Forgotten Australians, memories, photography

Hay Institution for Girls

by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 20 May, 2010


Senator Andrew Murray

Former resident of Hay, Wilma Robb, shares her photographs taken at the Hay Girls reunion in 2007.

The Hay Institution for Girls was opened in 1961 as a maximum security institution for girls, aged 13 to 18, from the Parramatta Girls Home. Girls were sent to Hay despite their having committed no crime and without a legal trial. Girls were not permitted to speak, without permission, or to establish eye contact with anyone. This rule was enforced despite the fact that the “silent system” was outlawed in NSW in the late 1800s. Girls endured a regime of hard labour without school education.

Further information and historical photographs about life at Hay can be read at the website concerning Sharyn Killens’ book An Inconvenient Child.

Commerative Plaque which was unveiled at the Hay Girls Reunion 2007

Wilma’s painting Black, Blue and Raw was hung in an exhibition “Forgotten Australians” at NSW Parliament house from 11 April-28 April 2005. Supported and Arranged by Forgotten Australians Jools Graeme, Melody Mandena, John Murray.

Black, Blue and Raw depicts my time in Parramatta and Hay.

At Hay, I experienced a sadistic, martial discipline the (Silent Treatment outlawed in the late 1800s) designed to break the human spirit. These days we would describe it as a form of ‘programming’. At Parramatta, I experienced psychological abuse, rape, neglect and other forms of violent torture at the hands of state employees.

My torso
No-one sees what is hidden inside me. Here are the memories I have tried to suppress. Here is the sub-conscious record of life-destroying events, festering.
The little girl at the centre is me. The eyes overseeing the evil are those of one of my abusers, captured by camera from a television screen.

My baby
When I was 18, my baby was taken from me by Welfare, within minutes of his birth.

The colours
To me, yellow and purple signalled hope. At Hay, we experienced regular solitary confinement, enforced silence and regimentation. Also, they took our eyes.

The mask
At Hay, they tried to turn us into unthinking robots by brainwashing and deprivation. The Hay mask has a robotic expression and a head that has been messed with severely. My memory of Parramatta is dominated by the violence of the staff – I lost my teeth and had my face smashed. The mask has had its features flattened and is flesh softened by fists.
Wilma Robb (Cassidy) 2005

Black, Blue and Raw