Alana was made a ward of the state in New South Wales when she was six months old, in the early 1980s. She was placed with a foster family but when she was 10 her foster parents separated. ‘Things went downhill from there’, Alana told the Commissioner.
The following year she ran away from home. She was found on the streets, deemed uncontrollable and ended up in a government-run children’s home in a northern suburb of Sydney.
She remained there for the next three years, on and off. Throughout that time she was regularly sexually abused at night by two boys her own age who were also residents. There was a partition between the boys’ and girls’ sleeping quarters but it didn’t keep the boys out. Other girls were also sexually abused at night. Staff checked the dormitories but apparently never saw anything.
‘I reckon they knew for sure what was happening’, Alana said.
Though the boys’ abuse was seen by other girls, they didn’t talk about it among themselves and they didn’t report it. Alana said the boys threatened her: ‘“Don’t tell anyone; they’re not going to believe you”, they’re not going to believe me over them and that.’
She didn’t tell the community services officer whose care she was under, who visited ‘once in a blue moon’. She did tell her birth mother, who re-entered her life when she was 13.
‘I told my mum, the first time I went out to the family home for the weekend. She actually slapped me and told me not to lie …
‘She didn’t believe me and so I just ran away and started using heroin and that, which didn’t make it better …
‘When she didn’t believe me, I thought well, my own flesh and blood doesn’t believe me, who else is going to believe me?’
She did tell a boy at the home, and they began a relationship.
‘When I first met my son’s father I told him about it, and that’s what actually got us together because he was there for me and that.’
Alana was 14 when she got pregnant. She’d been attending the local high school, the only girl at the home to do so, but her pregnancy brought that to an end. She and her boyfriend split up just before their son was born. She and the baby were moved to a different home, one for mothers and babies.
‘First time young mum, and they just dumped me there … They took him away from me when he was two and I just started using.’
Alana lost contact with her son for many years, and he grew up in care. She recently reconnected with him, now 18 years old. She had a second child, who lives with family members. Alana herself was in jail when she spoke with the Commissioner. She has spent time in prisons in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, she said.
‘I kept using, was in and out of jail.’
Alana has never reported the abuse to police, or disclosed it to health services. She said she was considering speaking to someone in the prison’s mental health team about it as she was having nightmares and felt she needed some help.
She doesn’t care about an apology and hasn’t sought compensation, but thinks it would make a difference. ‘Anything, really, you know what I mean? They ruined my life for three years, and that’s ruined it for the last 20. And knowing that I’ve got an 18-year-old that’s just coming out of care – I don’t know if anything happened to him while he was in care, you know what I mean?’
Alana told the Commissioner she’d like to see ‘more help out there for young people. They need it …
‘More things being done about it, and knowing that we can have somebody to talk to, and know that if you talk to them you’re not going to get punished for talking about it.’