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Cordelia Grace's story

Cordelia and her siblings were removed from their parents’ care in the early 1960s, and over a two year period, they lived in different children’s homes in Western Australia.

Made wards of the state, Cordelia and her brother were first placed in a Catholic children’s home before being moved to a foster care placement with Mr and Mrs Sampson.

Cordelia described the Sampsons as cold and cruel. She and her brother were given a single apple each to take to school for lunch and had barely more than rags to wear as clothing. The Sampson were both violent and they spent the allocated government allowance only on their own children.

‘The mum would say, “The kiddies don’t want lunch, they can wait”. When [the welfare] left she’d give her kids tea and they’d serve us the scraps out the back.’

Over a period of four years, Cordelia was sexually abused by Mr Sampson. She was forced to take off her clothes while he took pornographic photos of her. He’d insert objects in her vagina and make her pose in provocative ways. On several occasions, he touched her and forced her to masturbate him.

Cordelia didn’t tell anyone about what Sampson was doing because she was afraid of him and his wife, and she didn’t fully understand what was happening. There were times when she wanted to tell her case worker, but Mrs Sampson made sure she was never left alone with her.

In the mid-1960s when she was 15, Cordelia was removed from the Sampson’s care. For some reason Cordelia was blamed when the Sampsons’ daughter became pregnant. Separated from her brother, Cordelia moved to another house close by and got a job at a local café.

‘I felt I had to do something myself. Nothing was going to happen if I waited around for someone else. Nobody would have helped.’

In her late teens, Cordelia moved back in with her mother, but didn’t disclose the abuse to her. Having never had the opportunity to finish her education, Cordelia felt enormous barriers to being able to establish and sustain a career.

Throughout her adult years, Cordelia has been unable to trust people. She has had a number of health problems because of the physical abuse she experienced, and relationships have been difficult for her. She still hates having her photograph taken.

Cordelia first disclosed details of the abuse to a counsellor in the late 2000s. She hadn’t reported Sampson to police. Through Redress WA she received a compensation payment, but said that the money didn’t mean much.

Cordelia still doesn’t know what happened to the photographs Sampson took of her. In the early 2000s she found out that one of the Sampson children was still living in the house, but going back wasn’t something she wanted to contemplate.

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