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Eileen Mary's story

It was the late 1960s after their mother became unwell and their father passed away when Eileen and her siblings were taken into care, and made state wards until adulthood.

Eileen was four years old. When she was admitted to the Anglican children’s home in Brisbane, ‘my hair was down to my bottom ... Two nuns held me down, while another nun put a bowl on my head, and they cut my hair off, right above my ears’.

After this, ‘I used to get bullied because of my hair. The girls wouldn’t play with me because I looked like a boy, and the boys wouldn’t play with me because I didn’t look like a girl’. Almost 50 years later, she still becomes anxious when visiting the hairdresser.

When she was five she was sent to stay at her mother’s place for a holiday. Her oldest brother Adam was there, and she had to sleep next to him.

‘During that night, he forced me to perform oral sex on him ... Afterwards I just spewed my guts up, and couldn’t stop spewing, because of the result of it. And of course, over my lifetime that has impacted on my life a lot, especially with relationships.’

Back at the home, the nuns were very cruel to all of the children. Eileen does not remember ever being visited by a case worker, even though she was a ward of the state.

There was no proper medical care for the kids. Every night, they would be made to wash their mouths out with saltwater, to try and prevent infections. This ruined their tooth enamel, and Eileen has many fillings because of it.

When Eileen got mumps, she was locked in a room on her own for two weeks, only seeing her sister when she brought her meals – ‘no toys, no colouring books, no nothing. I get afraid of being on my own’.

At eight years old, Eileen was released back into her mother’s care. Adam lived with them, and she avoided him as much as possible.

‘I dodged him for the next two years of my life, until he got a girlfriend, from trying to molest me again. So I could not relax at home. I could not sleep at night for fear that he was going to come into my room. ‘Cause he had, he’d come into my room to try and molest my older sister.’

Eileen and her siblings were never visited by a social worker while living back with their mother, even though they were still state wards. Her mother ‘knew what was going on, but she did nothing to stop it. She knew’.

After her mother had ‘a nervous breakdown ... she left us with Adam and his wife. And they were just cruel to us. I ended up going and living with a friend, and paying my way. I had to go and walk the streets, as a child prostitute, to support myself. And I was still a ward of the state, but I didn’t know that ... I feel my childhood was stolen from me. That’s something I can never get back’.

Later on she found that Adam had sexually abused her sisters, and his own daughter, and even their mother. ‘My mum admitted that he used to molest her as well, like try and get in bed with her and have sex with her.’ He now has a terminal illness – ‘the sooner he dies the better, I think’.

Eileen dropped out of school in Year 8, but continued her education as an adult. She lives with agoraphobia, which has left her unable to work and impacted heavily on her day to day activities. Despite seeing her doctor about this, she has never engaged with any counselling.

‘For years and years and years I kept this to myself. And it’s only since my children have become adults that I’ve let it out, that that’s what happened to me, so they understood ... I just like to stay at home all the time, and I’ve been like that for years ... I thought when I was a child, it was just being shy.’

Eileen also experiences anxiety and depression, and has issues with trust and relationships. When her kids were growing up, she was very protective of them. ‘They used to get annoyed with me, ‘cause they felt like I wrapped them in cotton wool.’ Eventually, when they were older, she disclosed the abuse to them.

One of her daughters supported her when she spoke to the Commissioner, and said she had missed out on doing normal activities with her mum, like shopping or going to movies. Now she understands about Eileen’s childhood experiences, she understands why Eileen was unable to do these things. Eileen is now a grandmother, and spoke about the happiness she feels when she is with her grandkids.

She has never reported to police or taken any civil action, but is now keen to seek legal advice about her options. A couple of her siblings received compensation through a state government inquiry, but she did not know about this at the time. When she heard about the Royal Commission, ‘I thought well now it’s my chance, to get this story out. And let people know I was abused as well’.

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