Hayley Caitlin's story

Hayley believes that at 18 months old she was the catalyst for the removal of the children of her family. In the early 1970s she and her siblings were removed from their home in a town in regional New South Wales. Hayley came to the attention of the welfare because she had been in hospital being treated for gastroenteritis.

'Other mothers said be careful to take children to hospital because the old matron would report you.'

One day a man knocked on the door of the family home. The piece of paper he had, he said, told him to take the children. Hayley's mother asked if he could wait for her husband to come home. Hayley's mother was only allowed time to prepare a bottle for the baby.

'She said my eldest brother was holding me and they put us all in the car … "keep an eye on the baby, watch the baby" you know, and that was me.' That was the last time her mother saw her until she was six years old.

My mother said 'they took us to the police station … and then they said if you want to see your children again you're going to have to go to court'.

'My aunties say at that time [my mother] went a bit silly. She dressed some dolls up and put them on the bed and stuff.'

Hayley said her parents had provided the children with a good home and that they were well cared for. Hayley's father was a Christian pastor. He had been away working the day the man came. The other welfare officer her father spoke to later reassured him that he would help them. He said he'd help, not to worry, that he would make sure that they don't take the children. When her parents got to the courthouse that day that welfare officer wouldn't even look at them.

The children's home was hundreds of kilometres away in Sydney. Hayley's 10-year-old sister would check on the baby every morning. One morning when she came to the room to check on Hayley, she was distressed to find that Hayley was gone. Hayley had been fostered by the Floyd family.

Hayley's siblings were sent to different foster families. When one of her brothers was 'about 10 he was with his foster parents and saw his parents across the street but the foster parents wouldn't let him go to them. That still sticks with him. They were just looking at him but there was nothing they could do'. Hayley's sisters don't speak about their experiences in foster care.

The system was stacked against Hayley's parents but Hayley's father never gave up wanting the return of his children. 'He just kept looking, kept looking, kept looking.' One year her parents were told the children could come home for Christmas. They bought toys and decorated the house but the week before Christmas they received a letter stating that the children wouldn't be coming home. 'He kept hope. Always wanted to bridge the gap with the white community.'

Hayley was in her early 20s before she told anyone (her sister) that she had been abused by her foster father Neville Floyd. Hayley was left with Neville a lot. She does not remember her foster mother being around.

The abuse started when Hayley was about three years old and continued until she left the Floyds' home. Neville always took her to bed. 'He used to say we're going to play this game. Everything is so clear, I can still see it. … He used to come in most nights … just rub his hands over my tummy and pretend it was a chicken. And then he just used to make his way down until I remember my pants were being off. And I remember how he used to say "Now I'm going to tickle you".' Hayley wonders 'where was the mother when all this was happening?'

Another member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church stayed with the Floyds. Hayley remembers being scared, waking up one night with a sharp pain because she was being sexually assaulted by him. She was not in her bed and was crying. She doesn't remember what happened exactly, how she got back to her bed.

The day she was to leave the Floyds to return to her own family Hayley was frightened because she didn't know what she was going back to. She was hiding behind a door and Neville 'come into the room and he said Missy Mopsy – where are you Missy Mopsy? You like those toys don't you? Well you can keep all those toys, you can take them with you but you have to keep our little secret'. And she said '"Yeah." It worked, because I didn't tell anyone'.

When Hayley returned to her family she complained to her mother that it was painful for her to go to the toilet but her mother did not seek medical treatment in case doctors thought Hayley was being abused in her own home; she was petrified her children would be removed again.

It was very difficult for Hayley to adjust to her own family. Because she had been so young when she was removed she spoke differently and she was used to different meals. She suffered 'culture shock'. She didn't understand about Aboriginals. As she grew up she felt her family treated her differently. As a teenager Hayley thought about running away.

Hayley was never able to establish a close bond with her mother. Her mother said to her father '“She's too white, she's too white, we should send her back because she's too white.” That still lives with me today because that's was what I was taught. … it was so hard going back into this home with all these people.’

Her father was the one who was always there. She realises how hard it was for her mother. She was the reason the children were removed and maybe her mother blames her for that.

Hayley married a man some years older than her and she suffered domestic violence; there was a lot of drugs and alcohol. For years she felt she couldn't go home to her parents because she felt she did not belong. Memories of the abuse didn't really start to come back to her and affect her until the birth of her first child.

'I thought I would just put it in the back of my mind but it just kept coming back, kept coming back.'

Hayley suffers flashbacks and sometimes finds it difficult to join in social occasions. After she attempted suicide she sought counselling.

A few years ago Hayley reported her experiences of childhood abuse to police. Detectives found out where Floyd lived and that he worked in a job with access to children. Suppressing her fear and anger, Hayley made contact with Floyd in an attempt to get him to confess to the abuse.

When she confronted him with the truth of what he’d done, he put his hands to his face, distressed, but otherwise made only vague comments and did not admit to abusing her. At the time of Hayley’s session with the Royal Commission the investigation was ongoing.

She wonders if the Floyds fostered other children because Mr Floyd was regarded by welfare as an 'upstanding citizen'. She feels insulted at the condescending descriptions of her family in her DOCS file. Her parents were stated to be 'simple and unsophisticated' yet they provided a good home. 'They were real practising Christians, not fake ones … people could see they were good parents doing the right things.'

Hayley would like an apology from the department and an acknowledgement of what's happened. She would like more education and 'more awareness as to why our people are suffering today'.

'Our way of living you know it mightn't be up to standards with the rest of the world, the family unit that we have, the community connections that we have, the cultural connections that we have with one another, with place, once you lose that you lose everything.'

'I have to walk in the black fellas' world and I have to walk in the white man's world. And you know as an Aboriginal person walking in a white man's world even though it wasn't good what happened to me, I know that at least I shared the experience and I can tell them why the people are the way they are today, at least it will give them a bit of understanding.'

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