Emmy was surprised by the force of childhood memories that came to her when she gave birth to her first child in the 1990s. Clear images of playing at school were accompanied by feelings of distress at what Sister Christina, the Year 2 teacher, had done to her and other children some 30 years earlier.
Sister Christina took children, generally two or three at a time, to an unused room in a secluded part of the Victorian primary school and, after telling them to take their clothes off, made them lie on each other and move around, simulating sex.
Emmy told the Commissioner that on several occasions a man and two boys came into the room while the children were naked. The man gave the students an orange drink which produced immediate changes in their behaviour. He then took photographs of them.
‘I remember him giving me this orange liquid. And I can still smell it. I can still smell the orange liquid. And just laughing and seeing one of the other boys just sort of swaying you know. Like the man would put this scarf around my waist you know and I’d be laughing, and I’d think why am I laughing, you know.’
Looking back, Emmy thought the man might have been a religious Brother or priest, and from an aside one of the boys made about him that ‘he takes us with him’, she had the impression that the boys were from a children’s home.
When memories of the abuse surfaced for Emmy, she sought psychiatric help and managed to piece together the story of what had happened with Sister Christina and the man.
Emmy told the Commissioner that to date she’d spent tens of thousands of dollars on psychiatric care and counselling. But it wasn’t only about the money, she said. What saddened her was the effect the abuse had had on her relationship with her son. ‘The worst part, and this is a terrible thing to say, but when I had to change his nappy, I couldn’t. I had a lot of guilt for a long time let me tell you.’
In the 2010s, Emmy reported the abuse by Sister Christina and the man to Victoria Police. At the time of coming to the Royal Commission she wasn’t sure what, if any, progress had been made on their investigation.