Denise Michelle's story

Denise never understood why she and her siblings were taken away from their family in Western Australia in the mid-1970s, and placed in a Catholic children’s home. Denise was about eight when she was made a ward of the state, and remained in care until she was 16.

‘These do-gooders think they know everything, but my grandmother wanted her grandkids … the welfare had more control.’

As part of the Stolen Generation, the ‘welfare, they’ve never given me a reason why I was taken away … No one just didn’t give a shit. Just chuck ‘em in a plane and chuck ‘em in a home’.

Denise told the Commissioner, ‘It was a terrible abuse of welfare, but they just placed us Indigenous kids wherever they want to, thinking that we’re safe. But I wasn’t safe’, because the ‘welfare wasn’t doing their job properly’.

After a short stay in the children’s home, the nun in charge told Denise that she was going on a holiday. But instead she was taken ‘on a little plane ride’ and placed in another home, a long way from her siblings.

‘She’s a nun and nuns aren’t supposed to lie.’ Denise told the Commissioner, she felt ‘like a nobody’s child. You know, no one didn’t want me anymore … Dropped with strangers, a long way from home’.

When she was about nine, Denise was fostered by Mr and Mrs Morgan. Their 15-year-old son Trevor would go into Denise’s room when she was asleep, or encourage her to come into his room. On two occasions, Trevor raped her. Denise, ‘blanked most of it out … I was only a little girl and a lot of shit has happened over my adult life, you know. But that Trevor Morgan did rape me. They called it molestation in them days, but nowadays it’s rape. And another thing, too … that’s carnal knowledge … a big crime’.

When Denise went home to visit her family, she told them what had happened, but ‘they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know where to go. They didn’t know who to tell’. Denise is unsure whether she told her welfare officer, or if her family did report the abuse to welfare, but she was removed from the foster home, and sent to another children’s home.

Denise has been fighting unsuccessfully for years to obtain her welfare file because she believes it will help her with the claim for compensation she intends to pursue. She told the Commissioner that ‘the welfare … made me a very outspoken person I suppose. Yeah, I don’t take no shit, you know, and because of the simple fact of what happened in my childhood and … it still affects me … I’ll never give up … I’m going to fight for compensation because I do believe I am entitled to it’.

‘I grew up mixed up, angry, confused … it affected me all my life. It still affects me, to this day … Why me? Why was I taken? I want a bit of closure … I think I’m entitled to that, to I guess, put my mind at ease.’

Denise is an alcoholic and is unable to work.

‘I use alcohol as my medicine. At the end of the day, it’s still there. Nothing can take away the pain, the memory, you know. I compensate with my drinking. I don’t do drugs. I’m an alcoholic … I’m angry.’
Denise suffers from low self-esteem and has always felt unworthy, seeing herself as ‘just a sexual object, I suppose’.

Several weeks before she came to the Royal Commission, Denise received a disturbing phone call from Trevor Morgan’s sister, offering her $20,000 if she didn’t get on the plane to attend her private session. ‘And I said “Try 50” … but I said, “Sorry, but no amount of money is going to stop me from getting on that plane, because I suffered at the hands of your brother. No amount of money can bring back my innocent past, my little girl past”.’

Denise has no idea how Trevor Morgan’s sister was able to find out her unlisted mobile phone number, or how she knew that Denise was going to attend the Royal Commission. She is now fearful that the Morgan family could find out where she lives and turn up on her doorstep to threaten her.

‘It’s taken me all these years … to finally be able to air my childhood and finally getting the chance for people to take note and listen now, and to do whatever legal action that can be possibly done, because as we say, it’s never too late.’

‘I wasn’t listened to, you know. I tried to explain to my welfare officers what was going on. I told family … “She’s just a mixed-up girl” or whatever, you know … They let me down bigtime, Commissioner’.

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