From the day their mother died, Gloria and her two siblings relied on the Queensland state for survival.
‘We grew up with a single mother who did what she could to raise us, but if she didn’t work, we didn’t eat, and we were placed in institutions a few times while in her care.’
Gloria lived in a Catholic orphanage with her sister and brother until the early 1980s when she was placed in a family group home under the care of house parents Bob and Sandy Walker. She was in her mid-teens.
‘Bob would come in and sit beside the bed, just talk to me and touch me and tell me how wonderful I was and how much he liked me, winning me over I suppose. That’s how it started.’
Gloria told the Commissioner the visits quickly became sexual, and within a short period of time, Bob was raping her.
‘Initially I was freaked out and knew it was a really bad thing, but over time, the abnormal became normal. I’d say no, and he’d just ignore that and talk to me. I’d say I didn’t like it and he’d just keep talking and doing what he did. I’m fairly sure his wife knew what was going on.’
The sexual abuse continued until Gloria left the family group home in the early 1980s.
‘Bob come to me one day and said we’d been caught and that we were both in a lot of trouble and I had to pack my bags. Everybody thought it was an affair, they didn’t really want to know what was going on. Bob and a nun drove me to the children’s services flats, so he knew where I was, and he’d visit me. He’d take me out, get me drunk.’
Then Gloria ran away and, ‘While I was missing, police had searched the flats and found my sister’s diary. She’d written that Bob and I were having a sexual affair, and he was charged’.
Gloria said that around that time, she was admitted to an adult psychiatric ward after drinking and being told she’d bashed another girl.
‘It was hell. I begged and pleaded for them to let me out, but as long as I was locked up in a hospital, I was too vulnerable to appear in court. Bob stayed in touch through the whole court case, even though it was one of his bail conditions not to contact me. The bizarre thing is I was allowed out after seven months, a week before Bob’s trial was finalised.’
Even without Gloria’s testimony, Bob was convicted and given a two-year good behaviour bond. Gloria said that two weeks after her release, she moved away and cut contact with Bob. As she was under the age of 18, she technically remained a ward of the state.
‘A few years later I ran into him and Sandy at the markets. I don’t know why but I gave him my address, and he came to my house. That’s when I left my baby son, rang the social workers and said you need to pick up my baby, then I went and overdosed at a creek.’
Fortunately, the suicide attempt was unsuccessful, and Gloria was able to reclaim care of her infant son.
‘I started to go through drug addiction, I was in a domestically violent relationship and was on my way to jail. Eventually I rang my brother’s foster parents to care for my son when he was three, and went to Sydney where I almost self-destructed. I ended up with 40 stitches in my arms – another suicide attempt. There have been many.’
After two years away, Gloria requested and was denied access to her son. Following a lengthy court battle she won back full custody. By then, her son had come to believe that the people who had been raising him were his parents.
‘Jacob was a confused, angry child. I just believed if I loved and supported him enough, it would all work out.’
In the 1990s, Jacob took his own life. ‘He never got the same chance as my other two kids. If my trust hadn’t been so violated, if I had not been so damaged, he could have had what his younger siblings had – fun, security, love and joy.’
Gloria said she’s battled years of alcoholism, and after smashing everything in her apartment one night, chose to admit herself to a psychiatric ward.
‘I knew if I was home I’d drink, and if I drank I would kill myself, and went back to Alcoholics Anonymous, and I stopped drinking. The bottom line is you don’t get over this stuff, you learn to live with it. Some days you live with it well, some days you don’t.’
Gloria received $30,000 through the Queensland Government redress scheme established after the Forde Inquiry and continues to receive psychiatric treatment.