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Drusilla's story

‘I do a lot of artwork ... I do lovely paintings.’

Drusilla grew up in small-town Victoria in the 1960s. Her father was not around a lot. Her mother drank and struggled to look after their large Aboriginal family. Drusilla was sexually abused by her uncle and two aunties.

Her grandmother reported her mother’s drinking to police and, when Drusilla was around 10, she and her siblings were taken to a government-run children’s reception centre in Melbourne. There the staff gave the kids cigarettes to calm them down. Drusilla started a lifetime of smoking and now is suffering severe health problems as a result. Her time at this home created other damaging problems too.

‘There was people used to come to that place. Some of them were old couples too. They could play with us out in the garden and talk to us and play croquet. And I think we had a day leave to go with these people. We went with this old woman and old man. They took me and my friend to their house. Sexual activities with us there … bad people. Then they took us to Ocean Grove and took photos of us with our bathers on and that, and they took all these photos of us. And he used to touch me on the boobs and on the bum and that and things. And my friend.

‘Old people they were. Big flash car … You could see in their eyes they was bad people …

‘He used to feel my hair when I was playing on the piano … fondling … just smiling. And his wife is looking at me too – and my friend … It was like we was in that house and we too scared to go out of the house.’

This abuse happened only on that one day when Drusilla was about 12 years old. She didn’t tell anyone about it.

After about 18 months at the reception centre Drusilla and her siblings were transferred to a children’s home. Drusilla just didn’t want to be there and would run away and hitchhike. When she was 14 they were all returned to their mother.

Drusilla didn’t get much education in her childhood. She also started drinking heavily. ‘Straight from the children’s home, straight back home again … Started off at TAFE but … wagged school, walking along the river and my two aunties, down at the river … they said “Would you like a taste of this?” which was very bad of them. And that’s when I first picked up the wine.’

Drusilla didn’t tell many people about the people who abused her. She never told the police. It’s very likely the people who abused her are dead now. She has received no counselling. She tried to get her file years ago but wasn’t successful. Her sister, however, got hers. In it, Drusilla was upset to read about herself. ‘It said about me “Drusilla’s a very dirty little, grubby girl. She’s a very dirty girl”. But I loved having a bath and I loved that soap on me and that. There was … one old bitch … staff and her name was Mrs Rogers. Everybody hated Rogers … and she wrote that down.’

A few years ago a member of Drusilla’s extended family experienced sexual abuse while in foster care. Drusilla contacted Welfare and her call was never returned. She contacted police who investigated but she said they didn’t care. The children have since been removed from that placement. Drusilla recommends that children in care be monitored more often and not with their foster parents present.

Now, despite living with some severe health problems, Drusilla gains her strength from her art.

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