‘I’ve been to every home that there was because I kept running away.’
In the early 1950s, Guinevere’s teenage mother became pregnant and, unable to care for her baby, placed her in her parents’ care. Guinevere lived with her grandparents for nine years but after her grandmother died she spent months being moved between family members.
One day after school, Guinevere broke a shop window and after police were called, she was placed in a government receiving home in regional Western Australia for several weeks. She was nine in the early 1960s when she attended a court hearing where she was made a ward of the state and ordered to return to the receiving home.
Guinevere had several internal examinations in the home. They were undertaken each time she returned to the home after short term placements. She also came into contact with a male worker who sexually abused her several times over a two year period.
‘He gave you lollies and things. He’d take you to do special jobs.’
Guinevere tried to tell the workers about the man’s behaviour, but they didn’t believe her and physically punished her. She unsuccessfully tried to escape several times.
When she was 11, Guinevere was moved to a children’s home in a different town. There she was ‘touched up’ by workers. The physical and emotional abuse was ongoing and she again absconded whenever she could.
A move to another institution came about and the nuns in the new place were cruel and forced her to work long hours in the laundry. Guinevere was also sexually abused by one of the workers, but didn’t say anything because she thought she’d only be punished further.
As a 12-year-old, Guinevere absconded from the home and started living on the streets with other state wards. She was raped by an unknown man and then began having sex with strangers for money. On one occasion, she made it to another state before getting in trouble with police and being returned to the home.
‘You just put up with it … If [the abuse] didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have done that.’
Guinevere remained in state care until she was 18. As well as the time she spent in homes she’d experienced many foster care placements.
‘You were put out on the verandah with your Sunday best on for someone to take you home for the weekend. They had ads in the paper to foster me out.’
In one foster placement when she was 14, Guinevere was sexually abused in the bathtub by the foster father several times over a three month period. She believes that her foster mother had suspicions but never acted on them.
Guinevere married in the early 1970s but the relationship didn’t last long. She married again, had children and has now been with her husband for several decades.
Throughout her adult years, Guinevere has experienced anxiety, and issues with aggression and abuse of alcohol. She has low self-esteem and intimacy issues, and finds it difficult to trust others. She also experiences flashbacks and nightmares and these have become more frequent.
She found it difficult to disclose details of her abuse. She hasn’t told her husband much but he knows something happened.
In the late 2000s, Guinevere applied for redress and was rewarded an ex gratia payment of $28,000. She found this amount inadequate for what she went through, but her family was going through a difficult period so she accepted the payment.
She described coming to the Royal Commission as a big step, and wanted her story heard and believed so other children wouldn’t have to go through what she did as a child.
‘I don’t want it to happen to anyone else. I look at my grandchildren and I wouldn’t like it to happen to any of them.’