My Story

Part 6: What the Hui?

Three years before this journey began, a friend of mine in Australia gave me a CD. He said, ”You will like this, cause you are Māori!”. What does that even mean, to be Maori? I have no reference for the culture or understand the customs because I grew up with a pākeha family in Australia. I have no grid for being Maori, I am just me. There must be something in my DNA, nature rather than nurture, if I have any Māori sensibilities. 

The album, ‘Karakia’ by Cindy Ruakere, is a beautiful compilation of instrumental sounds, prophetic worship and Māori phrases. It moved me on such a deep level, I played it over and over in my studio while I was painting, for at least a year non-stop. There was something in the sound that resonated with me so deeply. There was something in the sound of the language that awoken something within me. I wanted to meet this amazing woman, so I asked Alison if she knew Cindy, she lived in Christchurch. But no, to my surprise, she didn’t, then I asked Treena, and yes, she knew Cindy. I am starting to see an incredible connection that surpasses logic. 

Treena and I met with Cindy and had an amazing conversation about family, heritage and the purpose of God. I just had to tell her that the sound of her album called me home, I had to let her know how deep the impact this album has been on my life and I shared with her the journey I was on discovering my true identity. Of course, now that we were friends, I followed Cindy’s Facebook posts and saw something about a Hui. What the heck is a hui? So I messaged Cindy, ‘I don’t want to sound stupid, but please help out an uneducated sister, what the heck is a hui?’ Remember, I have absolutely no grid for Māori culture. Cindy was very gracious and explained to me that a hui is a meeting, and this one was a Christian gathering on the Owae Marae, Waitara. This one was important and would be great for my cultural enquiry, so she invited us to attend.

Dean, Treena and I, filled up the car and headed to the Taranaki region. None of us had stayed on a marae before, apparently everyone sleeps on mattresses in the one big room. There are strict protocols for the first visit to a marae, although once you go through the ceremonial greeting and have been welcomed, you can return anytime as family. We arrived at the designated meeting place, way too early, we were all rather nervous and we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be late. Everyone gathered in the car park, as we must enter the marae as one group. We are invited and someone must answer the call with a response.

The Karanga (call out, summon) is an element of Maori cultural protocol. It is an exchange of calls that forms part of the powhiri, a Māori welcoming ceremony. It takes place as a visiting group moves onto the marae or into the formal meeting area. What a beautiful and moving experience. We were welcomed onto the marae through this passionate sound of welcome by these beautiful Māori women and then experienced the hongi (a traditional Māori greeting done by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter (Wikipedia). The official greetings were in Te Reo Māori and then loosely translated and after all the official proceedings were done, there was time to connect with people and get out the mattresses!

The hui went from Friday night to Sunday afternoon and it deeply impacted me. I was so moved by the sound of the language and the sense of belonging. I have never experienced such a feeling of community. The speakers discussed the history and story of New Zealand, their passion for the reconciliation of Pākehā and Māori and the hope they have for God’s mission in Aotearoa. Friendships were forged and lives were transformed. I will be forever changed by this experience and it has left me with a deep longing to know and understand my culture. This where I met Helen…

Part 5: Then We Found Brownie

I couldn’t go back to Australia without meeting Brownie. If I couldn’t meet Dalbert, I just had to meet Brownie, but he was proving difficult to find. Malta sent messages and phone calls, but he wasn’t responding. Finally she sent a cousin around to bang on his door and get him to call her back. We organised to visit and headed to his house. I had my beautiful friends Dean & Treena along for the ride, I couldn’t have done it without my support crew. They have been part of the journey from the beginning and they were invested in the outcome.

I was really nervous and we all stood behind Malta, but when Brownie opened the door, he greeted us with hugs and a warm welcome. It was a little overwhelming, how could he be so embracing? I was expecting to have to prove myself, maybe pull out my birth certificate, how could he just believe me and accept me so easily?

Brownie talked about the family, our heritage, where we come from, right back before the canoes landed. He knew the whakapapa (genealogy) and it was incredible listening to him talk about ancestors and land and the history of our people. Then he pulled out his guitar and began to play. First of all rock, then blues and finally he sung over us the Lord’s prayer in Maori. It was an incredibly moving experience. He kept calling me 'sis' and holding my hand. I finally belonged somewhere, I was part of this story and I have a history and a heritage. I felt that Brownie received me into the family and blessed me. When we left and I got back into the car, I just wanted to cry.

Brownie & Me

Brownie & Me

The next time I went to New Zealand, Dean and Treena and I, went and picked up Brownie and he took us to Dalbert’s grave. Sacred ground, where our ancestors are buried, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, all laid to rest on beautiful ground, overlooking rolling hills. I stood at the foot of my father’s grave, with my brother and wondered at the amazing circumstances that had led to that moment. I never thought I would be doing such a thing. I didn’t think we would ever find my point of origin, my history or my family and it has changed everything.

What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be Māori? I have never considered myself indigenous, I have always lived in Australia and I have no connection with aboriginal people. I have always felt that Australia was not my land, not my culture. I knew I was born in New Zealand and had Māori blood, but I didn't have a place of origin, I didn't belong anywhere because I didn't know who I was. When I didn't know, it didn't matter, but now that I do know, it does matter.

Now I feel like the ground after the Kaikoura earthquake in NZ. The shake was so bad that the earth split open and the ground both rose and fell, meters in height and depth. Some places are now impassible and unchangeable. This is how my heart feels. Everything has changed for me and I can’t go back to the way it was, I can only go forward, to the journey along the new ground.

But what does that look like? How can anything remain the same? Where will this new journey lead?

Part 4: My Sister

The first conversation I had was with Aunty Wana, she helped to piece together the family picture and find out where I fit into the story. She assured me that no one would come after me for retribution, as I had worked out pretty quick that I was the product of an affair. Aunty Wana gave me Malta’s phone number and with much fear and trepidation, I gave my new found sister a call.

Me & Malta

Me & Malta

Malta is a big softy. Warm, open and just beautiful. She welcomed me, I was family, regardless, blood is blood and family is family. She invited me to her house for the weekend and we spent a cold Saturday snuggled up on her couch under blankets, sharing our childhood stories. She is a foodie, and oh what joy that could be found in a warm beef stew on a cold afternoon!

She shared with me her memories of Dalbert and her childhood, a man I will only know through the stories from his children. 

Then we wandered around the Auckland Art Gallery and found ourselves in the room with the beautiful Māori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer. We discussed whakapapa and the importance of family and the history of Maori people. Then we talked about our own family history. What does it mean to know your ancestors? To be able to trace family history back generations? What does it mean to belong?

I had grown up with the haunting feeling of being abandoned. It just seems to be the baggage that comes with being adopted. It didn’t matter how many times my mum told me I was her ‘choosen child’, I still felt the deep wound of rejection. Now here I sat, discussing family with someone I was connected to and I felt love from this person who really didn’t know me at all. A sister, what a treasure I had found, what a beautiful gift I had been given. Through Dalbert's two marriages, he had fathered 10 children, that's a lot of siblings! Malta told stories of what it was like to grow up with so many brothers and sisters. I can't even imagine this.

My mum was pregnant when she adopted me. She had been trying to have more children, but she couldn't carry them full term and had lost seven babies. So even though she was pregnant, she went through with my adoption because she thought in all likelihood, she would lose her baby. But a new surgeon came to town with a new procedure to ensure safe passage of her precious cargo and my brother was born six months after me.

We had grown up like twins, inseparable. We started school together (even though he was technically too young!) and stayed together through every grade. He was my best friend. But when he was twenty four, Quintin was working in Sydney and riding the train home late one night, there was a terrible accident.

He had been standing in-between the carriages, up on a ledge some how and the train jerked. He stood over six feet tall, so as he feel backward, he put his hand up to steady himself and he hit a hot wire. He was killed instantly. It was a devastating blow and one of the darkest seasons of my life.

For years afterward I would see him, catching glimpses out of the corner of my eye. It was always someone else of course, same height and build, my mind could just not accept that he was gone, I could just not reconcile that I would never see him again. 



Now I have a sister. I know we are only family by a technicality, we have the same biological father, but I feel there is something deeply profound about our connection and I would like to know her more.

I don't know how many of my siblings will want to meet, no one knew I existed, I have always been a secret, so to knock on the door of people's lives at this stage of life, may be too much for some.

I will however begin the journey and first of all I would like to meet Brownie!

Part 3: Providence

I met Dean & Treena Salthouse in 2013, they had travelled from NZ to Australia to help with a church. I met them there, at that church and became instant friends. They are those kind of people - friendly, fun and easy to get along with. The church plan did not work out for any of us and it rather swiftly fell apart, but we remained great friends. Dean and Treena went home to New Zealand and I visited them there. 

We have the same passion for creative events and in 2015, we decided to run a Creative Worship Retreat in NZ. We needed more musicians for the worship team, so Dean & Treena asked their friends Dean & Jo to be involved. Now don’t get confused with the two Deans. While they were in Australia, Dean & Treena rented their house in NZ to Dean & Jo McQuoid, they all became good friends. They are amazing people and incredible musicians / worshippers and it is through this friend connection that my family was found.

When Treena scrolled through Brownie’s Facebook page, she found a conversation with Aunty Wana that connected Dean McQuoid. So she asked him, who was this aunty and the proceeding conversation revealed our connection. Aunty Wana was his aunty and he knew of Dalbert because they were related, but we had to ask Aunty Wana to find out who was who. Before the end of the night, after messaging Aunty Wana, it became clear, Dean McQuoid and I were cousins! This was amazing! We had already been hanging out, having dinner, laughing, joking and telling stories about our families. We had run a creative retreat together and then we find out that we are actually family. Dean Salthouse was right, he did know someone that I was related to! The whole story of my family unravelled from this connection point. And it was Dean McQuoid who had played and sung on Cindy's album, Karakia, the one that had impacted me so deeply. It was the sound of my cousin that had called me home.

Dean & Jo McQuoid

Dean & Jo McQuoid

Is this providence? Divine orchestration? If I had never met Dean & Treena, I may not have found the connection (Dean & Jo) that found my family, and what if they had never come to Australia? What if they had never rented out their house? They may not have become friends with Dean & Jo? What if Alison had not ventured to Australia in the first place? I would not have started down this path, if not for her insistence. All of the connections had to be made for this to unfold and like dominos, one by one the pieces fell into place.

Dalbert had been driving a bus in Auckland, right past the hospital where XXX had been working. After talking to Aunty Wana, I worked out pretty quick, that someone shouldn’t have been driving that bus round town. I was extra curricular activity, a little passion flower and I was hoping no one was going to come after me with a machete! Dalbert was married, he had a very nice few months with XXX, but she had left Auckland before she had found out she was pregnant and so in all probability, Dalbert didn’t know I had existed, which meant that his family doesn’t know I exist either. Shall I tell them? How terrifying!

This is the reason I had never initiated a search for my birth family, the fear of rejection. How can I enter into people's lives who don't know I ever existed and tell them, I am your sister? Besides my own terrifying fear, what would it feel like for them? How will they respond to the news that their father had an affair? Blast Alison, it's all her fault!

Me, Dean & Treena Salthouse

Me, Dean & Treena Salthouse

And as it turns out, not only does Dean Salthouse know someone I am related to, looking at his genealogy, we find along the family tree, a beautiful Maori woman. It turns out we are connected (through marriage), same tribe and infact, we are cousins! It just keeps getting crazier! Oh New Zealand, land of lots of cuzzies!

Part 2: It Really Can't be That Easy

It is a strange feeling knowing that your actual biological family don’t know you exist. The fear of rejection is the first feeling. What if they don't want to know I exist? How do I face that? What if they slam the door in my face?

Dalbert John Kingi

Dalbert John Kingi

Dalbert John Kingi, that was my father’s name. XXX really didn’t know very much about him, they had a great few months, but then they went on their separate journeys. She didn’t know his people or his place of origin, she remembered he had told great stories, but didn’t even know if they were true. She did however believe that the day would come when I would want to know, so when I met her for coffee, she gave me his name and two photos.

Dalbert driving the bus in Auckland

Dalbert driving the bus in Auckland

After my meeting with XXX, I was scheduled to visit with my friends Dean & Treena Salthouse in Auckland. As I arrived at their place, we discussed the possibility of finding my father's side of the family. I was skeptical, as we really did not have much information to go on, but Dean was absolutely convinced that we would not only find them, but that I was probably related to someone he knows! ‘This is New Zealand’, he said, ’of course we can find him’. 'It really can’t be that easy', was my response, can it?

Google of course, is the first place to begin such research and what I found was an article about Brownie King (a.k.a Dalbert John King), a musician in Whangarei, who was recording an album. This article was from 2010. If this was Dalbert, he looked good for his age, or it could be his son, which would make him my half brother. This article was our starting point and Dean set about phoning every pub and club in Whangarei, every place Dalbert or Brownie had played or had even been seen.

I facebooked every person in the article, all the band members, the recording studio, anyone who might know something, but no one answered me. No one knew anything. Dean kept phoning from one place to the next, but he also couldn’t find anyone who had seen him recently. This guy was not trying to be famous, all the Facebook events were from years back.

Then Dean decided to go systemically through the white pages, searching for a D.J. King, in the North. I was entirely skeptical, but Dean was still convinced, ‘You don’t understand New Zealand’ and sure enough after a few more phone calls, Dean was talking to a cousin. We found out that Dalbert had died, years ago, but his son Brownie was still around and he could find his number.

I was deflated, my father had died, there would be no meeting, no reconciliation, no more answers to my many questions. I couldn't believe our search could end like this. We had travelled overseas, from Australia to New Zealand and through both North and South Islands, from Christchurch to Auckland, how could it end this way? So now I was even more determined to find Brownie. Finally I found his Facebook page and the person looking back at me looked so much like Dalbert, it was freeky and it made me cry, something deep within me knew this was the right person, this was my brother.

Dalbert John King

Dalbert John King

Brownie King

Brownie King

I couldn’t find anything useful on Brownie’s Facebook page and he wasn’t answering my messages. In fact, he hadn’t been on Facebook for some time, he may never answer my messages. Treena was searching his Facebook page from her page and found that she could see a lot more than I could, because they had mutual friends.

Scrolling through Brownie’s Facebook page, Treena found quite a few common connections and conversations with people she knew. So she messaged one of them and the whole story started to unravel and we found them.


Part 1: It's All Alison's Fault!

I met Alison in 2007 at church. She is fun, passionate and a little crazy. She had moved over to Noosa, Australia, from Christchurch NZ, with her husband and two daughters, and they bought a block of land just 7 mins from my house. I remember one day going for a drive with Alison, to view the block they were about to build on, when suddenly she flew into a screaming fit. I thought I had run over a small child, her reaction was so histerical, but no, she had spotted some kangaroos feeding on her block and she was thrilled. Seriously, scared me out of my skin, they were just kangaroos. I told her she would come to detest them, because they would eat all her plants and yep, I was right, after a little while of living there, she was complaining. Anyway, we became great mates, she became the kind of friend that comes around after dinner in pjs for either a cup of tea, or a glass of wine (depending on how the week was going!). Then after 7 years they decided to return home, to head back to Christchurch, stupid idea really, she left me crying at the airport.

As it goes with true friends and modern technology, we still remained close. Alison decided one day that I needed to 'find my people', my first reaction was, 'buzz off and find your own people!' But if you know Alison, she doesn't deter easily, she sent me a link to a website for a pre-adoption birth certificate. I didn't even know anything like this existed, not that I had ever looked. I knew enough about my birth parents to feel that I was unwanted, and that was enough to not bother looking. I had been adopted at 9 days old and I was fine, so I had told myself all my life.

A few weeks later, I held in my hands the official document that stated my mother's name, the name she had registered me at birth and the stamp that officiated my adoption to my parents, with the name they registered me as. I just cried, for two days, can't even tell you why. It is something so very deep, when you realise you have another identity and the person you know as yourself, is not the whole story. Thanks Alison, it messed me up.

In a time of abundant resources I did what anyone would do, I looked up her name on Facebook. But that didn’t help, so I googled, nope, nothing. Then I employed the help of my son because he has greater skills than me for internet searches, but he didn’t find anything concrete. Just great, nothing, whose dumb idea was this anyway? All it did was upset me and I achieved nothing, so I shelved the whole idea.

In May 2016, I went to visit my friend Alison in Christchurch and she had a whole plan in place. Starting with the Christchurch library, we searched through public records. Of course Alison wasn’t going to let the idea stay dormant. She had made an appointment with the Births, Deaths & Marriage office and off we went to get my mother’s birth certificate. We were then armed with more info, her name, her parent’s names, where she lived, when I was born, age, the whole thing. At the library, we had Alison, Treena (my beautiful friend from Auckland), Marcia, one of the librarian staff that we managed to enlist help from and also a lovely elderly gentleman, Collin. He had experience in such searches and he wanted to make sure we didn’t get it wrong. ‘It never works out well, when you knock on the door of the wrong person’, he told us.

Me, Alison & Treena

Me, Alison & Treena

So here we were scanning microfiche film, going through electoral roles and any other form of public information. Alison thought there was a pretty good chance that either grandparent had died, so we even combed through death notices. What helped us was knowing exact names, we were looking for XXX XXX, not exactly common, so that was our advantage. When we found his death notice, this gave us the information of his daughter (my birth mum), her husband, son and what looked liked sisters and their families. Truly Alison missed her calling, she could have been a detective! It was our thinking that my grandmother could be in a nursing home, so Treena was set the task of ringing nursing homes in the local area. As she looked up the white pages, she decided to look through the names of my mother and her husband and in a moment of inspired bravery, she called one number. This was 5 minutes before the library was closing.

The conversation went something like this, ‘Hi, are you XXX? Answer: Yes. Question: Is your father XXX? Answer: Yes, why? Question: My friend is looking for her birth mother? Answer: What year was she born? Question: 1967? Answer: Yes, then there was a long pause, as Treena almost dropped the phone in a panic, we had found her, in one day.

Alison took over the conversation, she is studying social work and began this project thinking that it would make a great essay for her studies, so she knows stuff! She went into ‘safe communication’ mode, putting each side at ease, while making sure all the relevant information was double checked. Yep, it all added up. The right dates, place, people. Crap this could be her!

Two days later I was sitting opposite XXX in a coffee shop. It was surreal. I didn’t want anything, there was no anger (that had past long ago). Her biggest fear was that this was one of those tv shows, when there are cameras and interviews and all that public show. But this was not that, this was one terrified person trying to find her point of origin, wanting to know the story. I needed her to tell me what she had named me, that would be my sign that it was the right person. No one knew that, it had only been recorded on the pre-adoption birth certificate. During the course of our conversation she asked the origin of my name Froyle, because she thought the name she had called me was pretty. Crap, this is actually her, the woman that gave birth to me 48 years ago, sitting in front of me. It is a really weird feeling, quite indescribable.

Me & XXX

Me & XXX

It was quite an emotional meeting. XXX was pleasant, ready to answer any questions and willing to tell me her story, but we were both scared and it had all been so sudden. The only question I had was, who is my father?

XXX is Scottish, English, Irish descent, blonde hair, blue eyes, attractive. She had been born in Temuka, raised in Pleasant Point and worked as a dental nurse in Timaru. She moved to Auckland to work as a nurse aide at the Greenlane hospital when she met Dalbert King, a good looking Maori boy who had a cute smile, cheeky face and could play the guitar. You can see where this is going! They had a fun filled few months, he sang songs and told lots of great stories. Then XXX moved to Dunedin to study nursing and she found that she not only had her beautiful memories of Dalbert, but she was carrying his child as well.

XXX stayed on at the nursing college, working until it was time to have the baby. She then went to Auckland had the baby, adopted me out and returned to her life. She travelled overseas, met a man and got married, had one son and eventually returned to Christchurch. I was a secret, she hadn't told anyone, not her parents, not her friends and not my father. No one knew I existed.

What's with the secrecy? What's with the blurry face and coded names? Well, I'm still a secret, a 50 year old secret and XXX still does not want to tell her family that I exist.