The public hearing was an opportunity for the Royal Commission and the Australian community to publicly bear witness to the experiences of women who were inmates at the two institutions in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The report summarises the evidence that the witnesses gave about life at both institutions and the law that governed out-of-home care at the time, and details the physical and sexual abuse which they alleged was perpetrated by 11 staff.
The report also describes the issues the survivors have had when reporting the abuse and their attempts to seek redress for the harm caused, including the continuing impacts of the abuse on the women and their families.
The public hearing was an important part of the Royal Commission’s work in understanding the impact of child sexual abuse and the vulnerability of children in State care.
The Parramatta Training School for Girls operated under various names from 1887 and from 1950 - 1974 provided out-of-home care for girls who were ‘neglected’, ‘uncontrollable’ or convicted juvenile offenders. In 1961 the NSW Government set up a maximum security annex, the Institution for Girls in Hay, to house the girls who were categorised as the most rebellious and difficult, in response to riots at Parramatta Girls.
Parramatta Girls and the Hay Institution were both closed in 1974 after a public outcry about conditions.
The public hearing heard evidence from 16 former inmates of Parramatta Girls, four of whom also spent time at the Hay Institution.
While the model of out-of-home care in New South Wales has changed significantly since Parramatta Girls and the Hay Institution were operating, the report says that the Royal Commission has learnt from the experiences of former inmates and that their evidence has highlighted the particular vulnerability of children to sexual abuse while in the care of the State.
The report looked at the conditions and treatment that inmates at Parramatta Girls and the Hay Institution faced on a daily basis; from deprivation and isolation to psychological abuse and humiliation.
The report states that some of the alleged perpetrators were never reported or investigated. Others resigned or were dismissed after inquiries into their conduct. The report concludes that “our enquiries suggest that not one of these men was ever charged with a criminal offence.”
The report describes the difficulties that inmates faced in reporting their abuse, both at the time and in later years. Many felt there was nobody to tell and that they would not be believed. Others thought they would be punished for complaining. Some that did speak out often received an inadequate response from authorities. More recent attempts to seek justice have also failed because most of the alleged perpetrators have now died.
The report describes how only two of the former inmates who gave evidence have received compensation from the State of New South Wales. Many have tried to bring civil claims but failed because too much time has passed. The State has no schemes to provide redress to those who were abused or neglected in its care, although it is now reportedly considering its options.
Redress was one of the systemic issues arising from the case study, while other issues relate to out-of-home care and juvenile justice. The Royal Commission is continuing to inquire into systemic issues that arise from the current model of out-of-home care. In September 2013, the Royal Commission released an issues paper on preventing the sexual abuse of children in out-of-home care and held a roundtable discussion in April. The Royal Commission continues to inquire into the issue of redress with a report on the issue scheduled to be released in mid-2015.
The Royal Commission has provided the Governor-General with reports for case studies 1, 2 and 3. Other case study reports will be released when completed. Given varying timeframes for the submissions and other processes, the reports may not necessarily be published in sequential order.
Read the full report.