‘My mum was in Queensland and she was pregnant to an Aboriginal bloke … In them days, it was hush hush about being with white women, and because the Stolen Generation. So she left Dad, come to Victoria and had me … and [I] was adopted straight away … I found my mum in the last two years … and now [I’m] going through DNA to find out my father’s background.’
Frances was adopted by a wonderful couple in the early 1960s. ‘I loved them. My mother was a saint. She was beautiful. I never had better parents … When I was seven years old, my adopted parents told me I was adopted and it didn’t worry me, but as I get older, I’ve got children now and grandchildren, and [I’d] like to know our heritage.'
When Frances was 12, her adoptive mother had a breakdown, and Frances was placed into a government-run children’s home, supposedly for two months. No one told her that her mother was taking a little longer than expected to get well, so when she wasn’t released after the two months, she began running away.
One of the times she ran away, Frances was raped in a park by five boys. When the police found her on the street, she told them that she had sex with five boys, but not that she’d been raped. She was then sent to a youth training centre.
When she was 15, one of the older girls in her section began to sexually abuse her. Gail was ‘a much older Koori girl who was in the same unit’, and forced Frances to have sex with her at night.
Frances was too scared to tell anyone about Gail, ‘in case they told someone and she bashed me. Scared in case I told someone and it’ll keep on going, just to get me back’.
A staff member found Gail in bed with Frances on one occasion. ‘That scared me. When the night staff came around, they said, “What are you doing in there, Gail? Get in your own room. We catch you in here again, you’re in trouble”. After that, she never came back.’
Before Gail started to sexually abuse her, Frances had seen other girls in bed with each other. ‘A lot of girls used to do it. I didn’t think nothing of it. I was naive. Two girls, I thought. Nothing wrong. Friends.’
For a while, the sexual abuse she experienced at the youth training centre caused Frances to question her sexual identity.
‘It plays on my mind because years later, I had an encounter with another woman. I didn’t like it, but I’ve got my husband now … but if I see a pretty woman … I have tendencies. I look at women, and say they’re beautiful … When I was young and growing up, I had tendencies to go towards girls … and that was because of what Gail done to me.’
Frances witnessed other sexual abuse at the centre. ‘Broom handles and deodorant bottles, putting up girls … I never had that, but I did see it.’ Frances was taken under the wing of the ‘top dog’ of her unit, so she was safe from those types of assaults.
When Frances was in the training centre, she began going to weekly meetings where the children were encouraged to talk about sexual abuse, and because of the rape she experienced in the park, it helped Frances to talk. She was taught how to speak about it, and was then taken to other children’s homes and detention centres to talk to other children about sexual assault.
Frances believes that because she dealt with the rape in the park when she was young, by talking about it to others, she doesn’t need counselling now, but she has sought help from several organisations that support those who are part of the Stolen Generations.
Frances came to the Royal Commission because she wants ‘to know that this doesn’t happen to other children and know they can speak up and be heard and not feel scared’.