Evie was born in the late 1980s. Her mother, who was and still is severely drug affected, had once tried to kill her. However, her mother’s girlfriend intervened, and reported her concerns to Welfare who came and removed Evie. As well as this, the man who lived next door had been sexually abusing Evie.
Evie was made a ward of the state around the age of nine, and placed with foster parents, John and Helen Baxter. The Baxters lived in regional Queensland, and had two daughters who did not live with them. It wasn’t long before John Baxter starting sexually abusing Evie.
When welfare workers came to visit, they would sit on the veranda and drink coffee with the Baxters. Evie wasn’t questioned on her own, so she never got a chance to tell her case worker about the abuse. So she tried something else.
‘I wrote her a letter … It just said “I don’t want to live here anymore. Get me out of here”.’
The letter was never acknowledged, and John Baxter continued to abuse Evie until she reached her early teens, threatening to shoot Evie and her mum if she ever told anyone. Evie is certain that Helen Baxter knew about the abuse which only stopped when Evie started playing up at school. She was put into respite care, and was then able to disclose to her caseworker.
Evie worried about the fate of two little sisters who had also been fostered by the Baxters. ‘I was like, “You gotta go get them girls. You gotta go get them girls now!”’
The sisters were removed, and the Baxters lost their foster care licence and their gun licence. The Baxter’s daughters then disclosed that John had been sexually abusing them. John was taken to court but got off on a technicality.
Evie made statements to a policewoman after the abuse came out.
‘She asked questions like, “Did it feel good?” and things like that, which really screwed with my head.’
Mr Baxter was never charged for abusing Evie. ‘That was for me to do and I couldn’t do it.’ She didn’t feel strong enough to be a witness. Evie says that though Mr Baxter is 72 now he should go to jail for what he did. When Evie later went to the police to get hold of the statement she’d made about her foster father, she was told it had been archived.
Unbelievably, after she’d been in a few other placements, Evie was fostered with one of the Baxter’s own daughters.
‘You know what gets me, Commissioner? They stuck me with their daughter, that lived on the same block, less than a year later! … And she’d become a foster carer! How can they let her become a foster carer? After her coming forward after them being carers for 13 years? … He did that when they were kids. How can they let them people become foster carers after withholding that for so long? … It does my head in every day.’
Evie was told that community services had no choice and that no-one else wanted her.
Evie spent six months in jail in her late teens for fighting. She was then moved to a psychiatric ward, suffering extreme anxiety and post-traumatic stress. She lived in the ward until her early 20s. It was where Evie fell pregnant with her daughter Sarah, who’s now almost four.
She is now bringing Sarah up as a single parent. When Evie was asked if Sarah was one of the reasons why she wanted to tell her story to the Royal Commission, Evie said, ‘I was like, I just didn’t want to live … I died four times from overdoses … And I had Sarah and it was like, mate, I better protect this kid. Not let nothin’ happen to her’.
Evie is determined to be a good mother. But her past is a challenge. ‘I’ve had all these shit people show me all the wrong ways. Now I have to do it. It’s really hard.’
Steps are now being taken so that Evie can make a statement to the police about John Baxter and to get the services she needs to help raise her daughter.
Evie’s final advice to the Commission was, ‘Your system to get foster parents definitely needs to change’.