by Gwen (Sandra) Robinson (guest author) on 22 June, 2011
‘My heart broke for these defenseless people and still does today.’ Gwen (Sandra) Robinson was placed in Wolston Park Hospital, Tufnell Home and Home of the Good Shepherd Mitchelton. Here, she remembers her experiences at Wolston Park.
My name is Gwen Robinson preferably known as Sandra and I am going to write a little about the Shock Treatment that I seen given to patients at Wolston Park Mental Hospital also known as Goodna Mental Hospital. First I will tell you a little about myself and how I got there. I was put in there for being an absconder, better known as an habitual run-away, and not because there was anything mentally wrong with me which was proven by the I.Q. test that I did there and it came out as above average. I had the brains to be an accountant, which is what I wanted to be, but I was never given the education to follow that profession. There is a letter in my files written by a doctor to the Childrens Department stating that Wolston Park was non-theraputic to me and I should be out in a hostel and doing a business course. Needless to say that never happened and the Childrens Department just kept me there to be kept drugged up. We were given a drug called peraldahyde and it had to be given in a glass vial as it melted plastic. The mind shudders as to what it has done to my body being given to me as a young teenager. We were also given other mind altering drugs which kept us immobilised, which led to some of us wetting or dirtying ourselves as we could not move. It also left the staff free range to do whatever they wanted when we were in this state. I have cigarette burns on my arms from the staff and other scars.
I absconded from Tufnell Home and ended up in The Good Shepherd at Mitchelton and then I got out of there and was sent to Karalla House. I never got out of there but was locked up for more than a month in solitary confinement and when we got out of these rooms we came out as mad as hell and caused trouble and then this led me to be put in the Mental Hospital as it was the most secure place in QLD to keep me. I got out of there and was caught months later and was locked in a room for 2 weeks for the male staff to have access to as this was my punishment. I was also told at this time that if I escaped again that there was a lot of suicides in the Bremmer River. I believed them as I thought if you can lock me up with the Criminally Insane, and no one is doing anything about it, then you could do exactly as you pleased. Needless to say that I did escape from there one more time and was never caught, but I lived a life of being someone else as I thought I would be murdered. If anyone is interested I could explain that to them. In my mind I have never deserved any of this treatment as my only crime was being an orphan and being severly bashed at home and sometimes so bad that the school took me to the Hospital as I had blood and welts all over my body.
I cannot remember the number of the Ward that I was in when I witnessed the horror of seeing people being strapped down for shock treatment and also seeing them come out of the room when it was done. I am sitting here writing this with tears in my eyes as the pure horror of what these people went through comes back to me. It was one of the cruelist things that I have ever witnessed. The patients would fight the staff and come and hide behind other people, such as myself, and beg us to help and protect them. There was nothing I could do and they would be dragged away by staff and they would be begging and pleading to the staff not to do this to them. When they came out of the rooms after Shock Treatment they would be left lying on the beds and this is when I seen male staff interferring and doing sexual things to some of the patients while they were unconscious. Even today thinking about it makes my stomach heave. I have always been quite a strong person and have had a strong sense of survival, but what I seen in this place and also had done to me has had the worst effect on me even these many years later. Sometimes for days and even weeks these patients who had Shock Treatment would walk around in a daze with strange eyes, like they couldn’t focus, and also loss of memory. They were forever asking others what their names were and where they were. Another thing is that they were very skiddish as hiding behind other patients, such as myself, so as not to be noticed by staff and if staff came towards some it was like they were frozen with fear and I witnessed some patients just pass out with this fear and some of the staff thought this was quite funny. My heart broke for these defenseless people and still does today. Everyone dreaded Shock Treatment days but some of the staff loved it.
The Government in QLD. will not compensate any of us who were children placed in Adult Institutions or who were locked up with the Criminally Insane. They keep saying that the Redress Scheme has closed but they fail to realise is that these Mental Institutions were not covered by the Redress Scheme as it only covered places in the Terms of Reference for the Forde Inquiry and this Forde Inquiry did not let us speak of these Mental Institutions and we were told that they would never be included as it was a seperate issue. None of us have ever found a lawyer who is smart enough or has the fight to take on the Government or Health Department on this issue. Even the legal part of the Senate Inquiry says we should be looked at again for compensation as it was wrong that we were excluded as we were put there by the Children’s Department.