Hallie, her parents and her three older siblings arrived in Queensland as new migrants from the UK in the early 1980s. They had no family or friends here, so to start with they stayed in a facility for migrants, just while they got settled in.
The settling in period took several months, as Hallie’s father looked for work and her mother tried to adjust to a new country. She never fully did, Hallie said. ‘It never worked for her.’
It wasn’t easy for any of them. Only Hallie’s older brother took to his new life immediately. He made friends with other migrants, and when the family eventually moved into their own place he continued to come back to the facility for visits.
Hallie was seven when the family first arrived. One afternoon she was walking back to her family’s rooms at the facility and a man called out to her. He was a ‘fat old Aussie’, she said. He said he’d locked himself out of his room, and asked her to help him. Reluctantly, she agreed. He lifted her through the window so she could unlock the door, fingering her crotch as he did so. Inside, she opened the door, and realised it wasn’t locked at all.
‘He then forcibly touched my genital area with his hand and fingers and he became breathless’, Hallie recalled in a written statement.
After molesting her the man gave her some coins and said ‘If you ever want to help me out again, then come by’.
This episode had a major impact on Hallie’s life. She didn’t tell anyone about it at the time. ‘I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. I think it was just such a shock’, she said. As an 18- or 19-year-old she told her mother, in the context of trying to understand the boyfriend problems she was having.
‘She said “Oh, that’s terrible, you should have told us because these people go on to do it again”’, Hallie recalled. ‘That was the end of it, really.’
The question of whether the man molested others at the facility has been a concern to Hallie over the years. ‘I just always wonder if there’s anyone else.’
She has also been troubled by difficulties forming intimate relationships. Her fear of paedophiles has made her reluctant to have children, in case they become victims.
She finds medical procedures such as pap smears and internal examinations ‘petrifying’, and has changed doctors many times over the years as a way to avoid them. A hospital visit for a procedure some years ago left her traumatised: first of all she had an internal examination from a student doctor who was rough and offhand. When she complained, a gynaecologist took over who was much more sympathetic. Hallie explained about the abuse, and that it had left her with particular anxieties. In response the gynaecologist advised Hallie to visit a sex shop and buy a sex toy.
‘Why would you say that?’ Hallie wondered.
She has also suffered from self-doubt and low expectations of herself. ‘When I left high school I just went from job to job. So many different jobs.’ Eventually though she returned to study, completed a university degree and now has her own business as a medical professional.
‘It sort of pulled me out of a low point, because I was just going to end up in a series of unhappy jobs’, she said.
She believes her experience of abuse has left her particularly empathetic, a quality she puts to good use in her work. ‘I’m really acutely aware of suffering in others’, she said.
Hallie reported the incident to police through Queensland’s Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme, but decided not to give a formal statement. She has had valuable support through Bravehearts. She has not sought redress but thought she still might.
She told the Commissioner she would like to see more support for vulnerable children such as she was at that time. ‘If there could be a social worker that checks in on all the kids – and a good one. I mean, really checked. That would be really good’, she said.