by Katie-Maree Sibraa (guest author) on 15 November, 2010
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My name is Katie-Maree Sibraa. I went into care at three months of age, in foster care. With my story it’s the fifth generation in state care. My dad, my grandparents and my great-grandparents all in state care. Myself, I was in care under the minister right up until I was 18 in two separate foster families and also in an institution as well. My experience from the age of seven through to 12 being sexually assaulted by seven different men in the first foster family while under the minister or Children’s Services in Queensland. Then I ran away and when I ran away they put me in an institution for running away and I was only 12. So, yeah, it’s been pretty tough.
Life in an institution when I first arrived I arrived in the back of a paddy wagon, and it was in Wilson in Queensland. They had to hold you down. You weren’t allowed near anybody, unless they had doctors at you. You were totally humiliated. I was only young and frightened because I had already experienced years of abuse – sexual abuse, physical abuse – in the family I was in and I felt like I was being re-tormented, re-punished again. And no-one believed me – no-one. I mean, it was just something that you lived with and had to accept.
Life in the institution, I closed off and was very disassociate. I was very tiny and I never ate, maybe because I fretted or there was no love. There was one person who was a couple of years old who I have only just recently met here, and she used to be my protector. She’d say, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK, don’t cry, they’ll send you into isolation.’ I felt like she was sticking up for me, then she’d get punished and I felt really bad for that.
There was no privacy and it was just – your whole identity was stripped. You had no self-esteem, it was just nothing, no visitors, and it was hard seeing others getting visitors. And when you didn’t have anyone visiting you and you’d just see these gates, it was – not good.
I had met my natural father, my dad, when I was eight in the foster family. I did not know that I was Aboriginal, Indigenous. They brought me up from the back yard playing and they said, ‘Oh, Katie, this is your real dad’. And my reaction to that was: ‘He can’t be, he’s black and I’m white’. I didn’t know. But then he was stopped visiting me. He used to visit me in holidays, but then no.
My natural mother I didn’t know because she had left me at three months on a railway line so I never knew where she was or anything. No, I didn’t have any family.
Being in a relationship or even entering a relationship I find, because I suffered the sexual abuse as a young child and the emotional and physical, I don’t trust very easy. You lose that and sometimes you look for love in the wrong areas and you think it’s going to be OK, but it’s very difficult because you don’t have that trust. And you don’t want to get close because you think, ‘Am I going to get hurt again?’
In Canberra here today, it’s very significant as I hold this piece of paper, hearing Mr Kevin Rudd’s apology to us Forgotten Australians. I find it difficult just holding this to know that my family’s fifth generation in the care of the state – it is very emotional. But as I’ve got here – this is my father’s great-grandfather, so that’s my great-great-grandfather who was in institutions and orphanages and on working farms in Queensland.
I am from the Stolen Generation. I am Indigenous. This is my father, who passed away last year, and these were his grandparents. Two months after this was taken he was taken into care at Nudgee orphanage because he, they said, wasn’t being looked after and cared for. So they were his grandparents.
Then another article last year when my son Adam came down, he was chosen from the Central Coast to come to Canberra for the Stolen Generation for our family representing. My father was dying of lung cancer at the time. He was very proud that his grandson was here representing. It’s so true what it says: ‘Portrait of an injustice’. For him to stand tall down here last year, and I was back in Sydney crying, to know the Stolen Generation and that it was generation after generation. The portrait of an injustice of knowing each generation, not one or two but five generations of our family have been in state care, how many more is going to be in state care?