Forgotten Australians, memories

Donna’s story

by Donna (guest author) on 4 October, 2011

‘I never spoke of the abuse because it seemed normal. I had been abused in the orphanage’. In 1957, Donna, aged three, was sent into institutional care with her sister and four brothers. Donna shared her personal history with the National Museum:

We were brought up on the train from NSW with my four brothers and sister. My last memory is that something that happened. I ended up in hospital with a lot of pain and I was bloody and someone gave me a pink marshmallow bunny and so I must have been exposed to abuse.

I was sent to Nazareth House, Wynumm, in Queensland.The hardest part for me was being institutionalised and being separated from my family was traumatic but being separated from my sister was heart breaking.  I still have memories of hanging on to the slatted wall searching for my sister hoping she would remember. I have nightmares of that memory that bring me to tears, searching for my sister.

We were stripped of all personal effects including my doll, Raggedy Ann, who was very precious to me.

The smell of the clothes in the orphanage was not too bad and I felt quite comforted by that smell.

The nuns used to deliver me to the house across the road to the paedophile priest. How can any person prepare a child, bathe and dress them, and then deliver them to someone who will abuse them? Had the nuns been abused themselves? Was this normal for them? I came back from the priest, broken. I wanted to die. I was just a little child. We were just babies.

My sister was released from the orphanage when she turned 14. My father came to take her home. I was only ten but I insisted on coming too. When my brothers saw me, they asked my father what I was doing home.
Dad replied, ‘I had to take her.  The nuns made me’. That reinforced to me what one of the nuns told me; that I wasn’t wanted by the nuns, my parents or by God.

Because of the abuse that my siblings had experienced in the orphanage, my siblings were dysfunctional. My father was an alcoholic and was abusing me and so at the age of 11, I ran away. I had to fend for myself. It was a terrifying period. I had been institutionalised. I had no idea how to live on the outside. I was waiting for bells to ring. I had to fend for myself.

I walked the streets looking for kids to play with, somewhere to go. I never spoke of the abuse because it seemed normal. I had been abused in the orphanage. My father put me in Mitchelton at 12 and I tried to commit suicide. I was then put in the lock up ward in Lowson House. I felt safe there.

Then I returned home – nobody bothered to ask me what was happening. I got tired of being belted up by my older brother. I got sick of sleeping with my father. So I slept in toilet blocks. I’d eat at friends’ places. Many days I didn’t eat. I became a human toilet. I allowed men to sleep with me for a shower. It was a heck of lot gentler than at home.

Then my father put me in a hostel at Indooroopilly (Brisbane, Queensland) and I was hired out to be a domestic. I ran away from the hostel and the lady who ran it put out a report that I was missing. I was 14 and living with a man and engaged to him and he got charged with carnal knowledge – but this was a man who loved me.

I was sentenced to be a ward of the state until was 21. I thought that being sentenced paid for the lack of support from my parents. My case worker organised for me to be a domestic in people’s houses.

I got pregnant at 18 and I had to find a husband so that my daughter wouldn’t go into state care. I found a husband and we married with the approval of the state. I had been trained since I was six to clean homes and care for children. The state declared that I was in the care, control and custody of my husband until I was 21 and he knew it and he saw my role as being confined to the home, caring for children and him. He used to gamble, and go to massage parlours. I never stopped him because I thought, ‘Better them, than me’.

The marriage ended when my children were teenagers and because I felt trapped. From the age of 12 to 18 I had multiple attempts at suicide.

I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve done a lot of therapy. I work as a volunteer for Lifeline. I’ve raised a healthy family. I raised five healthy children. I have 15 grandchildren aged from two months to 18 years. I’ve played an important role in the lines of my grand children.

My brother committed suicide as a result of the pressure during the redress process in Queensland after the Forde Inquiry into institutional care. There was no healing in the redress process. It was vicious. It was cruel that we had to relive our childhood by filling in the forms and sitting and waiting to see if we were worthy to be paid a pittance. It’s still raw. It was as if we were abused all over. A lot of people didn’t have their files so they couldn’t prove their past.

Nothing has changed. It was still the government way. It was a cruel blow. It was reminder that we were still worth nothing.

I fought for years against the Catholic Church. We were informed that we had a case but because the Catholic Church had so much money – they could tie us up in litigation for years but even that was better than the redress scheme. Those who had made a life for themselves were disadvantaged because they weren’t seen as being desperate victims. I lost my son in a car accident ten years ago. That was traumatic for me. It was during the case against the Church.

I am now a foster parent. I am a specialised carer. I care for children with specialist needs.

Children are now aware of their rights but not of their responsibilities but as children in the Home we had no rights and we took all the responsibility even for our parents’ neglect.

I now live without a partner and that’s my choice. I am that marred by the experience that I am incapable of a relationship and intimacy. It’s difficult to allow anyone to love me.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Push for victims’ right to sue parishes

by Adele Chynoweth on 22 September, 2011

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge will move to amend the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act so that victims have access to just compensation.

Mr Shoebridge’s aim is to attempt to overturn the 2007 Court of Appeal decision of a previous legal case.  This ‘John Ellis’ case essentially says there is no organisation called the Catholic Church at law and that the property trust that holds all the church’s assets is not liable to be sued for damages by victims of abuse.

You can read the transcript of Mr Shoebridge’s speech on the NSW Parliament website.

Read Imre Salusinszky’s 21 Sepember 2011 report ‘Greens push for sexual abuse victims’ right to sue parishes’ on The Australian website.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians

Forgotten Australians demand more than apologies

by Adele Chynoweth on 20 July, 2011

Journalist Neena Bhandari discusses the needs of Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants in her article ‘Forgotten Australians demand more than apologies’.

Published on 20 July 2011 the article covers the compensation needs of Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants, as well as their need to find family members.

[2020 note] You could previously access this article on the Rogers Digital International website.

Child Migrants, events, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Compensation users forum

by Adele Chynoweth on 18 March, 2011

Victims Services from the NSW Government Department of Justice and Attorney General will be holding a Compensation Users Forum on 27 April 2011.

The intention is for Victims Services to hold regular forums where people working in the area and accessing the services can attend and discuss recent trends and issues.

The aim is to make the process of applying for compensation and counselling easier for the people working in the area and more accessible to victims of crime.

Solicitors who work in victims compensation matters and any agencies or groups interested can attend on that day.

It will be held at 10.00am on Wednesday 27 April 2011Level 4, Justice Precinct Building 160 Marsden Street Parramatta

The Forum will be hosted by the Director, Victims Services and the Registrar, Victims Compensation Tribunal.

Please RSVP to Hannan Abouloukme on (02) 8688 2504 or by 25 March 2011.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Cuts to victims compensation NSW

by Adele Chynoweth on 22 February, 2011

Victim compensation schemes are important to those Forgotten Australians who suffered harm in Children’s Homes. The dedicated website Cuts to victims compensation details current changes to the NSW victim’s compensation scheme and associated campaign events for responsible victims compensation provisions.

articles/lectures, documents, Forgotten Australians, memories

Steps up and steps out

by Diane Tronc (guest author) on 11 June, 2010

Diane Tronc was born in 1961 and was a resident, with her five siblings, of Silky Oaks Children’s Home in Manly, Brisbane from 1962 until 1974.

Diane shares her submission to the current Senate Review of Government Compensation Payments.

To Committee Secretary
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee
P.O. Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600 Australia

Re: Review of Government Compensation Payments

Dear Committee Members

My name is Diane Tronc.  I am a Survivor of Abuse whilst in Care and I am a Forgotten Australian.

I wish to put submission into this Inquiry.

Firstly:   This year is the 10th year since the Forde Inquiry.

The last 10 years has been for a lot of Forgotten Australians a compounding and overturning painful journey of repeating our lives over and over and reliving this painful journey through Redress and still suffering today to see some form of positive outcome for all Forgotten Australians.

With services in mainstream congested and waiting lists so long we take our ticket and still stand in line waiting. We’ve walk your line for long enough.  We need ACTION, STRUCTURE, FOUNDATION, and STEPS UP AND STEPS OUT.  Support services more involved with career paths, workforce, TAFE, university.

A lot have such difficulty in filling in forms making the first step up and step out.  We need Mentors working with case workers supporting our people with visits to hospitals, appointment and home visits.

We also need a small bus e.g.: Libraries, our memorial, for events/ outings etc.

And a directory of services directing and referring our people and supporting through the process for their goals to be achieved to a comfortable area in their lives to move on….from start to finish.

Healing Journey when will that start, Family Histories, Reunions, and Bringing us all HOME.

Also like to see Legacy more involved as a lot of fathers and grandfathers/families of Forgotten Australian went to war and so did some Forgotten Australian themselves served..

We call for a Gold Card for all Forgotten Australian we should have Priority Access due to the damage inflicted upon us as innocent children now adults our needs and wants need  to be met.   Health, Dental, Housing, and Education and Training, exempt of fees.

Within our service centre I personally feel we need more steps up and step out and more support.

Foster Care/Adoption  was not part of Redress in Qld nor did it get a State Govt Apology.  We where under the STATE.

I personally would like to see a Royal Commission Inquiry into past practices and services today.

We will fight to our END to see things right for our past and for all our futures ahead.

We have a lot of strong good solid caring, compassionate and committed people amongst us all.  That should be given every opportunity to excel and be given the chance to work with services in a paid position.

A lot of us are Volunteers and put in a lot of hours and time to help our people when services are closed or to help assist within telephone support and  getting to visits, appointments or lend a hand  when needed.  I would like to see more funding given to Volunteers under some form of incentive scheme payment through Centrelink.

As a lot of our people are also on disability this would help in the transition step up 123 to TAFE, university or workforce part time or full time?

Also I have noticed a lot of people needing assistance who are in full time work area.  Some struggle to keep their jobs.  Pushing themselves to the limit all the time.

And not being able to service the services due to their working hours.

Looking for a constructive outcome for all.

And more community projects for our people.

Diane Tronc

articles/lectures, film, Forgotten Australians, memories, Stolen Generations

Video: Wake-up call from the stolen and forgotten

by Rhonda Trivett (guest author) on 28 May, 2010

Rhonda Trivett, at the age of 13, from 1974 – 1981, was locked in the maximum security adult ward (Osler House), in Wolston Park Hospital, Brisbane. In her video, Rhonda talks about her experiences and the need for redress.