Soon after her birth in the 1950s, Dorothy was removed from her family and, along with several of her brothers, placed in an Aboriginal Methodist Children’s Home in Western Australia. One of her brothers, Malcolm, started sexually abusing Dorothy when she was 10 years old, but although she reported the repeated incidents to staff at the home, she was never believed.
Throughout her life, Dorothy attempted to take her own life numerous times, including three weeks prior to telling her story when she’d broken a wine bottle and swallowed shards of glass. Malcolm had ruined her life, she said, and even though he was dead, she couldn’t get the abuse out of her mind.
Dorothy told the Commissioner that the sexual abuse stopped when she told her other older brother, Les, about Malcolm’s abuse. Les beat Malcolm up, and Malcolm was moved out of the home. When Dorothy was 20, Malcolm found her and raped her at knife point, threatening to kill her. She reported that assault to police who laid charges against Malcolm, and the court awarded Dorothy $5,000 compensation.
At the age of 12, Dorothy left the children’s home and stayed for a short time in a girls’ hostel. The following years were marked by living on the street interspersed with periods of insecure and transient accommodation. She married and had five children, all of whom were removed from her care. Dorothy was angry that as adults her sons and daughters only had an interest in her money on pay day. She said they stole and hocked her possessions and had caused her eviction from numerous rental properties. The $45,000 ex-gratia payment she had received from the Western Australian Redress Scheme disappeared in two weeks, taken by her children.
Limited employment opportunities involved Dorothy working as a cleaner and stable hand, but the jobs were usually short-lived. Her health was poor due to her many episodes of self-harm, her mental and physical ailments and her long history of alcohol abuse. She found some comfort in painting art works and playing the guitar, and cited a belief in God as an important part of her life. Currently homeless, Dorothy had recently connected with staff of an Anglican organisation who were working to secure safe housing for her. Her wish, she said, was to get away from her family and find peace somewhere, just her and her dog. ‘Somewhere to live, somewhere nice. That is my dream.’