Aimee was a 30-something mother living in western Sydney with her three children. One afternoon she was waiting at her children’s public school for her daughter to return from camp. While she was waiting, the school principal called her into the office to tell her that the Department of Community Services (DOCS) had been called. That afternoon all three children were taken from Aimee and put into care.
The principal told Aimee that her eight-year-old son Danny had been abused by an older and physically much larger boy in the school toilets.
All three of Aimee’s children have intellectual disabilities, and due to this as well as his reluctance to talk about such matters with his mother, Danny never told anyone about the incident himself. Instead it was his younger brother who told the school principal about it. Aimee said, ‘I had no idea because my kids didn’t even tell me anything … it was not long after that that they were taken’.
Neither the police nor the Department of Education were told about the incident, and the school did not pursue any further action. Aimee told the Commissioner: ‘They just haven’t done nothin’ about that child … I’ve asked if something can be done about [him] because after when I’ve gone back to the school to collect my kids’ stuff, the principal complained to me saying that there was more complaints about this child, not just boys but with the girls this time as well.
‘Whatever he was doing with them they’re reporting it and nothin’s done with this child … I was just shocked you know, because she [the principal] wasn’t doing nothin’ … so I just feel that they should’ve done more.’
Five years later, Aimee’s children were still in residential care. One day Danny’s carer from the Catholic youth residential home called Aimee to inform her Danny had again been abused, this time by a 16-year-old boy who was also a resident of the home.
Aimee reported it to DOCS and the police immediately but ‘there was nothing that could be done because he was in care himself, this child … the person I was talking to said to me “all we can do is send out the detectives to go find out what’s happened. Otherwise we can’t do nothin’ because they’re in care”’. The police and DOCS never pursued the matter.
Aimee told the Commissioner about a case review meeting with the case worker, residential home manager and Danny’s carer. ‘After we had that little meeting that day the manager said, “Can you just stay back? I just need to talk to you for about 20 minutes at least”. And he asked me why did I make that complaint? And I said, “Because that’s my son and I’m the mother … I’m gonna do everything I can just for either that boy to be removed or my son, or otherwise I’ll take him home myself … I’m not having none of my kids being in this situation, they’ve already had enough of that before … this time I’m not gonna let them get away with it”.’ This conversation then revealed that the incident had occurred a year before and it had taken that long before Aimee was notified.
‘I just don’t know what’s going on in their homes. I always say to my kids “you let me know so I can help you. That’s what I’m here for, you know”, because I don’t know if they’re being touched or anything or somebody’s bullying them or mistreating them bad, and it just worries me.’
At the time of speaking with the Commissioner, Aimee’s children were all still in residential care but made contact with their mother every day by phone.
‘With Danny, he doesn’t like to talk about sexual stuff and that, but being a mother and a parent I have to ask them you know, because I’m not there to see what’s going on. So I know he feels embarrassed but it makes me feel a bit better in myself knowing that it’s coming from me and they know that mum’s worried, that they can talk to me … I want my kids to be open. Yeah, to be open and not to be scared.’
‘I just wanna help my kids. I wanna help other kids as well, and myself to see it’s okay to talk about it and to get help.’
Aimee works full time as a carer for her elderly mother and regularly speaks with both a counsellor and a psychiatrist which she reports is helpful. ‘I just really wanna help my kids and to help myself as well through this and to let them know that there is help out there, that they’re not alone and to never let no-one touch them in any way ... Be careful and stand up for yourself, tell somebody. You can always come to Mum as well.’