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.