‘I’ve waited a long time for this, being that child that should have been listened to. So now it’s the day.’
Glenys was one of eight children, four of whom were placed into state care. For several years Glenys moved between different foster care arrangements and was physically abused in each of them. In the early 1970s, at the age of four, she was sent to live with the Cook family. Norm and Janine Cook had four sons and a daughter, Rachel. As well as Glenys, they fostered two other girls, Sandra and Belinda.
Glenys told the Commissioner that all the girls in the house were physically and sexually abused by the Cooks. She described going to school with welts and bruises all over her body from the physical abuse inflicted by both Norm and Janine Cook. Two of their sons, John and Brad, also sexually abused Rachel and the three girls who were fostered to the family.
‘There were times when they molested their own sister’, Glenys said. ‘There were times when three girls would be hunted like animals. I would save my sisters – put myself in their place to save them. They weren’t as strong as me, you know. They were pretty weak girls.’
Glenys was abused by John and Brad for eight years until she turned 18. She recalled an occasion in about Grade 4 when John, then aged 16 held a double-barrelled shotgun to her head threatening what would happen if she told anyone about the abuse.
‘I stared him in the eye down the barrel of a gun and I thought, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll never kill me. You will never scare me. And he never did.’
A short time later John shot at one of Glenys’s friends and mother and the police came and removed the guns from the house.
The Cooks moved from Queensland to New South Wales taking their children and Glenys and her foster sisters with them. In both states, whenever a welfare officer came to the house the children were told to go to their rooms.
‘I never had any visit directly with eye to eye contact with somebody who should have been looking after the child’, Glenys said. ‘I really think, where’s the question marks when it comes to this thing of not seeing the child? In Sydney, my district officer was the district officer from Grade 4 to Grade 9 and not once did my district officer have a conversation with me. That itself would have been the solution to a lot of solvable problems.’
When Glenys was around 16 years old, her foster sister Sandra disclosed the physical abuse at home to a school teacher. The three girls were interviewed by staff from NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) and removed from the Cook family. The police weren’t called to investigate and no one spoke to Glenys apart from asking how she got the welts and bruises on her legs. She thought now, that if someone had questioned her at the time, she would have disclosed the sexual abuse.
The girls were taken to collect their belongings from the Cooks and found everything in garbage bags left on the street. Without time to say goodbye to friends, Glenys was sent with Sandra and Belinda to a government receiving home.
After the girls’ removal, the Cooks went back to Queensland. A short time later, Glenys was told by FACS staff that no appropriate home could be found for her, and she was flown back to Queensland to live with the Cooks. She was picked up at the airport by Brad, then aged in his 20s who took her to his home and sexually abused her that night. The abuse with John worsened after her return because he had a strong sense that he’d ‘got away with it’ and knew ‘he still could’.
In the early 1990s at the age of 28, Glenys confronted Norm and Janine Cook about the abuse she and Sandra and Belinda had suffered under their care. The Cooks denied knowledge of the sexual abuse and that it had happened at all. Glenys then confronted John and Brad, focusing, she said, on the way they’d made her feel. The brothers cried, apologised and asked her for forgiveness.
In the late 2000s, Glenys reported the abuse to Queensland Police. It took five visits over a month to make her 29-page statement. She had tried to get Sandra and Belinda and the Cook’s own daughter to join her in making a report but none of them was interested in doing so.
At the end of the process, the police officer who’d been working with her told her that the police were too busy dealing with contemporary crimes and had no time to investigate historical sexual abuse.
Glenys never told her first husband about the abuse, and only later realised the effects it had had on the relationship. In her second marriage she’d been open about it from the outset and said this relationship ‘has come out better because there’s no secrecy’. She’d worked hard on seeing the positive aspects of her life and described herself as a ‘wild brumby’, that the Cooks had never been able to break.
Glenys remembered the short period when she’d been taken to the receiving centre as a 16-year-old as the happiest days of her childhood. ‘I had the best night’s sleep’, she said. ‘It was because I had security.’ She believed that despite the bad publicity surrounding children’s homes and orphanages, they still had a place in providing care and safety for vulnerable children.
‘There was lots of people, lots of adults, lots of safety. Rather than hiding all these children in a hundred different rooms, why couldn’t all those children be brought together just like [is the case in] education, just like hospitals? There are ways to contain the children in a larger form. That’s what I would personally like to see.’