During the first few years of her life, Dee Ann was raped by members of her family. ‘My grandmother, her boys raped me … She’d be driving the car while they were raping me on the back seat … The boys were AFL players. We’d be going to their football games and that, and they’d be raping me, and I just couldn’t understand how my grandmother couldn’t have seen that.’
Dee Ann said that DOCS were called more than 30 times. ‘They were informed I was in moral danger, but at no stage was I taken from my mother until I was four years, and by that time I had been raped repetitively … I don’t understand how DOCS just left me like that.’
Dee Ann was made a ward of the state in the mid-1980s, and placed with non-Indigneous foster parents Jack and Shirley. Jack treated Dee Ann ‘really, really well’, and she remembers him with great fondness. ‘If I hadn’t lived with that man for the time that I did, I don’t think that I’d be alive … He was a gentleman. Nothing but … I know I’ve called hundreds of women “Mum”, but that’s my dad, you know’.
Dee Ann’s relationship with her foster mother was troubled. ‘I wasn’t the little girl she expected. She couldn’t put me in a tutu, or take me to ballet and that. I just wasn’t like that.’ She took Dee Ann to doctors who put her on dexamphetamine for ADHD, restricted her diet and gave her school lunches she couldn’t eat, and told her school principal that she had stolen money.
Dee Ann ran away, but was intercepted by the police. ‘My mother was Jekyll and Hyde, you know. Like, in front of the police, she was the perfect woman, but the minute I got home …’
Dee Ann told DOCS that she didn’t want to live there anymore. ‘It was the worst mistake of my life’, she said. ‘The way it was put to me was that the laws had changed with DOCS … If you were of an Aboriginal background, you couldn’t be put in the care of sole white foster carers. One of them had to be Indigenous.’ Jack applied unsuccessfully for custody, and Dee Ann came under the care of the Aboriginal Children’s Service in central New South Wales.
Overnight, Dee Ann found herself living with a large Aboriginal family ‘out in the middle of the country’. Water came from a bore, milk came from a goat, and clothes smelt of smoke because they were dried in front of a fire. ‘We had so many kids coming and going from that house … There was like marijuana plants growing in the back shed … I honestly couldn’t believe they just left me there.’
An old man who lived there tried to molest her. ‘The old man that she had living with her, that was feeding her animals and that, like there’s 30 dogs at this house, and pigs … and they weren’t looked after, there were too many kids to look after, you know. And he also tried to rape me … When I spoke out about it, it was like I just wasn’t being listened to.’ One of boys in the family also tried to rape her. Again, when she spoke out, her foster mother wouldn’t believe her.
Jack would come to visit Dee Ann, and was upset with the conditions she had to live in. ‘I honestly believe he died of a broken heart,’ she said.
Her next foster parents were drinkers who would ‘go out all night, and come home at like three o’clock in the morning’. She remembers getting blamed when their kids were caught stealing, and being physically abused by the foster father. On one occasion, when she revenge-punched one of their kids, the foster father ‘pulled me down the stairs by my feet, and he smashed my head on the stairs’. On another occasion, ‘he put me in a lunging yard, like a round yard for horses, and whipped me. Like, I just couldn’t understand how someone could be like that’.
After she left care, Dee Ann said that ‘I pretty much just found my own way’. The first people she moved in with gave her heroin and marijuana. She then lived with ‘people that I considered to be mother and father figures to me, but they were nothing … I probably thought at the time they loved me … They didn’t love me. I had to thieve to survive’.
In her 20s, Dee Ann discovered that she had many aunties she had never met. She asked herself, ‘Why is there no women in this family?’ The ‘only logical answer’ seemed to be that her grandmother had adopted them out to stop them from being raped by male relatives.
Dee Ann has ‘bad trust issues’, sleeps better in a jail than in her own home, and can’t get passed the hate she has for her mother. She doesn’t understand how her mother could just replace her with another baby and forget her. ‘Their excuse is, “Oh well, it was done to your mother … How can you blame her?” … That’s no excuse. It’s really not. If it was done to you, why would you do it to somebody else?’
Dee Ann began speaking about her experience a few years ago when she disclosed to a priest. She will never tell her grandmother about being raped by her uncles. ‘I honestly believe she’d die,’ she said.
Dee Ann is receiving counselling in prison, and is due for release in the coming months. She has no plans as yet. ‘I haven’t got anything that’s certain.’