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Alannah's story

Alannah, now in her 30s, has often been told she’s doing fine because she didn’t become a drug addict, and that the impact of the abuse she experienced was not so great. She finds this offensive. Although she thought she might look okay on paper, she said if she doesn’t kill herself by 40, she’ll be ‘pleasantly surprised’.

As a child Alannah was desperate to leave her foster family because of the abuse – in all its forms – she was subjected to. She looked forward to her case worker visits, but the worker would always ask how everything was going, right in front of her foster parents.

Too terrified to say anything, Alannah would try to communicate non-verbally. Usually there was a constant change of case workers but there was one case worker, Dale Taylor, who she had for three years.

‘I used to stare at him and at one stage I grabbed his knee and he said, “Oh sorry”, and he moved to the other side of the table. And I thought, “You could give me a break here”.’ Alannah told the Commissioner, ‘One time I ran out the front to walk him to his car. And the foster mother was screaming at me to get me back inside. And he said, “Look, I promise I’ll come talk to you soon”. But he never did’.

Alannah first went into foster care at the age of five because her mother was unwell. Despite her mother’s efforts to legally challenge the department, Alannah was made a ward of the state when she was seven.

Alannah and her two siblings were fostered by Jack and Eileen Williams, who cared for a number of foster kids as well as their own children. Her foster parents weren’t well off and Alannah believes they fostered children for the money.

The foster kids were treated like second class citizens in this cruel family environment. They were told to sit cross-legged on a plastic mat rather than sit on the furniture. They were fed inferior food. They were told they were a burden and were given no opportunities to flourish.

Jack Williams would fondle Alannah whenever he got the opportunity, and their son, Connor, who was in his teens when Alannah was seven, sexually abused her, almost on a nightly basis, for the entire seven years of her placement there. The abuse included rape.

Alannah kept a diary and wrote detailed notes of every abuse. Three days before her wardship ended, at the age of 15, the diary ‘conveniently’ went missing. At around that time, Eileen forbade Connor to go down the corridor at night to Alannah’s room. Alannah is convinced her foster mother knew exactly what was going on.

‘I look back on it now and I hate the fact that I never ran away. I hate the fact that I just stayed there.’ Her foster mother always told her that she would be put in a worse home if she ever ran away.

At 15, Alannah returned to her parents. She told them about the abuse but they thought that because it had stopped, Alannah would be okay. ‘They didn’t want to deal with it.’

She then reported it to Dale Taylor, her former case worker, who helped her report it to the police, an experience she described as ‘horrendous’. At first the police felt they didn’t have enough evidence. They then decided that her evidence didn’t match up, and the case was dropped.

Two years later Alannah was contacted by the police who said her evidence did match up after all. The matter proceeded to court. It was around this time that Dale made a confession.

‘The worst and the most insulting thing is, after this came to light … the abuse … he said, “I want to say sorry to you because I could see something in your eyes … and I never took the time”. And he goes, “I feel guilty … I knew about all this. I knew this … There’s stuff I should have done … I just didn’t and I’m sorry” … It might have helped his conscience but it made me feel a thousand times worse.’

During the court process Alannah was unsupported. Instead of giving evidence from a witness room, she had to speak in court, where Connor was smirking at her. She started crying at one point and the judge told her to pull herself together. Alannah was not protected, and saw Connor in the foyer and elsewhere in the court precinct.

Connor was convicted of only two of the charges, involving penetration and indecent assault. He was given a good behaviour bond. Later, Alannah applied for victim of crime compensation and received $3,000.

No one – not the perpetrators, nor anyone in government – has been made accountable for what happened to Alannah. ‘I don’t feel that I’ll be happy until I actually see something done.’ She is now looking at further legal options.

Alannah has struggled with self-worth most of her life. She is certain she will be on anti-depressants for the rest of her life. She has also struggled in relationships, constantly needing validation. She believes that her childhood was taken away from her.

‘I believe that making children a ward of the state is a very big thing. My mum suffered depression. My parents were very wealthy. I had a good home. I lived in a good suburb. But [the government] took me and my [siblings] away from that to put [us] in a home, in a ghetto … What grounds did they think was severe enough? I can’t make peace with that.’

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