When she was young, Iris and her family lived on a government-run Aboriginal mission in regional Queensland. In the early 1960s, when Iris was around 10 years old, her mother died.
Their father couldn’t care for Iris and her siblings, so the children went to live in the dormitories at the mission. Iris was made to scrub floors, and was often harshly punished. Once, when Iris did not want to eat her dinner, hot soup was poured all over her.
The ‘boss lady’ would often lift up the girls’ dresses, to inspect their underwear. ‘She used to lift it up, especially when she knew all the workers were in the yard. It was embarrassing for us young girls.’ She would touch the girls in ways that embarrassed them too.
Some of the boys at the mission would sexually abuse the girls, and threaten them if they didn’t do what they wanted. ‘They’d say you don’t do this, I’m going to dob you in.’
When Iris left to go to work, she did not want to leave her little sister in the care of the dormitory people. ‘They could have looked after her, but they would have did the same things to her like they did to me.’
After she left the mission, Iris tried to tell the police about what had happened to her there. They said ‘just go away, stop making up lies’. Later she applied to a government scheme to get compensation for her time in the mission, but only received the minimum payment.
Iris dedicated most of her life to her children. When she told them about how she was sexually abused at the mission, they cried.