Christine's pain 'They took my sisters away'
WHEN Christine Waite lays eyes on the sister she's never met, she expects to be reminded of the woman who wanted more than anything to stop the government from taking her children.
The year was 1956 when Christine's mother lost custody of her five girls - not because of something she did but because of something she was, a poor, single parent.
The three oldest children were taken to an orphanage and the two youngest were put up for adoption.
"Because of hardship and poverty they had no choice other than to put us in the care of the state," the Rockhampton woman said.
"The two youngest ones were adopted out against my mother's will."
As the second eldest, Christine was about five when she was put in Tufnell Home in Nundah, Brisbane as an "orphan".
The moment has defined Christine's life as she left the familiarity of her family home and entered the institutional system, which was the start of years of isolation and abuse.
Her memories of home were replaced with what the nuns told her - she had next to no family.
"I didn't know I had any sisters. I didn't know I had a mother. "The nuns kept us (the sisters) separated."
Despite growing up in the same orphanage as her eldest sister Pamela for five years, she only learnt of her when they were fostered by the same family in 1961.
The sisters spent "1000 days" together before being separated by life once again - the next time they would meet would be 45 years later.
At 24, Christine also learnt she had a second sister in the orphanage, Jahn, who was fostered out separately.
Christine is just one of the 500,000 Australian children known as the Forgotten Australians, children who experienced institutional or out-of-home care in the past century.
The term is an identity for Christine and an explanation for her struggles.
Dark, abusive and cruel is how she describes her childhood at the orphanage - she said she had no concept of family or companionship.
But she became curious about her heritage and wanted to know more about the reason behind her olive skin.
She contacted the Department of Children's Services and slowly began to piece her life together.
"I have the certificate where our mother signed 'No' to adoptions, but the government did it anyway."
At the age of 27 she met her mother. "I could see the pain in her eyes that her children were adopted out.
"Meeting her was just beautiful - she was very loving, very kind, very caring."
The meeting allowed her to learn of her Indian heritage and started a journey to find out about her ancestors.
"I was absolutely astounded to find out that most of my family were professional people (including) doctors, lawyers, politicians, school teachers, prison officers and police," she said.
While Christine has spent decades learning about her distant relatives, it wasn't until this year she was able to locate her young sister Ann.
"I don't know what she looks like but I'm told she looks like my mother," Christine said.
After a lifetime apart, four of the sisters will be reunited this weekend in Hervey Bay - coming from across the country to see each other.