Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

When a child’s home is an asylum

by Rhonda Trivett (guest author) on 10 May, 2010

In 1967, at the age of eight, Rhonda was placed in Sandgate Home, Brisbane, while her mother tried to cope with the death of Rhonda’s father. Because Rhonda was dyslexic and became frustrated with her inability to read, she ran away from school. As a result, she was admitted to a locked ward in the Winston Noble Unit, a mental health facility attached to the Prince Charles Hospital at Chermside, Brisbane. She was later admitted to Lowson House, a mental health ward at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and then transferred to Wilston Youth Hostel. At the age of 13 she was admitted to a maximum security ward for adult female psychiatric patients (Osler House) at Wolston Park Hospital where she remained until she was 21 years of age.

Here is her poem, describing how her mother’s love helped her.

Rhonda’s bed in Wolston Park

22 thoughts on “When a child’s home is an asylum”

  1. What room number is the above cell at Osler House?
    It appears to be on the right near the front entrance although the type of wooden box divan bed negates this since these beds were not used there then.
    Also if this was the case then the door would not be hinged on the left but rather it would be hinged on the right and open inwards to the right not the left.

  2. Dear Oleeja,
    Thank you so much for your insightful responses which I read with great interest.

    I telephoned Lynn who posted her photos of Winlaton and so she knows that you responded and is pleased.

    I hope that you will keep your interest in the site which is read by many who don’t always respond.

    Thank you for reminding me, Oleeja, of the importance of replying!

  3. Hi Adele,
    Thanks for that – appreciated, and yes, ‘the response’ is an essential part of communication/s without which all else comes tumbling down…
    A pretty amazing site – job well done – it provides us with great opportunities for healing.

  4. Hi, Adele,

    To me, healing only comes from the guilty admitting their guilt and paying compensation for the chornic hurt and psychial damage from electric shock treatment causing memory loss, the brutial rapes to Rhonda. T, S.T, to those in Wolsten Park Goodna Mental Asylum whilst drugged worse than zombies, tied to a bed that had no mattress for days with no food and little water, sleeping in the same room with a dead body, pain and suffering, children that may of died from possible failed experiements, crimes against children they have caused.

    Does any one else have ADVICE for healing for the brutial attrocities done to FAs in those asylums. What:, just get over it and thats it. If that be the case, then Im sure if you met a person that murdered/ sodomized your daughter/son and you met him down the street and you went up to him and said , I am healed from the torture and sadomasochistic acts you did to your child its ok your forgiven.

    Healing I believe comes in the form of a God given repentance /intervention and justice the guilty paying for the crimes they committed, in that the memory of paying for the pain and suffering, the hurt to them of parting their dollars and the memory always before them of what was done to FAs in Wolsten Park ,Goodna Mental Asylum and learn from what they did to their victims.

    If I had run over MP Anna Bligh and caused her psychical and psychological damage and then 40 yrs latter due to public out cry, even after I,d destroyed some records about all of this, I made a speach which I said sorry and offered no compensation for all the injurys-she suffered -that wouldnt happen!!she would scream “blue murder and sue me for millions , don,t you think?
    But because of the “importance “of FAs to various people , including Governments and Doctors,Psychiatrists etc, it doesnt seems to worry them.When the shoe is on the other foot its a different “policy” hey?

    I would love to see a movie made about Forgotten Australians about R.T, S.T and my sisters multipal electric shock treatments , consisting of 70 to 400 volts of electricity into her brain 10 to 12 times causing memory loss, drugged worse than zombies and how F.As coped from the stigma associated from being jailed in the mental asylums and the reasons they were placed in the asylums being for “adolesecent rebellion, runnways from orphanages/institutions, bed wetters, too small for your age as per the eugenics policys, or for what ever other reasons. The Governments organised and santioned plans, bodies for all sorts of people like doctors psychiatrists to monoter and experiement on.

    There is a lot more involved in the healing process than just partially mentioning some of the terrors and evil experiments that these people were subjected to in the name of Science,- so called ! THE MEMORY NEVER LEAVES YOU.

  5. that room is the only one with window out to the waiting area between the two front doors, person in this room would be able to see room accross and mabe even the staff dineing room.
    i spent a long time in the room oposite our shutters were never open like that, unless you were in a priveledged room like a few to the right of staff dineing room also most on the verandah, in these rooms there was a real bed with a good mattress the best blankets and the shutters were open about 1983 we got doona’s but again only in the priveledged rooms or if staff liked you otherwise it was the old scratchy grey blankets smelling of urine or worce the heavy canvas backed grey blankets smelling like urine and vomit the problem was as we were told when we complained was that the blankets were to heavy for the machine so to wash them was difficult to bad so sad.
    1980-1988 much of my time was spent in oslor house, all these years later i can still draw a map i see every inch just cant get the pictures out of my head, i still hear the screams and feel the fear/anguish/intence lonelyness.

    i have a collection of pictures, some freinds got for me after i went back there a few years ago i couldnt bare to enter instead i walked around outside looked into the rooms on the verandah and then spent the next few weeks catatonic in bed unable to cope with day to day life.

    when i picture the layout never giveing a thought which side the doors are hinged its as if i am walking through the hallways.
    in my mids eye i see the hinge to moist doors on the right.

    i can even recount the routine its amazing that this institution above all others has imptinted on my mind like a tattoo i wonder if it will ever fade.

  6. hi guys, Rhonda there were numbers on our cells, remember room 27??? on the verandah where, the young girl was hung.
    inside my room was 14 room 21 was the craft room we never got to use. room 16 was where a mutual freind spent her years.
    in my day which was months after your time the numbers inside were faded but the verandah doors still stood out, some numbers had been gone over woth black permanent marker

  7. the seventies at wolston park saw an influx of “heart on their sleeves” staff coming in. the task of reform was monumental, and an ever increasing proportion of staff worked to bring it about. ……… terrible things happened there. i could write books about it, but i can’t see the issue is of interest to many. eg no posts on any asylum issue for months or years. if memory serves me i remember your mum visiting regularly rhonda. a nice lady. your poetry is very poignant….thanks for sharing it.

  8. Thanks Ian,
    I think there would be great interest.

    Please write more!

  9. Hi; Ian,

    I am very intrested in the things that took place in Wolsten Park. You said terrible things took place there and you could write a book on it. What sort of ‘terrible” things did you wittness or hear about and did you hear of many deaths and rapes?

  10. if it were only that simple Christine. my posts are already being altered. suffice to say, what i saw at wolston park was partly responsible for my being retired on the grounds of ill health (psychiatric tribunal) in 1991. you have a grasp of it, but it is beyond most peoples’ comprehension. engage a barrister for me and i’ll put forward what i experienced as a matter of fact.

  11. i don’t remember exact room numbers sue….16…a mutual friend. may i ask if that was KT’s head office ? please tell the folk here why your mutual friend was in osler house.

  12. Hi; Ian Caldwell,

    Early 70s when my husbans & myself were students at Bible College in Sydney, we met a chap who was a Psychiatric sister who told us of some events he was told that took place in the asylums he worked in such as, some nursers would drug patients and have sex with them.
    Another man we met aprox 5 yrs ago a Psychiatric nurse told us of things he heard what took place in the asylum he worked in which I wont mention, but what Sue Treweek and Rhonda has testified to what they went through I ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE THEM.

    Not only horrific torture took place with Sue & Rhonda, there are many other victims in Australia and the WORLD that dont know each other that testify simular things happened. What happen to some didnt happen to others, perhaps you didnt experience anything like Rhonda, Sue and hundreds of others which would explain why the difference. Obviously, male nursers on heat took advantage on young females & didnt care how young they were. When I met my sister in 2009 after 43 yrs, she told me sex occured with male staff with patients in the asylum she was in.

    If you are up to it and it doesnt up set you, can you please tell me the good things you experienced in the asylum and the horrible things if you feel comfortable about it, also what caused psychiatric ill health 91. Thankyou Ian.

  13. Im doing a Documentry on 2 Mental health homes none of which have been spoken about as yet.I had to break in and pass high sercurity to film what was a terrible part of many young children and young adults experiences while in these homes ..If anyone would like to be a part of the doco you are welcome .Thanks

  14. this one will be banned too. why? i don’t know. Adele : “Denying the validity of another view is not respectful”. yet you persevere. ban all posts you find personally distasteful and embrace the one’s you like with open arms. i’m working within the guidelines. you are NOT.

  15. Thanks for your honesty Ian,

    Yes I do moderate and sometimes decide not to publish responses in the interest of this website being a safe place for people to share their personal histories.

    It is not my role to investigate these narratives. The approach we have decided to use on this website is respecting people’s contributions based on personal experiences. Through differing experiences, a complex and contested understanding of history will emerge. There may be multiple reasons why one personal account of an institution differs from another. I don’t believe we should assume that differing testimonies necessarily means that someone is making something up.

    The guidelines for this website are open and transparent and a key principle underlying the website community is that participants are respectful . Please have a look:

    Best wishes,

  16. thanks for the same response ad-nauseum Dr.. if you want we’ll start with your peers. by law patients had to be physically and psychiatrically examined within enforced timelines. these doctors were unquestioned gods and treated and supported as such by the heirarchy. although only required once or twice a year these assessments were sometimes conducted through a narrow glass door viewing panel. do you want doctors’ names ?

  17. gladstone house with just over 60 male geriatrics. middle of winter. get them out of bed, dressed in the attire set out and take them into the yard so the interior of the ward could be polished to a high sheen. old, sick folk…t-shirts and shorts. no jumpers or shoes in those times. 2 of us are out there to do our best – always the “outsiders”. at least we were warmer. complain ? no problem if you want to be out of work after being crucified by superiors. gutless ? maybe. but when i left in 1991 i felt i’d made a mark somewhere in the big scheme of things. ian.

  18. Hi; Ian Caldwell,

    Thankyou for the information you have provided. Ian, I would love to talk to you and yes would love the names of the doctors particually the doctors that were in Goodna Mental Asylum, Wolston Park from 65 to 72 please.

    There have been cases mentioned in newspapers in the past where psychiatric staff have had sex with patients, perhaps police can verify. Also failed psychiatric experiements such as deep sleep thearpy resulting in deaths .26 patients died at Chelmsford Private Hospital during the 60-70s, with only perfunctory investigation by authorities. After the failure of the agencies of medical and crinimal investigation to tackle complaints about Chelmsford , a series of articles in the early 1980s in the Sydney Morning Herald exposed the abuses at the hospital and forced the authorities to take action, and a Royal Commission was appointed.

  19. if i recall a specific sexual act i witnessed i’ll certainly supply you with every intimate detail…wow !

  20. Hi, Ian Caldwell,

    Im sorry if you you think I misinterpretate your motivations. I certainly dont mean for you to feel that way Ian. I enjoy communating with you and would love to know more information from you in 6 dot points if you feel comfortable.
    1. What were the years & name of the hospital you worked in
    2. Your position
    3. If you enjoyed working there
    4. Was it stressful
    5. What are the things you mentioned that you could write a book about.
    6. What caused your ill heath [ psychiatric tribunal 1991]

    Please understand this site is about Forgotten Australians to feel comfortable in telling their experiences that they went through, they are not lying about those experiences.
    Ian its taken a lot of courage to talk about the torture, rapes, abuse and believing it was their fault as children, not worthy as a person neither life that was burried deep with in their sprit and souls.
    F.As are grateful the D.C. Services and the Government for allowing us to do so. They know and have evidence of terrible things that occured with F.As in asylums, also asylums in other parts of the world. Medical records of deaths also wittnesses is evidence.

    Ian you may of been a wonderful caring person working in your position and thankyou , but nay: terrible things did happen to many children in psychiatric hospitals that you were not aware of. When I met my sister for the first time in 43 yrs, she told me things that happened in the asylum that she was in ,staff had sex with female patients, not only she knew other people in the asylum wittnessed such events took place and neither of those people know each other.

    I would like to encourage you to check out the Jersey & Duplissis Orphans, newspapers and may be the net may have data of torture, rapes , drug experiements and murder that had taken place in mental asylums. Ian people dont lie about their experiences as they can be sued.

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