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Patricia (Pat) Howard AM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Pat Howard AM

Awarded for Human Rights

Born: 11 December 1939 - Launceston, Tasmania

Entered on roll: 2017

“Every child deserves a family”

Pat Howard pioneered intercountry adoption in Australia and paved the way for other Australians to realise their dream of parenthood.

Following complications after the birth of her son, Pat discovered she could not have any other biological children but was determined to make a positive difference to other children.

Pat, and her late husband Bert, adopted 16 children: three from within Australia and others from Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Fiji, South Korea, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Mauritius. Several of the children suffered from serious deprivations resulting from institutionalisation in overseas orphanages. One Vietnamese child was a war orphan on the brink of death, another had fetal alcohol syndrome and no muscle control in his legs, stomach, hands and tongue. Pat nursed him to good health and taught him to speak and walk. All Pat’s children have grown into productive, contributing adults. Pat and Bert also sponsored an Indian boy until adulthood. 

When Pat began her quest to adopt children from overseas orphanages, no formal procedures were in place. In the 1960s, Pat had to locate the children and orphanages, and with assistance from Australian nurses and American groups working with Vietnamese war orphans in Saigon, Pat identified children in need. At the time, intercountry adoptions were discouraged, and it took Pat seven years to arrange the first adoption from Korea.

Pat’s perseverance helped open channels for intercountry adoption. Initially, there were no provisions for adopted children to obtain Australian birth certificates stating their new family name. Pat was a member of the Senate Select Committee to improve the adoption process and make it more affordable.

During the Vietnam War, Pat started a group to raise awareness about the plight of war orphans. The group raised money for powdered milk, protein biscuits and other supplies for Saigon orphanages.

In 2013, Pat published her memoirs What colour is love?

In 1999, Pat was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia and was Barnardos Australia’s Mother of the Year 1996.

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