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‘My Sister Is Pregnant and We Don’t Know Which of My Brothers is the Father’


The quoted sentence was spoken by a child on a school playground. Overheard by a teacher, this triggered an investigation that exposed a multigenerational horror story in rural Australia:

Police raided the Colt family home in rural south-western New South Wales in July 2012 after a teacher alerted authorities to a conversation overheard in the playground that detailed the incest. . . .

The raids found 38 adults and children living in filthy caravans and tin sheds without electricity, town water or any plumbing. They were the result of four generations from grandparents who were brother and sister. . . .

When the raid occurred Betty Colt was found sharing a marital bed with her brother Charlie and her children, same only as young as 10, were the result of sex between Ms Colt and her brother, father or another close male relative.

The five family groups comprised of sisters, Rhonda, 47, Martha, 33, and Betty Colt, 46, who slept every night with her brother, Charlie, and two of Betty’s daughters who each had children who proved to be from unions of related parents. . . .

Eight of the Colt children have parents who were either brother and sister, mother and son or father and daughter.

A further six have parents who were either aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, half siblings or grandparents and grandchild.

Interviews with the Colts revealed the family saga began back in New Zealand, in the first half of last century when June Colt was born to parents who were brother and sister.

June married Tim and in the 1970s the couple emigrated to Australia. . . .

Tim and June gave birth to four daughters and two sons.

Three of the daughters — Rhonda, 47, Betty, 46, and Martha, 33 — and at least one of the sons, Charlie, form the elder members of the family group in the NSW bush camp.

Betty had 13 children. . . .

Betty’s eldest child, Raylene, now aged 30, has a 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly. . . .

Testing identifies Kimberly’s father as either her half brother, an uncle or a grandfather.

Betty’s second oldest child, Tammy, now aged 27, has given birth to three daughters, one of whom died from a rare genetic disorder, and all of whom, she eventually admitted, were fathered by her closest brother, Derek, 25.

Betty’s younger sister, Martha Colt, 33, has five children, four of whom were fathered by her own father, Tim, or by her brother, and another who is the product of a union with a close relation.

It was the 10 youngest of Betty and Martha’s children, and Raylene’s daughter, Kimberly, 13, who ran wild in a sexual spree about the property. . . .

The children were sexually involved with each other and only one, the youngest, a five-year-old girl, had parents who weren’t related.

In case that’s not enough to give you nightmares, here’s a report detailing the squalid conditions in which this family lived.

When my brother Kirby (follow him on Twitter) called to tell me about this story, I was a bit impatient because his call interrupted my research for the “Sex Trouble” series on radical feminism.

At the time Kirby called, however, my work was somewhat stalled because of another odd story from Australia: In 2008, a 19-year-old Irish girl named Rosemary Nolan traveled to Brisbane, where she became the lesbian lover of 24-year-old Melissa Keevers. In 2009, via artificial insemination, Keevers became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named Lilly. In 2010, while being treated with a drug to stimulate ovulation, Keevers was inseminated again with sperm from the same donor and this time conceived quintuplets. In 2011, Keevers gave birth to two boys and three girls. In 2012, Nolan and Keevers split up.

Here’s what struck me about that story: It was celebrated with a worldwide publicity campaign by journalists who did not seem the least bit skeptical — or even curious — about glaring omissions of basic biographical information on Nolan and Keevers. Evidently, the Australian publication Woman’s Day had purchased exclusive rights to the story of this “miracle” — the first quintuplets ever born to a lesbian couple. The coverage by Woman’s Day (which seemed to be the only source for direct information in news accounts by other media outlets) emphasized that the odds against conceiving quintuplets without in vitro ferilization (IVF) were 60,000,000-to-1. However, the fact that Keevers was being treated with a drug to cause hyperovulation was omitted from the glowing stories about the lesbian couple’s “miracle” babies; so far as I could discover, it was only in a TV interview with Karl Stefanovic that this highly relevant detail was even mentioned.

As a journalist, the omission of this detail about Keevers being treated with an ovulation drug — a treatment that obviously was the secular cause of this alleged “miracle” — was striking, as was the apparent lack of journalistic curiosity about other details. If you are writing a human-interest feature about two lesbians, for example, wouldn’t you want to include their personal accounts of when and how they became aware of their same-sex orientation? You know, did they always feel “different” from other girls (as one sometimes hears in such narratives) or was this a surprising adult revelation, in which a woman  just happened to meet and fall in love with another woman (another standard lesbian narrative)?

If any reporter asked those questions about Nolan and Keevers, the answers never showed up in any of the coverage I could find online. And a lot of other stuff you’d expect to find in human-interest features was missing, too. Where did they go to school? What do their friends and siblings have to say about the lesbian couple and their “miracle”? Most of all, I wondered, how could the Irish teenager Nolan afford to travel to Australia for a backpacking excursion during which she reportedly met her lesbian lover Keevers by sheer coincidence?

Answer: We don’t know. There’s a hell of a lot we don’t know about that story, including how much Woman’s Day paid for the exclusive rights to the story, and I am dumbfounded by the credulity of journalists in Australia and Ireland who did not seem the least bit curious about the missing details. The Nolan-Keevers Miracle Quintuplet story was reported in much the same way an Orlando Chamber of Commerce spokesman might “report” about Disney World.

And after the lesbian miracle moms split up in 2012 — Nolan cited stress from her job as a police trainee — when the quintuplets were 2 years old, a Cone of Silence descended on the story. For more than a year, it seems, no journalist followed up on this story that once made worldwide headlines until, in August, Keevers gave an update to a TV station:

Ms Keevers met her current partner Nicole, a full-time student studying nutrition, 18 months ago through an online dating site. With Nicole’s seven-year-old son now living with them, Ms Keevers now has seven children living under her roof. Nicole has “as much responsibility for my children as I do” and loves them “like her own son”, Ms Keevers said. “She feels like a mother to them.”

All this struck me as strange, but it’s one of those dead ends you sometimes encounter: You find a story that seems vaguely suspicious, but there is no way to check it out yourself. I have no contacts in Ireland or Australia, so unless other reporters share my skepticism, the mysterious gaps in the Nolan-Keevers Miracle Quintuplet story may never be filled in.

Such was the impasse I found myself in Monday, after hours spent trying to figure it out and write it up for the “Sex Trouble” series, when Kirby called to tell me about this horrifying tale of multigeneration incest in New South Wales, Australia.

“Depravity,” Kirby said. “That’s the only word I can think of.”

Yeah. We talked about it, how it was that this Colt family (“Colt” is a pseudonym the authorities are using to protect the identities of the children involved) could have descended into such total depravity. Once people lose sight of basic moral principles — when people start acting like all that “Thou shalt not” stuff from the Bible doesn’t really mean anything — you never know how far down the slippery slope they may eventually slide. Then one day an Australian school teacher overhears a kid say a sentence like, “My sister is pregnant and we don’t know which of my brothers is the father.”

Depravity is the only word that can describe what Australian officials uncovered in the Colt family. Their decades-long descent into total depravity began, we are told, when the incest taboo was ignored by a brother and sister who married and gave birth to June Colt, who then married her own brother Tim, and somehow this depravity continued generation after generation until 2012.

Anyway, I was kind of peeved when Kirby called me Monday, because his call interrupted me while I was trying to find the answers to questions about the Australian lesbian miracle moms, questions that other journalists apparently never bothered to ask. It’s always annoying to encounter a dead-end story like that, where you can’t get the answers you want, and I was already frustrated when Kirby interrupted to tell me about the Colt family — a distraction that has nothing to do with radical feminism and lesbian motherhood.

Nothing to do with it, I tell you. There is no relevance, no analogy, no correlation between these two stories — none at all.

What are you, some kind of hater?


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