Shepparton News

Missing pieces in her life

LEARNING THE CIRCUMSTAN­CES OF HER FIRST DAYS OF LIFE WAS A ‘‘BRUTAL BLOW’’ TO SALLY BASTOW

- By Rosa Ritchie

When a baby girl was found abandoned in a Mooroopna toilet block nearly 43 years ago, police and hospital staff sprang into action to care for the infant they called Belinda, and search for her parents. When no-one came forward to claim the baby she was adopted into a family who gave her the name Sally Bastow. Today, Sally is searching the Goulburn Valley for the missing pieces to the puzzle of her life story.

Sally Bastow has known she was adopted since she was a young child, but it was only last week she learned that in 1978, just hours after her birth, she was left in a public toilet block in Mooroopna wrapped in a sheet and a towel.

Now a mother-of-three, Sally says learning the circumstan­ces of her first days of life was a ‘‘brutal blow’’.

And yet, when she was shown an article in The News from the day she was rescued, the overriding emotion she felt was a deep sorrow for her birth mother.

‘‘The thing that hit home for me was reading the article — that tore me apart,’’ she said.

‘‘I thought, ‘This poor woman, she felt this was the only thing she could do’.

‘‘Obviously she was torn about something.’’

As a mother to three boys, Sally tried to imagine a situation that would force her to give them up.

‘‘How could you be at that place where you feel there is no other choice?’’ she said.

On Monday, November 20, 1978, The News reported Shepparton police had started inquiries into the discovery of a baby in the public toilet block in McLennan St, Mooroopna.

The baby was found after an anonymous phone call to the Mooroopna section of the Goulburn Valley Base Hospital at 6.45 am and she was rushed to hospital by police 15 minutes later.

Police said the caller was a woman and it was believed she may have been the baby’s mother.

Later the same day, local radio station 3SR had a call from a woman who staff also suspected to be the abandoned baby’s mother.

‘‘Apparently she called the station, said a few words, then broke down in tears,’’ The News article stated.

Sister in charge of the maternity section of the hospital Sister Dent reported the baby was doing quite well and was in a satisfacto­ry condition, according to the article.

Shepparton police officer Bev Howard had the responsibi­lity of choosing a temporary name for the infant, whom she called Belinda when registerin­g the birth, a follow-up article on November 23 explained.

All these details were new to Sally when an employee of the Department of Justice read the contents of her file, including a clipping from The News, to her over the phone.

‘‘When I saw my birth certificat­e, all it says is ‘Unknown, unknown, unknown’,’’ Sally said.

‘‘When you look for your birth records you’re wanting to find something — I had this hope that you apply for your birth records and it tells you who your parents were.

‘‘I wasn’t expecting to discover I was abandoned.’’

Sally said she long ago decided to wait to investigat­e her ancestry until after her adoptive mother passed away.

When she died 12 months ago she mulled it over for a while before applying for her records.

‘‘Her feelings were more important to me, given our relationsh­ip,’’ Sally said.

Sally grew up in a loving family with two parents and two brothers, one of whom was also adopted.

Although the circumstan­ces that led to her entering foster care as an infant were always a mystery, her adoptive mother did drop one clue when Sally was a teenager.

‘‘When I was about 15 or 16 I played a basketball tournament in Mooroopna for a weekend,’’ Sally said.

‘‘As we were leaving Mum said, ‘Oh, this was where you were born’.

‘‘That was a bombshell — I thought I could have been walking along the street next to my mother and never knew.’’

When Sally told her adoptive father she had applied for her birth records, he said they chose not to tell her she was an abandoned baby because they had nothing to help them explain it.

A busy mum living on the Mornington Peninsula, Sally wants to find her parents to learn more about her family medical history and to finally understand why they couldn’t keep her.

‘‘Not coming from a place of blame, but putting together the pieces of my life and where I’ve ended up,’’ she said.

And although she could turn to DNA testing for answers to her questions, she would prefer to reconnect with her birth family by other means.

‘‘Everyone keeps saying to me, ‘Get a DNA test, get a DNA test’,’’ she said.

‘‘I know people who have found out about siblings as adults and it’s been really confrontin­g for them — it can tear a family apart.

‘‘I would rather someone come forward rather than me trying to insert myself into their life.’’

If you have more informatio­n about Sally’s story, or if you are one of the nurses or police mentioned in this story, she would love to hear from you. Please email

rosa.ritchie@mmg.com.au, or call or write to The News.

NOT COMING FROM A PLACE OF BLAME, BUT PUTTING TOGETHER THE PIECES OF MY LIFE AND WHERE I’VE ENDED UP. — SALLY BASTOW

 ?? Shepparton ?? Big news: The story of the abandoned baby was front page of the News in November, 1978.
Shepparton Big news: The story of the abandoned baby was front page of the News in November, 1978.
 ??  ?? A family of her own: Sally pictured with her three busy boys (from left) Sam, Scott, Jesse and her partner, James.
A family of her own: Sally pictured with her three busy boys (from left) Sam, Scott, Jesse and her partner, James.

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