Dolores was born in regional New South Wales in the mid-1950s, before her family relocated to inner-city Sydney. Her childhood was not easy and included being sexually abused by various cousins. Her father was a violent alcoholic, who viciously beat everyone in the household.
Having both white and Aboriginal parentage, she was treated as an ‘Aboriginal outcast’. When Dolores was around 13, she and her siblings were removed from their parents. She can't understand why this didn’t happen much earlier, as their environment was so obviously violent.
Dolores was charged with being uncontrollable and was made a state ward. This charge was offensive to her, as she did not understand the legal nature of the term and felt it was a judgment about her behaviour. It did not appear to take into account the circumstances that led to the making of the order. It seemed that ‘they blamed us. We were the victims.’
Dolores was placed in a Church of England girls’ home.
‘They were beautiful church people, I know they were lovely to me. They clothed me, they fed me.’ Despite feeling safer than with her family, she ran away with another girl. ‘I felt fine there [at the home]. And I don’t know why I left.’
They met up with some boys her friend knew and went to a house with them. Dolores was raped by these boys, while her friend was in the room. When they returned to the girls’ home she was too scared to tell anyone what had happened.
She was then placed in a government-run training facility, in Sydney’s north-west. This place was much worse than the girls’ home and the staff were ‘rude and abusive’. If one of the girls did something wrong, they would all be taken outside and made to scrub bricks with a toothbrush in the middle of the night.
Dolores lived in fear of being sexually assaulted by two older residents. These girls would regularly insert a hairbrush into the vaginas of other girls while Dolores watched. ‘They used to accept it – or they were scared, too. I don’t know.’ She did not ever feel safe at this centre, and could not sleep at night for worrying what might happen to her.
After leaving care, Dolores did not speak about these experiences for a long time. She has tried engaging a law firm in relation to compensation, but has not heard any news for a while. She has obtained a copy of her ward file, but has not yet made a report to police.
The circumstances of Dolores’s early family life, and the abuse she encountered while in care, have caused her continuing distress. After Dolores and her siblings were removed, her mother stayed with her father. ‘She was too scared. She stayed with him forever.’
Recently, Dolores has sought the help of a psychic to make contact with her deceased parents. She feels that she should forgive her father, but cannot bring herself to do so. ‘They say you’ve got to forgive to get on with life. I’ve tried. But that one man, I can’t.’
Dolores told the Royal Commission about her marriage, and about being a mother and grandmother. She met her husband while in her late teens. He knows what happened to her when she was young, and is very supportive, having also experienced sexual abuse as a child.
She chooses to focus on the positive aspects of her life since leaving care. She has always worked hard and kept herself busy. At 60, Dolores is embarking on qualifications in the community services field.
Dolores enjoys her work at a home for people living with disabilities. ‘I love my job ... This is my path in life, to give back.’ She loves cooking too, and is a dab hand at pickles, chutneys and relishes – ‘That’s my therapy’.