Daisy's story

Daisy can only just remember living on the Aboriginal reserve, in the Western Australian wheatbelt, when she was really small. The Native Welfare people used to visit with the police to take kids from their families, so the kids would be told to run and hide in the bushes.

In the early 1960s, when Daisy was three years old, she and her siblings were removed from their parents. She was made a state ward and sent to a Methodist mission with her younger brothers, and the older children were placed elsewhere.

Daisy told the Royal Commission about the sexual assaults she experienced at the mission. ‘Carers or older boys sexually abused me after I was made a ward, and from a very young age. I was too frightened to tell anyone that I was being sexually abused. I did not really know what was happening to me.

‘I would be taken into the bushes and vaginally penetrated. It happened several times. I remember I was bleeding from my vagina and went to the cottage mother. I do not recall getting any medical attention. This was long before I started to menstruate.’

Daisy began experiencing panic attacks and nightmares, and ‘hearing noises in my head’ as a result of this abuse. ‘That’s when I started getting all them things in my head, the stiffness of my body, just going into stiffness. I can hear myself screaming, but no one else can’t hear me ... Even today, still happens to me.’

The mission was a harsh place in other ways too. ‘We had to chop wood, polish floorboards, do laundry, polish cutlery and silverware, and make sure there was hot water. We had little opportunity to be children.’

Daisy was often caned, and was horsewhipped as punishment for running away. She remembers being hospitalised a few times, but cannot remember why. Despite her own troubles, ‘I was more worried about my brothers, the two younger ones’.

Sometimes Daisy’s mother could get permission from the mission’s superintendent to take the children out, until she ‘passed away during the time I was with her on holidays, through domestic violence’. Her older siblings attended her mother’s funeral, but she didn’t even know who they were. Her father also died whilst she was living at the mission.

Daisy had trouble concentrating on her studies, and ‘I could barely read and write even in high school. I have learnt later’. After leaving the mission in her early teens, she was sent to a hostel for Aboriginal girls in the city.

‘I thought to myself, when I got 13 or whatever, where am I going to go? Who am I going to be, or what am I going to be?’ She started to look for her relatives, ‘but still today I’m still finding out who my family is’.

‘I had no contact with older siblings until I was about 16, when I was allowed to leave the hostel. I remained a ward, but lived on the streets for several months ... I had no idea how to fend for myself.’

Not many of her siblings are alive today. She finds it hard to communicate with some of her extended family because she was denied the chance to learn her language and culture growing up.

Daisy got into a relationship when she was still very young, and had children. Without family of her own to help her, or any support from Native Welfare, she came to live with her partner’s family.

‘I suffered domestic violence from my late partner, and spent a lot of time in refuges with my children. I did not have family to help, and suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse for about 20 years.’

Although Daisy was very protective of her children, her daughters all ended up in violent relationships too. This resulted in some of her grandkids being taken away, even after the perpetrators of this violence were sent to prison. ‘This is the second Stolen Generation ... What’s going to happen to them? Is it going to be the same thing over and over again?’

Housing has been an ongoing problem for Daisy, and made it harder to keep her family together. When she had government housing she was looking after many of her grandchildren, but lost of care of them after being evicted.

Her love for her children and grandchildren keeps her going, and she is determined to keep assisting them any way she can. ‘I dream of winning lotto and keeping them all safe on a big property.’

While her kids know she was at the mission, she only tells them ‘the good part ... I tell them all the good things’.

Daisy made an application to a state redress scheme some years ago. She did not disclose the sexual abuse at the mission, so only received a small amount of compensation (‘I was very insulted by this meagre and mean payment’). As part of the redress process, Daisy received an apology from the state. ‘Why the apology now? Bit late.’

She has never had counselling, although she has considered it. ‘I don’t want to go through that, I’ll just do it on my own.’ She worries too, that accessing counselling might affect her chances of getting custody of her grandchildren again.

It was not until very recently that Daisy was able to tell anyone about the sexual abuse, and disclosed to a worker at an Aboriginal community advocacy service. Since starting to talk about it, ‘I feel a little bit better ... But I’m going through that thing of hearing the voices again, but now I know myself how to control it and get past that stage’.

As she tells her grandchildren, ‘I’m a strong woman. And I always will be’.

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