.

    I, personally, don’t waste my time with the jerks, but I think posthumous mud-slinging is really tacky.

    Di’s courage and commitment will be sorely missed. Another candle lit, Gershom.

  5. Removed the “Huh!” to answer these strident voices as they deserve.

    First of all, I had a lot of respect for Di.
    I’m very well aware of how much she achieved and what am important figure she was in the field of adoption reform. I learned a great deal from her.
    I am saddened by her death.

    So was Dian an adoption victim or not in your humble opinion?
    I would not call her a victim!!!”

    It wasn’t me who first said that Di was a victim of adoption. It was some other Anonymous or other, who wrote “Obviously, Di was one of adoptions victims.”
    I made the point that she transcended her victimhood by changing the system under which she had suffered.

    Furthermore, it wasn’t I who brought up alt.a.
    That was a cheap shot, and Di deserved better than to be brought up in the context of being abused on alt.a, where she was more than capable of dishing it as well as taking it.

    As far as that feeble jab about me being an adopter is concerned, Anonymous has no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding either the relinquishment or the adoption. Therefore Anonymous is not in a position to judge.

    Oh, and bsemom – that would be “she”, not “he”.
    And be there has been no mud slinging by me.
    You must be projecting.

    I, personally, don’t usually waste my time with jerks, but if you or any of the Anonymice want to vent further, I suggest you summon up the guts to do so on alt.a – as Di would have done, with courage and style.

  6. Allow me to enlighten you, bsemom. The misunderstanding was not the result of any “superior knowledge” on my part. There’s more than one RH. ‘RH’ was what people used to call me on alt.a. You evidently didn’t know that.
    Robin Harrit has never been referred to by his initials on alt.a.

    Nevertheless, I think if you’re going to diss people who post on the news group, I think you should have the gumption to do so there, and not contaminate Marley’s tribute with your grudges.

  7. Well said, Marley. Di gave as good as she got, in life as on alt.a. Whether one liked her or not, whether one agreed with her approach to the issues that seem to have been her life, she made a difference in the lives of many.


  8. ” I originally came here to compliment Marley on her well-done tribute.”
    So that’s why you felt it necessary to bring up Robin Harrit’s name? Nice.

    “The first negative comment on here was yours.”
    I disagree. The first negative comment was anon’s.
    It was entirely gratuitous to bring up the subject of alt.a. It made Di seem like a persecuted waif who’d strayed there by accident. Which she most definitely wasn’t – and hadn’t.

    “You just love to stir things up, don’t you?”
    No, I just like to get things straight. Di doesn’t need to be portrayed as a saint or martyr. She was a lot more than that. She was a passionate, driven woman who left a valuable legacy that will continue to have long lasting and far reaching ramifications for adoption practice in Australia – and which are even impacting the US.

    “And why on earth would any thinking person go head to head with people whose minds and attitudes are not going to change”
    As a matter of fact, alt.a has changed many attitudes, often in ways I believe even you might find positive. And Di contributed to that.

    ” and who would just say nasty things to me?”
    Perhaps that should read ‘and who would say nasty things *back* to me’.
    Because you’re quite adept at being nasty yourself. Like your comment about Robin Harrit – based, by your own admission, entirely on hearsay.
    You don’t know what passed between Di and Robin. I’ve read some very interesting and instructional discussions between them, in which they’ve exchanged useful information about adoption practices in their respective countries.

    “I’ve lived long enough to have more sense than that”
    Not enough sense, apparently, to figure out that Di actually was a respected person on alt.a, or that because she understood of the dynamics of the place she too, like others, was able to derive benefits from posting.

    ” and I have more going for me in my life than that, as well.”
    I’m happy to hear you have a life.

  9. just a minor point, her surname has 2 “l’s” in it. Wellfare. (i was corrected on this myself some time ago)

    other than that, wonderful obit. i truly will miss Dian.

  10. Dian Patrice Wellfare ( 1950-2008 )was responsible for what scientists would call ..a paradigm shift .. in the social sciences . Her diligent research which she organised into essays and presentations are faultless in their precision and authenticity. She slayed the dragon .She did it with her absolute courage and apparent absence of fear when she was in fact so sad and frightened inside like most mothers who suffered trauma, loss and grief.

    A loving good bye , my very dear friend , adieu .You showed dignity and grace until the very end.

    You fulfilled your life’s calling .You made the world a better place through your loving devotion to others who like yourself have suffered as a consequence of the abduction for adoption era.

    May the road rise up to meet you May the wind be always at your back
    May the sun shine warm upon your kind sweet face
    May the rain fall upon your fields .
    And until we meet again ,Dian ,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand .

    See you Dian ,

    “And there was a mist and a weeping rain and life was never the same again”

  11. I understand what you are saying
    regarding adoption victimhood , Anonymous. You wonder if the stress caused by adoption led to disease and shortened Di’s life.

    I have been wondering the same myself.

  12. “”It’s a wonder any of us are left standing in this battle.””

    Of course, it is not my intention to make light of Dian’s passing..she, to me, was a most courageous woman. She will be missed and never forgotten.

    That being said..I feel like I am at a ‘family’ wake…if anyone gets my drift. Death sometimes can bring out all sorts of behavior and talk. Good, bad and indifferent. But I do believe that at the end of the day, we are all here to pay our ‘respects’ to a woman who surely made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I for one, am glad to have had the opportunity to have made her acquaintance on the Internet.

  13. Di did important work in her own country and did cause many people to view adoption in more critical terms. Unfortunately, her “take no prisoners” approach destroyed much of her overall credibility.

    She said any number of things over the years that were just patently absurd. Many of us who wanted to sympathize with her could not do so because of her failure to perceive adoption in anything other than a black and white (good or evil) manner.

    Her limited knowledge became quite evident when she tried to draw parallels between adoption in America and Australia.

    She was much better at creating enemies than winning people over. Many of us often wondered if she employed this approach in Australia how she ever succeeded there.

    Life is a learning process and perhaps if we learn anything from Di Wellfare at all it is that dogged persistence can pay off and movements can succeed without huge financial resources. I hope, though, that the adoption reform movement can learn some other things as well.

    First, most movements for social change succeed by winning people over (not alienating them). Second, bringing real facts to light is far more productive than bringing up dishonest propaganda. Third, countries and social systems differ around the world and reform must take this into account. Fourth, arrogance and refusal to see any other side of an argument is generally unhelpful.

  14. “She ( Dian Wellfare, 1951 -2008 )said any number of things over the years that were just patently absurd. Many of us who wanted to sympathize with her could not do so because of her failure to perceive adoption in anything other than a black and white (good or evil) manner.”

    Adoption in Australia and in your country IS clearly evil.There is nothing good in the action of stealing babies and/or their identities. There is nothing good about causing irreparable harm to others by the merciless act of enforcing and maintaining unnecessary separation of families.The propaganda and illicit actions used by the adoption industry has blatently disregarded the human and legal rights of mothers and their babies over decades. In Australia babies were stolen from their mothers at birth .In other countries the same and/or similar strategies and cruel policies were and are being implemented to meet the demand . The pro adoptionists have no empathy for their victims.If they were less selfish , they would advocate for supporting families , however they can’t think outside the square of their small miserable lives.
    Dian Wellfare is an outstanding member of our community . A pioneer. A heroine. Pity that not all people were as courageous and forthright as she ,in speaking the truth.
    I find your misinformed comments about her sadly lacking in common decency.


    ‘there follows a mist and a weeping rain and life will never be the same again’

  15. I agree. Di’s constant tendency to see adoption in stark black and white terms undermined her efforts. Instead of focusing on the abuses in the system—a point on which she was 100% right–she decided instead to hurl venom at all adoptions and all adoptive parents. She assumed the worst about many people who–even if misguided–were trying to do the right thing. Child welfare is a complex world, and lots of decisions are murky and gray. Painting everyone as an angel or a villain isn’t helpful.

    The harshness and venom didn’t serve anybody in the adoption community well. It alienated adoptees, gave policymakers reason to dismiss her a a crazy ranting nut, and turned potential allies among adoptive parents away.

    One has to admire her fortitude. Her good sense and political savvy, not so much. She let her anger define her, and that ended up weakening her efforts.

    Who knows what it did to her family. Why wasn’t her son at the funeral?

  16. Di Welfare did not achieve anything on her own. What she was most good at was taking credit for the efforts of others. She claimed to have found the research for the Inquiry – that was a lie, it was an academic Judy McHutchison, who Di nearly destroyed – who found the research. The Inquiry was the result of a collaborative effort that took decades and the input of many women, not just Di. She played her part but it was relatively small, yet true to form she took the credit for it all. What she could do was to manipulate others to do things for her so she could then take the credit. Her venom was not only directed to adoptive parents but to other mothers that stood in her way or whom she perceived as taking the limelight away from her. A lesson that we can all learn from her life, is that truth has a way of finding its way out. It’s a pity that those who blow her trumpet the loudest now, were not there for all the early years of hard work and have taken all her lies as gospel.

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