‘He used to pick us up, my sister would have been two and I was four, and take us to a shed, which was out the back of a mechanic’s. We’d be photographed and paedophiles would be there and we’d be abused. We would have our Sunday best on and my little sister was crying because she didn’t know what was happening.’
Hollie ‘never had a childhood’. Her mother was rarely around and from as far back as she could remember she and her siblings had been sexually, physically and emotionally abused by their father, Walter Keys. Eventually both of her parents walked out of the house and never returned.
It took a couple of weeks for the neighbours to notice that Hollie and her siblings had been abandoned. After being reported to welfare, the children were made wards of the state in the 1960s and were taken away to different homes in South Australia. Hollie and her sister Lucy were sent to the same Catholic children’s home.
During this time their father was charged and convicted of child sexual offences against another young girl. With Keys in prison, Hollie felt safe at the home and enjoyed her time there. She loved the nuns and made many close friends.
The nuns however still perceived her father as a ‘wonderful, single dad’. He would write Hollie letters and the nuns encouraged her to visit him.
When Keys was released from prison in the mid-1960s Hollie was sent home on weekends to see him, and he continued to sexually abuse her.
Often she would run away but he never reported her missing, and she believes this is because he knew she would tell the police of his abuse if she was found. ‘He used to tell us that he was going to kill us if we ever told anyone. So we had that fear all the time. I hated him.’
When Hollie was 10 she disclosed her father’s abuse to Sister Emily, who worked at the home. She said that she didn’t want to go to see him because he touched her and made her touch him. Sister Emily rang the police and Hollie remembers being taken to the police to give a statement against her father.
Keys was notified of his daughter’s report on his sexual abuse and was ‘disgusted’ with Hollie. He said that she was lying before giving his permission for Hollie and Lucy to be placed in foster care. Hollie stayed in South Australia whereas Lucy moved interstate. Keys did not sexually abuse either of them again.
Hollie found living with her foster parents difficult because she ‘just didn’t want to be there’. She frequently ran away from the house to return to the children’s home, but was always returned.
Her foster father, Mr Tyler, exposed himself to her after she had been with them for a year. She told Mrs Tyler about his behaviour, but her foster mother insisted that Hollie was ‘imagining it’.
Mr Tyler’s behaviour escalated and he started to sexually abuse her. If she didn’t comply, he would threaten to make up stories about her so she would get in trouble.
At the age of 15, Hollie reported Mr Tyler to the head of the children’s home, Mother Denise. Hollie left the house not long after that. She later learned that Mother Denise did not report Mr Tyler to the police and understands he and his wife continued to foster care for children.
After leaving foster care, Hollie moved around Australia before taking up a successful retail career in a department store. She married and has two children, but that marriage ended.
A few years ago Hollie had a breakdown. She was having difficulties at work and that triggered emotions that she had not felt since she was a child.
‘I thought my life was so together … I was working and everything was going all right. I was being treated unfairly at work. All of a sudden, my childhood came back. I felt so alone and I just had a breakdown. Ever since then I haven’t been able to work.’
Since this breakdown Hollie has remembered aspects of her childhood she had blocked out for many years, and began hypnotherapy to cope with these memories. She has nightmares about the abuse, and continues to see a counsellor.
Hollie and her siblings reported Keys, now in his 80s, to the police, but no charges were laid against him. The police were intimidating and she suffered from intense flashbacks when she was questioned. Hollie told the Commissioner that she has problems trusting people because she saw her father ‘get away with murder’.