Gillian Alice's story

‘I remember getting in the police van. The police come and picked us up … We was happy-go-lucky on the train … not the first ride, [the] second ride, and we didn’t know that we was never gonna see our mother and father … I was 13.’

Gillian and her siblings were taken from their country town in New South Wales in the early 1970s, and placed in reception centres in Sydney. ‘As we were getting towards the Blue Mountains … we had one government blanket on. We froze like bloody hell. We had no shoes, nothing … We had to share one government blanket and newspaper.’

After being held in the reception centre for a short while, she and her sisters were transferred to a government-run girls’ home. There was a nurse at the home who was a ‘very evil person … God, she hated me … with a passion’.

Gillian told the Commissioner that the girls were worked very hard at the home. ‘We were just slaves, working in the laundry, kitchen. I hated it. I didn’t know when I first went there, what potato peelers do … [The nurse] insulted me, and I got the hang of it then.’

Gillian’s youngest sister was always being punished by the head of the children’s home. He would drag her down the hallway and lock her in a ‘dark room’. Gillian could hear her crying out to her, ‘Help, help’.

When Gillian finally became tired of hearing her sister’s cries, she deliberately played up, in order to be punished. ‘I done it for a good reason, to protect my sister being abused all the time … I had a lot of chances to run away, but who’s going to look after the younger ones? I had to … I played up, and I’m proud that I played up.’

When the sisters were released from the girls’ home, her sister said to their mother, ‘“Mum, you’re not my mum. Gillian’s my mum”. I felt proud of that’.

When Gillian was 17, she and five or six of the other girls from the home were taken by bus into the city for a job interview. ‘There was a big old fat fellow … He had shiny boots, shorts. He had long socks up to his knees.’

The man asked Gillian what sort of job she’d like, ‘and he asked me … to go closer to him and I went there, and he started playing with my privates, and asked me did I have a boyfriend. I never told anybody. I never told no one … I carried that for a long time’.

Back in the country town where the siblings grew up, Gillian’s family accused her of being stuck up. ‘They abused me … I had to go and drink with them. Then I was on wine, you name it. I become alcoholic.’ Gillian gave up alcohol 25 years ago, after she began having liver and kidney problems. ‘I had no choice but to give it up.’

Gillian has very strong beliefs about her Aboriginal culture and totems. ‘When I was a little girl … this old woman used to come to me in my sleep or vision … showing me. She’s telling me, showing me things … And when I feel down and out, to make myself strong, I get a vision of [my totem] and I fly with it. I’m very into spiritual stuff.’

Gillian regarded the other girls at the home as her sisters. A number of them had died and she’d also lost several close family members. ‘Worst of all is that, when you want to sit down and yarn around, talk about it, I got nobody … they’re gone. I get heartbroken … I gonna have to let ’em go. For my benefit.’

Gillian didn’t speak to anyone about the physical and sexual abuse she experienced in the girls’ home. She never told her children, because ‘that was my burden, and I believed that. No mother got the right to give their burden to their children’.

Gillian suffers from panic attacks and depression, and has become dependent on one of the tablets she has been prescribed. She believes that, ‘if I can go out in the country and get the right bush and smoke myself, proper stuff, I know that I’ll come good’.

Gillian told the Commissioner that she had a dream not long ago, in which ‘I was standing in front of the girls’ home with a man and pointing at the place, and that was a good sign that I felt that I got people believing my [story] …

‘Thank you … You allowed me to move on and let my late family … go now. So [I’ve] done a good thing too and the dream, standing in front of the girls’ home, I thought that was meant to happened, to allow me to move on.’

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