‘They took away all my brothers, all my sisters. They broke my family and they should never ever, ever, be allowed to do that, but they are still doing it to families, separating the kids. The kids aren’t allowed to see each other, the grandparents aren’t allowed to see the kids because of their say so. Who gives them the right? It’s not fair.’
After she was found wandering the streets as a toddler, Andreanna was made a ward of the state of Victoria. She’d been left by her mother in the care of an aunt but the aunt refused to mind her. Andreanna had already been sexually assaulted by her father and he’d been charged and convicted over the assault.
She was sent to an orphanage and Andreanna spent the next several years believing her mother was dead. She’d been told so by the Sisters of Nazareth nuns and only the chance finding of a letter one day when she was doing chores in the office told her otherwise.
In the early 1970s when she was about six years old, Andreanna’s father visited the orphanage and was given access to see her alone. During his brief visit he again sexually assaulted her.
Andreanna told two of the nuns but they didn’t believe her. ‘They told me I was a dirty rotten filthy little liar and they never did nothing.’
Andreanna described her life at the orphanage as terrible. Children were fed porridge and tomato soup for months at a time, and anyone who wet the bed was made to parade in front of others with their sheets and underpants on their head. She was locked in a sewing room as punishment and hit for using her dominant left hand and Andreanna at times had trouble walking because she’d been beaten so much.
When Andreanna later returned to her mother’s care, she was sexually abused by her stepfather. She ran away and was placed in foster care and again ran away after the father in the house tried to rape her. At one stage she was admitted to a juvenile remand centre and subjected to an invasive medical examination. She had one good foster care experience and the family had tried to adopt her but were not given permission.
Andreanna described continued feelings of mistrust in the world. She still had nightmares about her childhood and the treatment she’d received from adults. ‘The damage that they’ve done to me psychologically and emotionally, mentally, physically is just you know, it should never have been allowed.’
As an adult she fought welfare workers who at different times had deemed her unable to look after her children, and she knew others who’d battled for custody of their children and grandchildren.
‘You don’t know who to believe and who to trust so you end up pretty much not trusting anybody and basically it’s a fight for survival. And my way of surviving these days pretty much is the outside world you’ve got to ignore, because I’m more than happy enough to live in my own little world with my home, with my husband and my puppies and the kids come and go whenever they want. All my kids have keys to the house … because I don’t answer my door.’
Andreanna described ongoing battles she had with health professionals and others who didn’t understand her or her difficulties.
‘The damage has been so ingrained that you know, it’s like being put in a situation where you have a spider land on your face – it’s not something you ever forget. And a few spiders is something you always live with and it’s part of the damage of what my life has been, but now it’s just that it comes down to taking each day as it comes and that’s all. One day at a time and yeah, but just not sweet Jesus on the end of it, because he ain’t.’