Dorothy Joan's story

Dorothy and her siblings grew up in Western Australia in the late 1940s. When their mother left the family and the children remained with their father, a neighbour must have reported them to the Child Welfare Department. One Saturday morning, when their father was at work, they were taken by the police to a receiving home. It was only when their father reported them missing that evening that he was told where they were.

The receiving home ‘was a terrible place’ and Dorothy felt very protective of her siblings. ‘They had really nasty people in there and they’d try to fight you and whatever, and I’d stick up for them … or I’d try to protect them. That was my greatest thing, to stop them from getting hurt.’

After living at the receiving centre for a while, the children were made wards of the state, and sent to an Anglican children’s home. ‘I ran away three times. And it was only because I had it in my head that I’m going home and I’m going to clean the house and then Dad and I are going to … bring the children home … just wanted to bring everybody home.’

After three or four years, Dorothy’s mother returned and took the other children to live with her. Dorothy stayed at the home from the age of 12 until she was 17, when she went to live with some friends of her grandmother, a couple who were very good to her.

At first Dorothy lived in a cottage with house parents who treated the children quite well. She only saw the superintendent, Mr Kingston, at meal times and when she was in trouble, ‘which was quite a few times’. Dorothy told the Commissioner, ‘I used to hate him. I tell you, I hated him with a vengeance. And this is before anything happened’.

The last time she ran away from the children’s home, Mr Kingston picked her up and asked her why she kept running away. ‘And I just said the first thing that came into my mind. I said, “Well, I don’t want to go to school”.’ When he asked her what she did want to do, she told him that she wanted to be a mothercraft nurse. Several days later she moved into the cottage where the children under four years old lived.

Dorothy had slept in a dormitory in the first cottage, but now had a room of her own. Mr Kingston used to make his nightly rounds with a torch, and soon after she moved in, he appeared at her door and entered her room. This was the first of many times he molested her over a number of years. ‘It didn’t happen all the time … Oh, I don’t even know … There was never a pattern … It was just whenever he showed up.’ At one stage she asked the cottage parents, ‘Could I have somebody else? I can share my room … but no, no’.

Dorothy felt there was no one she could tell about the abuse. There was nobody higher than the superintendent, so ‘there was nobody I could go to because they worked for him and … as far as I could tell, you know, even with the cottage parents, he was a very strict man, very strict’.

As an adult Dorothy thinks that there’s ‘one thing that’s stayed with me all my life. One thing. That any trouble, I run away … If I couldn’t face up to things, I would just go’. Dorothy never thought that the abuse had a huge impact on her life, but ‘it wasn’t until later on when you have children of your own and you think, geez, you know, what he did was wrong. I was only a child. I was a teenager, but I’ve got a … granddaughter now, and if I thought that if anybody laid a hand on her … sometimes I look at her and I think, well, this is what I was’.

Dorothy was awarded a small amount of compensation through Redress WA, and she told the Commissioner that the money ‘made me feel worse … I thought, “Why did I go through that, for that?” … Honest to God, I didn’t want it. I just thought, to put that on what I went through … I’d rather have donated it to [the children’s home]’.

Dorothy’s husband knows she was in the children’s home, but she hasn’t revealed the abuse to him because it’s ‘painful, but it’s also … it makes you feel ashamed. It’s degrading. I don’t want to tell anybody’.

Dorothy told the Commissioner that it was only later in life that she realised that what Mr Kingston did to her was a crime. ‘Life has been good, and it’s only at times when you think about it, only ’cause, you know, I now know that that was wrong, you know … I’ve told you … and I’ve told the Redress, so people who are going to help do know. Nobody else has to know.’

Dorothy came to the Royal Commission because ‘I think that … it should be known. It has to be told … To me, I just feel as though everybody should know, but I don’t want to tell anybody … I don’t want it from me, but … I would hate to see a child going through … There’s no love, there’s no trust … and I would hate if I thought that my children had to be brought up in something like that’.

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