Enid and her siblings were removed from their parents in the early 1960s, when she was four years old. She was placed with one of her sisters in the dormitories of an Aboriginal mission the government ran, a few hours’ drive from Brisbane.
Life in the dormitories was harsh. From the time Enid got there she was made to scrub floors until her knees bled. Half a century later, she still has orthopaedic issues from this work. Physical punishment was frequent and severe, and she remembers being hit over the head with heavy metal pots.
When Enid was seven, there was a man at the mission whose job was to fire up the boiler to heat water. ‘During that time, at the boiler there, he’d drag me in. That’s when he started interfering with me. He didn’t put it in me, but he was just fiddling with me, and he was also pulling himself off.’
This abuse happened four or five times. The man ordered her not to tell anyone, and she didn’t talk about it until many years later. ‘I used to pee the bed every night in the donga, and then I used to lay next to my sister.’ When her sister became ill and was sent away, Enid was all alone.
At nine years of age, Enid told her father she did not want to stay at the dormitory, but did not disclose the abuse. She then went to live with her nanna. While she was there her uncle ‘fiddled with me too’.
‘Nanna found out. She seen what he tried to do to me.’ Her grandmother then spoke to relatives about it. ‘That’s when they ended up getting my mother to come out there and pick me up.’
Enid went to live on the farm that employed her mother. ‘That was good. It was freedom for me.’ She worked on the farm, and went to school too.
When Enid was 16 she started self-harming, including cutting. None of the adults in her life questioned her about this behaviour. She attempted suicide a number of times, including overdosing on sleeping pills and trying to jump off a bridge. ‘I should of spoke to somebody sooner, than trying to kill myself and hurt myself.’
Around this time she left the farm and moved to the city, and started working in factories. She eventually became a childcare worker, and has now retired. ‘I was lucky to find jobs, and keep my mind occupied.’
Enid told the Royal Commission that she had significant issues with anger, and problems with alcohol and other drugs. ‘I started hitting the booze ... I used to drink heaps, just trying to forget it, block it out.’
A lot of anger would come out when she was drunk, and this impacted on her relationships with family. She has cut her drinking down considerably since, with help from her husband. ‘I control it now, yeah, ‘cause of my husband ... Sometimes we don’t have drinks through the week, just on the weekends.’
The abuse is always on Enid’s mind. ‘It took me a long time to talk about it, but it was just there all the time. And it still is. And it won’t go away. The only time it will go away is when I’m dead, six feet under.’
Enid has engaged in some counselling. ‘I did tell them all, but you still can’t get it out, it’s still there’. She has disclosed the abuse to friends from her dormitory in later years, and her husband.
‘He just started swearing, you know, and then crying. And then he hugged me and everything. I’m always safe with my husband.’
After making an application to a state government redress scheme, Enid received a small amount of compensation. She was not given any opportunity to speak privately with anyone from the scheme, and did not identify the sexual abuse on the redress form. Due to her financial circumstances at the time, she was grateful for the money, but considered it to be ‘bribery’ by the government.
Enid’s sister Cathy, who came with her to the Royal Commission, did not know about the abuse until then. Hearing her story, Cathy gained a better understanding of Enid’s pain and anger.
Both Enid and Cathy worry about what is happening in the area where they grew up, with its lack of employment opportunities and increasing drug use. Cathy pointed out that although people recognise the need to protect kids, ‘they probably don’t have the coping skills if they were abused themselves’.