Forgotten Australians, Responding to the National Apology

We were charged with being neglected

by Colleen Stevenson (guest author) on 15 November, 2010

Colleen Stevenson


My name is Colleen and I grew up in Neerkol orphanage in Rockhampton. I went to the orphanage when I was 11 years of age. We were taken off our parents and charged with being neglected. We were taken to court. The five of us were in court. My grandfather went there to try to stop them from taking us, but they wouldn’t give us to him. He went away and he was so upset. He was so sad. He was an old man but he wanted us so badly.

Well, life in Neerkol was no pretty picture at all. We’d get up 5 o’clock in the morning, go to church, then we’d come back and we’d have to do the dormitories and we’d just have to do a lot of things. If we didn’t do it properly we were given a hiding. We were given the strap. We just had to do it proper.

As a child we weren’t able to form bonds at all. We never really got to know each other as children. I think we were all scared of what would happen to us, not that we couldn’t but we just weren’t allowed to, we just didn’t feel like we could, you know, because of things that went on – sorry. Things that happened out there to different kids, kids were strapped and they were hurt very badly.

Being here today, the apology means today that it’s finally recognised as we were all telling the truth and not lying. Well, it helps move on a little bit, one step at a time. You can’t go – one day at a time – you can’t go any further than that. If you try to go any further you get nowhere.

My children when they were growing up I tried very hard. I made my mistakes because I didn’t really know how to bring them up but I did my best. I love them very much and people could see I loved them. I was also scared when my husband died that they would be taken off me. I was so fearful that they would be taken off me but they weren’t, thank God. And they turned into great kids.

4 thoughts on “We were charged with being neglected”

  1. I grew up in Neerkol. I was taken there when I was 4 years old and left the home when I was 16.
    Almost 40 years later – I cannot understand why I am unable to control my emotions when reading about incidents that happened at Neerkol. I do not talk about my time at Neerkol as it reduces me to tears. I am not a weak person, I had to learn to be strong.
    Raising my family had it’s difficult times, as I did not know the true concept of -family-.
    An apology or a monetary compensation cannot take away the emotional scarring or loss of identity that has affected us our whole life.

  2. I was repeatedly molested psychologically, sexually and physically by both nuns and priests from an early age until about 8 years of age, I have found that speaking out against the abuses of the churches and the so called religious has been of incalculable benefit to me.

    In regards bringing up your children and in regards an understanding of my own experience I read a great deal and found the writings of Alice Miller (For your own good – the roots of violence in childhood) to still be one of the the best resources available for those of us who experienced a total abuse of trust and left us with relationship issues to deal with.)

    I am appalled at the failures of governments to respond appropriately to those who were abused through secret deals etc and appalled by some so called survivor support groups whose role it is to obtain information to pass back to the church so that past crimes can be covered up.

    I wish you both well and hope your journey of repair and reconnection with society brings you peace and harmony.



  3. The aurthor Alice Miller gave me back my sanity,I have all her books in my home
    library.her literature was around long before any anyone took notice of the damage
    control dealt out to us by our so called carers in institutions.

  4. John is not my real name but I have to tell my story. While I did not attend an orphanage I did attend St Anne’s Convent School at Sarina also run my the Sisters of Mercy. During my seven years at this school:
    1. I was canned across my fingers by a nun as a 6-8 year old during piano lessons if I hit the wrong keys,
    2. I was punched with the closed fist of the mother superior for not getting a map from another class when the other lay teacher had told me that map was not there.
    3. I and most other boys were belted with a barbers strap on many ocassions – the strap was provided to the nuns by the local barber
    4. we had our mouths washed out with solvol soap if we swore
    5. I saw other boys bitten with baseball bats by the nuns
    6. I was canned by the nuns to a point where the balckboard ruler broke and I was in grade one
    7. I saw boys physically l lifted by nuns and bashed against walls
    We lived in fear of these nuns. Generally they did no touch the girls in the school but boys seems to be fair game right from grade 1 and we had parents to go home to so I can only imagine what orphans were subject to

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