Adel's story

In the early 1960s Adel was living with her mother and younger sibling in a rural town. The family took in a couple of boarders to help make ends meet. Adel was 14 when Nat moved into the spare room. He was in his early 20s. A friendship developed between the two; over time the friendship became something more and a few months before her 16th birthday Adel discovered she was pregnant.

Adel's relationship with her mother was troubled. Too terrified to confront her with the news, Adel fled interstate with Nat. After a few days they were picked up by police. Adel was sent to a police lock-up and then a receiving home.

'I was treated like a criminal', Adel told the Commissioner. She was interviewed by child welfare officers.

'During the interrogation, 'cause that's all I can call it, they actually tried to trick me into signing some adoption forms. And it was a trick, but I was savvy. I'd read everything.'

Adel was determined to keep her baby and her boyfriend. 'We wanted to get married and start a life. He was old enough. Just because I was two months off 16 …'

Nat was sent to jail for carnal knowledge. Adel's mother refused to have her back and she was placed with foster parents in the city, Mr and Mrs Brand. Adel found Mr Brand a 'lovely man', but she disliked Mrs Brand, who was a 'forceful woman'. Adel set about washing and cleaning the house, which was a mess, and 'made the house like a home'.

She waited for Nat to get out of jail. She waited for the arrival of her child. But Adele was not left in peace. The Brands had a 16-year-old son, Ian.

'I was there only a few weeks … and young Ian started to make advances towards me. I said to him, you know, "Get lost!" And he said, "Tell you what. I can get you kicked out. I know you've got nowhere to go", and he started all this emotional blackmail. Anyway I gave in - but I never told. Even my husband went to his grave, didn't know. No one knows.'

Adel was forced to have sex with Ian regularly for months. 'The shame was overbearing. All I wanted to do was get out of there and get married.'

Adel endured, feeling trapped. She was let down by her caseworker. 'She never came, not once. And yet she puts out a report that she was visiting me and I was happy.' If the caseworker had asked Adel the right questions she would have heard that Adel was anything but happy. But Adel knew she had something to live for.

'What that Ian did to me was outrageous and disgusting. He took advantage of me at the most vulnerable time in my life, but I had a baby and I had a wonderful man waiting for me, so he became an insignificant little dirty little shit and I just blocked him out, just blocked him out.'

As soon as Nat was released from jail he came looking for Adel. 'Nat found out where I was and he came to the door … and he opened up the little box with the rings in it.' The couple petitioned the child welfare commissioner for permission to marry. They were wed just before the birth of their child.

Adel and Nat were together for over 40 years until Nat passed away. They had more children together, Adel completed her schooling and went on to university and a varied career. The sexual abuse has been a shadow on her life, but she has suppressed the memories and chosen not to tell her story until recent years.

'It would've hurt my husband, because I think he would've blamed himself… he was a very, very passionate man and he would've thought, "What else could I have done?"'

Adel never saw Ian Brand again after she walked out the door with Nat. She has learned that Ian took his own life in the 1980s.

Adel is a supporter of appropriate foster care for children, but would like the Royal Commission to drive reform. 'It's still happening now after all these years and something needs to be done. Especially Indigenous children … there's a lot that are suffering.'

'When these people are employed in these positions I think they should sit a psychological test to see if they are suitable for that job, and communication skills is number one.' Adel believes child welfare workers need advanced listening skills and need to learn to trust children. 'Don't be judgmental – number two – you don't know what that child was going through and what was in their past.'

'There is darkness lurking and the protectors need to be vigilant. So, what could have been done? The social worker: "Oh they've got a 16-year-old boy. Should we place this girl into that situation?"'

'For me I've had a wonderful life. If I could prevent one person having to experience this [abuse] is a gift to me, knowing I've done something.'

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