Elise Catherine's story

Elise’s mother ‘had mental health problems. That’s why she couldn’t look after me, I believe’, so she was made a ward of the state in Queensland in the late 1960s.

Elise hasn’t seen her records, but she believes she was initially placed in a Catholic children’s home when she was quite young. She lived there until she was about 10, and was then sent to another home, where she stayed until she was 16. At the second home she was under the care of a four different sets of house parents.

While she lived at the two homes, Elise also had ‘holiday parents, I used to call them. I don’t know what they were officially called’. These were families she stayed with during school holidays and on weekends.

A neighbour of the family she stayed with when she was 10 had a pool, and Elise used to play in it with other children. Elise told the Commissioner that the neighbour started grooming her, paying her lots of attention and picking her up and throwing her around in the pool. On one occasion, the man’s hands went ‘where they should not have been’.

Elise didn’t think much about the sexual abuse, but her house mother noticed that she was not herself, and asked what had happened. Elise told her, and she never went back to the holiday parents’ house again.

‘I think I was lucky and someone obviously did do something because I didn’t go back to that family. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to them. And I always felt a bit of guilt about that actually, because I never got to discuss it with them … but I was lucky not to go back to them, because something bad could have happened … I was lucky.’

Years later, Elise remembers ‘coming across [the holiday parents’] phone number and ringing them because I wanted to hear their voice, so it definitely impacted … but how do you tell how much? I don’t know how I would have ended up being without that incident. I think I’ve ended up okay, but I think a lot of that is I have okay survival instincts’.

Elise told the Commissioner, ‘I must admit I’m terrible at relationships … I’ll probably never get married and never have kids … but whether that’s partly to do with [the sexual abuse], or just growing up in a home where you don’t have … people that sort of care about you, so you don’t really form normal relationships’.

Elise told the Commissioner that as a ‘home kid’ she felt that boys outside of the children’s home treated her as an easy target, and she lost her virginity when she had just turned 13. ‘That boy, basically I had sex with him and that was the last I saw of him.’

Another boy who had sex with Elise was a friend of the youngest pair of house parents. ‘They were hopeless. Out of the four [couples] I remember looking after us, I’d have to say, they weren’t very good at their job.’

Elise believes that these house parents must have known that she was having sex because, ‘one time I went out and I came back … I had [a sarong] on and I went out and that was laid on the ground and I came back and that was covered in [semen]. It was definitely very obvious. It was ignored …

‘I suppose it would have been nice if someone had noticed and said, “No, that can’t happen”, but yeah … I wasn’t doing it because I enjoyed it. I was a very timid child … easily influenced and just went with the flow.’

Elise told the Commissioner, ‘All I wanted to do was finish being a home kid. All I wanted to do was finish high school, get an education … [I] blocked everything else out’.

Although she has had issues with anger and depression in the past, Elise feels that she’s coped better than a lot of others who grew up in homes. She completed a university degree, is financially independent, and has established a successful, long-term career.

Elise decided to come forward to the Royal Commission, ‘so you get a full picture of what went on. A better picture of the whole scale of it, I guess. It doesn’t always have to be the worst, as in someone being raped or whatever. Lots of things impact people’s lives’.

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